Nanotechnology and physics in graduate school

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Nanotechnology and physics in graduate school

Postby grae313 » Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:03 pm

I'm interested in doing the sort of research that falls under the very broad category of "nanotechnology," "nanoscience," or "nanoscale physics" in graduate school, and I want to do it through a physics or applied physics Ph.D program. I've done a lot of research into this area and I just thought I'd post a few of the resources I've found and the methods I've used for the benefit of future visitors with similar interests.

Disclaimer: All the usual objections to rankings apply. The methodology is questionable and often related strongly to reputation and prestige. They should be used to get a rough idea and nothing more. Finding a school that matches you, and a research group that interests you is much more important.

Here is an excel document I compiled with some various relevant rankings: ... nkings.xls

Here are pdf documents of the latest Small Times' nanotechnology rankings with program descriptions:
2007: ... ssetID=948
2006: ... ngspdf.pdf

There are also websites listing all of the Universities that offer degrees specifically related to Nanotechnology, but getting a pure science degree is better, IMO. However, if you are interested, do a Wikipedia search for "Nanotechnology education."

My method
I looked at the rankings to get a rough idea of schools I might want to look in to. To get my own personalized list, I averaged two or three of the rankings I was interested in (for example, physics in general, nanotech, and CM physics, I summed each school's numerical ranking in each area then sorted each from least to greatest), then I deleted the schools I knew I didn't want to attend for whatever reason (usually because they were in a location I found highly unfavorable).

Once I had this very large list, I visited every department's web page, for physics and applied physics, and looked at their graduate research pages. I looked for several things both broad and specific:

--I looked for a large number of faculty engaged in condensed matter experimental research.
--I looked at the group research pages for each professor doing CM experiment and looked for projects related to nanotech that I found interesting, as well as to see how many students were involved and how many papers they were publishing recently, etc. I tried to find at least two groups I would be enthusiastic about joining at each potential school.

--I looked for one or more facilities specifically dedicated to nanotech or related research.
--I looked at the research pages for each of these facilities and for active projects that interested me.
--I looked at the faculty involved in these facilities to see how many of them were coming from the physics or applied physics departments vs. other departments.

and of course, I looked at the Ph.D requirements for each school to gauge many other things including their tone towards interdisciplinary research and the flexibility of their programs.

I guess I'll share my list, although it is only a representation of my own priorities and opinions, and is in no way meant to be complete or objective, or even, necessarily, nanotech related! This is basically where I'm thinking of applying, and I will refine the list as I continue to research the departments and of course, once I get my GRE scores.

Order is approximately correlated to my level of interest.

U Washington
Santa Barbara
U Penn
SUNY - Albany
Arizona State

Phew that was long. Sorry. Hopefully someone someday will benefit from this.

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Postby Bufalay » Sun Jun 24, 2007 8:39 pm

im a physics grad at cornell doing nano research. let me know if you have any questions on the program.

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Postby jwc914 » Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:02 am

I am also a grad student at Cornell (applied physics). so i can give you info on Cornell too. it's a great place for physics/nano!

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Postby grae313 » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:40 pm

Thanks guys! I really appreciate it. Everything I've read on Cornell's website has given me the impression that it is a friendly and supportive place to learn. Aren't you guys just starting next fall though? Or have you already finished your first year?

I know Cornell will have all I want in terms of nano research and academics, so I guess I'd be interested in knowing how life is in their grad program. I want to go to a serious school, but I don't want it to be so serious that I'm miserable, or under enormous pressure to compete for my spot, or where I'm stuck with a bad adviser, or where I have trouble finding a place to live in reasonable comfort on my stipend... I'm sure you get the picture. Going just by their websites, I get the impression that what I just described is CalTech or Berkeley, and not Cornell. What do you guys think?

Are either of you in the position to compare the physics program to the applied physics program? I also got the impression that Cornell is so supportive towards interdisciplinary learning that I could have access to all of the physics professors, classes, and research groups through the applied physics program if I wanted, plus access to other departments as well. Would I have that same access through the physics department?

You'll have to tell me how the winters are there if you've been through one yet. I'm from California and anything below 40 F is very cold!

Now I'm going to ask the annoying questions. I didn't want to but I can't help it, sorry! I'm a chemistry and physics double major, math minor, I have a 3.8 gpa but that's just because in my first semester I got really bad grades because I stopped going to class half way through :roll:, but ever since then it's been only A's, A+'s, and like 5 A-'s. I'm on my 8th month of research at a federal lab, and by the end, it's looking like I'll have two first author publications and at least two second/third author publications. I'm female. The bad part is, I'm coming from a crappy state school, seriously like a top 500 school. My profs are awesome, but essentially unconnected, so my LOR's wont' carry much prestige. I know that makes my grades not that impressive, and more like a requirement. The GRE is the one way they will be able to compare my education and ability in physics to all their applicants coming from good schools. About what score do you think I'd need to get to be competitive?

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Postby phantom » Wed Jun 27, 2007 4:56 pm

are you sure applying to about 15 schools is a good idea? usually, advisors recommend to limit your options to about 10 or even less...
i'm going to be applying next year myself, and so far it seems like i came down to about 10 schools... and that seems like a lot to me :roll:

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Postby jwc914 » Thu Jun 28, 2007 1:49 pm

Last edited by jwc914 on Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby grae313 » Fri Jun 29, 2007 1:49 am

Don't worry, I'm not applying to all of those schools! If you read my post, that's just what I'm starting with and I'll be narrowing significantly from there as the year progresses.

Thank you for taking the time. Cornell was one of the first schools that really piqued my interest and has remained at the top of my list for a while now. I'll definitely be getting a rec from my research adviser and it will probably carry the most weight. Ithaca sounds like a place I could come to enjoy. Culture is overrated anyways :wink: OK, so if you had to list two things that you *didn't* like about Cornell or wish were different, what would they be?

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Postby Bufalay » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:35 am

Getting into nano research groups is pretty competitive at cornell which kind of sucks. Courses are tough, but pretty good. although I think it would be nice if they offered a better variety of courses.

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Postby jwc914 » Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:39 pm

hmm....i honestly can't think of many (maybe i was not here long enough! ha)

but...let's see....i agree with Bufalay. i think the course variety is limited at cornell.
and one more thing i can think of is lack of parking space. it's practically impossible to park your car in campus at 'reasonable' spot during the day. it's not that there is much competition for few spots, it's just that the school does not offer parking permits to students at all for most of parking lots. expect lots of walking/biking. it could really suck during the winter =T

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Postby kaj67 » Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:33 pm

Thanks for posting so much information from your own grad school research. It was really helpful! I'm also looking into good nanotech schools, specifically with a focus on magnetics. As of right now, Cornell is also my top choice. I spent the summer there doing research, and I can tell you that everyone in the department really is friendly and open, with a lot of interdisciplinary work being done.

From the grad students I talked to at Cornell, there isn't much pressure put on the grad students by the professors unless they've really been slacking. For the most part, the work seems to be highly self-motivated, which works because the students are highly motivated people.

I come from a very small, private, liberal arts college, and I'm honestly worried about my own GRE scores. Students coming from liberal arts colleges tend to do poorly on the subject test, where a "good" score is something in the 30th percentile (!). Have you found any good resources for studying, besides the practice exams offered by ets? I've been reviewing the basics in an extended edition of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker.

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Re: Nanotechnology and physics in graduate school

Postby jgould » Sat Sep 05, 2009 12:54 am

I just joined today just because I wanted to respond to this topic. I did realise that no one has responded for a while, but I had a question, and I wanted to give praise!

First off, this guide is very very helpful! I'm just starting working on my BS in Physics even though I have enough credits to be considered a junior. I will be graduating in about three years. I currently attend University of Hawaii.

Back at my community college I took an introduction to materials science course. I loved the class and know I want to get into that field.

I have the fear of going to a school that is too competitive. I have friends that go to Berkeley and I hear horror stories of how students will literally give their peers the wrong information to make the curve better for themselves. I hate the idea of being in an environment where all the students are fighting eachother for the spot in the lab, or the grade in the class. Is this kind of environment found in a majority of the ivy-league or "top" schools?

Thanks again!

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Re: Nanotechnology and physics in graduate school

Postby nathan12343 » Sat Sep 05, 2009 2:31 am

Is this Grae's first thread?

Blast from the past....

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