Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

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Monkerest
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2013 11:19 pm

Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby Monkerest » Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:18 pm

Hi all,

I have recently been admitted to a few graduate programs that I am confident I would go to (if I am not admitted to a few others that I have yet to hear back from). They are top 30 programs (I don't honestly know what that means) and I am a bit concerned that while I look pretty okay on paper, particularly with respect to my research experience, I may not cut it when it comes to doing problem sets. I get the impression that grades were somewhat inflated at my school, and I'm someone who came to math/physics late, not someone who has always been innately good. Also it's been a while since I was in undergrad, so what little skills I had are on the rusty side.

Anyway, I've been thinking of going through Boas's Mathematical Method's of the Physical Sciences over the summer. And Shankar's QM book, and Griffith's E & M. And when I write that out I know it's just not going to happen. So I'm asking what the expectation is for student preparedness (minimum). I also only took Diff Eq, Linear Algebra, and Calc III. I'm planning on taking the experimental route, but I don't want to just avoid my weaknesses, and I am certain that I'd be better off with more comprehensive mathematical prep.

So what do you guys advise? What should I concentrate on so that I can get a running start at graduate school? Also, I'm going to be TAing! HAHAHA, ME?! Right. I'm going to go change my pants.

I know that I can do it, but I know I'm going to have to put some time in, and I'd like to hear from experienced people what adjusting to the expectations for a first year graduate student were like.

Advice is appreciated.

Thanks!

TomServo
Posts: 33
Joined: Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:55 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby TomServo » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:57 pm

How long has it been?

Did you take one semester of qm, e&m, classical, and stat mech? Any mathematical methods for physics courses? Talk to the advisor of the program you start in about your concerns, not every grad student starts off on the same footing.

Monkerest
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2013 11:19 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby Monkerest » Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:05 pm

It's been a few years, and yes I took all of those things and did fine in most of them (QM sort of kicked my ass). But it's amazing how stuff leaves my brain.

Anyway, thank you for the advice about contacting the advisor. As soon as I have decided upon a program I will do just that. I'd still appreciate hearing about anyone's experiences or those of the people they knew!

Thanks.

User avatar
WhoaNonstop
Posts: 851
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby WhoaNonstop » Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:07 pm

I had an undergraduate education that was terrible and still made it through graduate courses. As long as you prepare yourself and work hard, you shouldn't have any trouble.

-Riley

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:11 pm

I didn't remember how to find an eigenvalue, let alone any of the equations of physics when I started my PhD. It all came back; I did fine.

cedricyu803
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:24 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby cedricyu803 » Sat Feb 22, 2014 3:09 am

I am admitted to a grad program as well, with interests in high energy theory and cosmology.
I know that many grad students are already involved in research on topics like quantum gravity, some even are able to publish papers.
And now I am still reading a quantum field theory textbook. (not even Peskin & Schroeder: I am reading Srednicki)
Am I too slow compared to others?
I am anticipating a tough first year to really get started in research :roll:

XC423
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 5:06 am

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby XC423 » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:40 am

cedricyu803 wrote:I am admitted to a grad program as well, with interests in high energy theory and cosmology.
I know that many grad students are already involved in research on topics like quantum gravity, some even are able to publish papers.
And now I am still reading a quantum field theory textbook. (not even Peskin & Schroeder: I am reading Srednicki)
Am I too slow compared to others?
I am anticipating a tough first year to really get started in research :roll:


First of all, you shouldn't expect a PhD program to be easy. If it were more people would do it. Its hard for everyone.

Secondly, I don't really understand. Are you currently an undergrad in the US? Where you admitted to a PhD in the US? If you answered yes to both of these questions, I don't know why you think that you will be behind if you are reading up on QFT. QFT is covered at the undergrad level in Europe, but certainly not in the US so if you go to a PhD program in the US nobody expects you to know anything about QFT except that it exists. Typically you take EM, Quantum, and Classical Mechanics in the first term of a US PhD program. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

tsymmetry
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:59 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby tsymmetry » Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:04 pm

I took QFT this year and I was the only undergrad in the class. Most of the students in the course were actually second year grad students with some exceptions. Usually people take two semesters of quantum, E&M, math methods, stat mech, and possibly things like GR, condensed matter, or classical mechanics in their first year of grad school if they have not previously taken these subjects at the grad level.

SSM
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 10:57 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby SSM » Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:07 pm

Monkerest wrote:Hi all,

I have recently been admitted to a few graduate programs that I am confident I would go to (if I am not admitted to a few others that I have yet to hear back from). They are top 30 programs (I don't honestly know what that means) and I am a bit concerned that while I look pretty okay on paper, particularly with respect to my research experience, I may not cut it when it comes to doing problem sets. I get the impression that grades were somewhat inflated at my school, and I'm someone who came to math/physics late, not someone who has always been innately good. Also it's been a while since I was in undergrad, so what little skills I had are on the rusty side.

Anyway, I've been thinking of going through Boas's Mathematical Method's of the Physical Sciences over the summer. And Shankar's QM book, and Griffith's E & M. And when I write that out I know it's just not going to happen. So I'm asking what the expectation is for student preparedness (minimum). I also only took Diff Eq, Linear Algebra, and Calc III. I'm planning on taking the experimental route, but I don't want to just avoid my weaknesses, and I am certain that I'd be better off with more comprehensive mathematical prep.

So what do you guys advise? What should I concentrate on so that I can get a running start at graduate school? Also, I'm going to be TAing! HAHAHA, ME?! Right. I'm going to go change my pants.

I know that I can do it, but I know I'm going to have to put some time in, and I'd like to hear from experienced people what adjusting to the expectations for a first year graduate student were like.

Advice is appreciated.

Thanks!


My experience reflects what the previous posters have said. As with anything in life, except meeting lovers: the more math you know, the better. It sounds like you should be ok, but from my experience it kind of depends on whether you want to do experiment or theory, and who is teaching Jackson at your university, and maybe a few other things. Grad courses are always supposed to be difficult, and to get the most out of them you really need to spend 20+ hours a week on every course. Seriously. Grad school is not the party undergrad is, where you can get away with not being diligent sometimes. You need to treat your first year of courses like it's a 60 hour a week job to do it correctly.

cedricyu803
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:24 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby cedricyu803 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:29 pm

XC423 wrote:First of all, you shouldn't expect a PhD program to be easy. If it were more people would do it. Its hard for everyone.

Secondly, I don't really understand. Are you currently an undergrad in the US? Where you admitted to a PhD in the US? If you answered yes to both of these questions, I don't know why you think that you will be behind if you are reading up on QFT. QFT is covered at the undergrad level in Europe, but certainly not in the US so if you go to a PhD program in the US nobody expects you to know anything about QFT except that it exists. Typically you take EM, Quantum, and Classical Mechanics in the first term of a US PhD program. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.


tsymmetry wrote:I took QFT this year and I was the only undergrad in the class. Most of the students in the course were actually second year grad students with some exceptions. Usually people take two semesters of quantum, E&M, math methods, stat mech, and possibly things like GR, condensed matter, or classical mechanics in their first year of grad school if they have not previously taken these subjects at the grad level.


Certainly I understand a PhD program is very tough.
I was just having some pre-grad school anxiety like Monkerest is and want to make a smooth transition to the grad school. :)
Hopefully we can utilise our summer to do it

Thanks for your comments

abattleofwords
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:22 pm

Re: Concerned about adequacy of undergraduate preparation

Postby abattleofwords » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:15 pm

It's been almost three years since I graduated. When I took the PGRE in April, I realised that I remember nothing and I panicked. I studied for about a month and got a 960. I've forgotten everything again, of course. And I too am scared of coursework and the qualifying exam.

I guess we tend to forget stuff that we don't use everyday. But I'm sure we'll be okay, the basics are still there in your brain, somewhere.

Also grad TAs at most universities seem to be lab instructors, which wouldn't require any advanced maths background.




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