Physics or applied physics?

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Cornell physics, or Cornell applied physics?

Poll ended at Sun Dec 23, 2007 6:21 pm

Physics
0
No votes
Applied Physics
3
100%
 
Total votes: 3

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grae313
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Physics or applied physics?

Postby grae313 » Fri Nov 23, 2007 6:21 pm

I'm having a heck of a time deciding whether to apply to the applied physics programs or the physics programs at the schools that offer applied physics. My interests lie in applied physics research and I'm leaning towards working in industry or research labs over academia, but most physics programs are flexible enough that I could really do the same research from either department. I like the industry recognition for applied physics, but I like the prestige of straight physics.

I also have more trivial concerns. On gradschoolshopper, the percent of the applicant pool that is offered admission is SMALLER for applied physics (example, Cornell physics 97/400 24%, Cornell applied physics, 32/164 19.5%). Does this mean applied physics programs are more competetive, or is the average caliber of the applying/admitted student significantly less for applied physics? The applied physics departments seem, in general, to be smaller and less established. The stipends also seem to be slightly smaller and it looks like there are fewer fellowships offered per student in applied physics.

So what do you guys think about applied physics programs? Are they the physics department's bastard little brother, or are they on somewhat equal footing? The applied physics departments are smaller, are they harder to get into? Is the funding too sketchy?

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Nov 23, 2007 8:09 pm

It is opposite at Stanford. Their applied physics program accepted 37/199 = 18.6% and physics was 72/491 = 14.7%. Also, 34/150 =22.7% in applied physics are supported by fellowship, compared to 23/163=14.1% for physics. As far as stipend goes, I am not sure because I don't know how a quarter system works exactly.

Stanford applied physics has 19 faculty members in condensed matter research, but physics only has 8. That's the main reason I think I am going to apply to applied physics.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Fri Nov 23, 2007 8:17 pm

Yeah I saw that, it seems like something that varies from school to school. So do you think we can make a correlation between the percent of admitted students and the difficulty of getting in? Would you guess it is easier to get into applied physics at Stanford, but easier to get into physics at Cornell? It seems really tough to say without knowing the average scores of the admitted students at Cornell applied physics. :?

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Nov 23, 2007 9:53 pm

Here is a list of schools with acceptance stats, listed in order of ranking by US News:

MIT 78 / 718 = 11%
Stanford 72 / 491 = 15%
Berkeley 99 / 713 = 14%
Cornell 97 / 400 = 24%
UCSB 62 / 440 = 14%
Texas 82 / 431 = 19%
UCSD 143 / 497 = 29%
Washington 81 / 394 = 21%
Michigan State 70 / 400 = 18%
Arizona State 52 / 204 = 25%
Utah 35 / 200 = 18%

There is a general trend. The first five accept a smaller percentage than the last six. I do not believe that it is easier to get into UCSD than Utah or Arizona State. So it is difficult to judge just based on percentages.
Last edited by butsurigakusha on Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:47 am, edited 3 times in total.

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will
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Postby will » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:32 pm

I think it's more important to look at the number of admitted students versus the size of the department, rather than total applications. If a school can take on 30 students, they'll take on 30 students whether 50 or 500 apply.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Sat Nov 24, 2007 12:05 am

You're not comparing the same data between schools.
For instance, 143/497 is the number that UCSD OFFERED admission to. 33/400 is the number of students that DECIDED to attend Cornell. You need to compare apples to apples. Some of your numbers are OFFERED/APPLIED and some are MATRICULATED/APPLIED.

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:43 am

Thanks for catching that. I edited my post and fixed the stat for Cornell. That was a mistake, I was trying to only show accepted/applied. I am not sure about UIUC, because gradschoolshopper says "36 students were admitted from 548 applicants". Because that is such a low percentage, I am inclined to think that refers to the number who enrolled. But Stanford says "72 students were admitted from 491 applicants", and it seems in this case to refer to accepted/applied, because that gives a percentage comparable to Berkeley or UCSB, for which it explicitly says "accepted". So I will remove UIUC from the list, since I don't know what it means.

I think the list is correct now in showing accepted/applied.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:33 pm

One way to tell is to look at the number they claim for ACCEPTED, and if this number is close to there FIRST YEAR GRAD STUDENT number, then you know ACCEPTED really means MATRICULATED.

For instance UIUC had 46 first years in 2006. They "admitted" 36 for 2007. Obviously that's the number who matriculated. I would guess UIUC offers admission to 150 students, if not 200.

Look at USC. 13 first years grad students, the same year, they "accepted" 13 students. Hmm, so USC has a 100% yield for their graduate admissions. Considering the best schools get %33-%50 that's laughable.

A lot of these schools list MATRICULATED as ACCEPTED to make their program seem more exclusive.
Last edited by fermiboy on Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:11 pm

That's interesting fermiboy, and I hope it's true (for everyone's sake).

But how do you know?

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:17 pm

A year ago I would have said physics, but now I just don't think going into pure physics is a prudent career choice. Pure physics requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice and is not particularly rewarding. So if you're not sure then you probably don't have the gusto to work for years in a dank laboratory in the annals of a university for little pay and even less recognition for your toils.

Of course, I'm prejudiced towards applied fields because I recently realized exactly how few jobs in physics there actually are. Learn a marketable skill you can sell to a future employer, because no one rewards learning for the sake of understanding.

In my institution applied physics is considered part of the engineering program and as such they have far superior classes with better professors and more funding. Enough said.

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fermiboy
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Postby fermiboy » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:42 pm

I don't know for sure, but my argument seems sound. It's a really simple way to explain the discrepancies between the data. If you were to go strictly by ADMITTED/APPLIED data from grad school shopper, then you can derive nonsensical results such as USC being a more selective program than Harvard, MIT, etc. If you look at the first year student data, in many cases it corresponds to the number of students "admitted." If we took "admitted" literally, then some of the schools on gradschool shopper would have almost 100% yield on their admits. Straight from CalTech's website, they say they offer admission to about 70 students and about 30 accept, which is 43% yield. That's 43% yield for one of the most elite programs in the world, and yet USC is claiming 100%. That's why I'm pretty confident in my conjecture.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 11:50 pm

twistor, I'm not debating between doing applied physics or physics for a career, I'm just debating which program I should base my applied physics training from. I have known since I was very little that I did not want to work in academia. For schools that don't have applied physics, I'll just be doing applied physics CM research through the physics department. For schools that offer applied physics like Cornell, the faculty usually consists of professors with joint appointments from physics, chemistry, EE, ME, etc. They are the same professors. In most cases, I could do the SAME RESEARCH from either program.

I guess I didn't phrase my question well... I'm just worried about which is harder to get into and harder to get funded in. It seems this varies from school to school, and I'm particularly wondering about Cornell. It seems like Cornell's applied physics program is more selective and has less funding.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:14 pm

fermiboy:

Well, I'm convinced :)




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