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Profile Evaluation

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2022 8:44 am
by fdiwol
Undergrad Institution: State Uni in US, great physics reputation
Major(s): Physics, Applied Math
Minor(s): -Graduation with Honors
GPA in Major: 3.93
Overall GPA: 3.94
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: Maybe top?
Type of Student: Asian male


Research Experience: Working with the same professor for about two and half years with no publication; Summer funded research intern in a national research institute, and gave a final presentation. Now working on my senior thesis. All of them are HEP-ex

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Dean's list for all quarters LOL

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: One year TA for intro physics course, one year of physics tutor on campus

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: NAH

Special Bonus Points:
-Two strong letters: one from the professor I did research with, who is well-known in the field(I think), and another one from who I TAed for. Both have said they will write strong letters. The third one is from the Prof that I took classes with, and I expect this to be a meh-letter.

I assume my letters would be ok. But after browsing through other applications' stats, I felt my not-so-much research experience could be my weakness.

Applying to Where (all in hep-ex):
- UWash
- Ohio State
- Vanderbilt
- Stony brook
- Wisconsin-Madison
- Purdue
- Michigan State
- Umich
- University of Maryland
- Unni of Pittsburgh

Some Questions:
1. What's the point of contacting professors in the school you are applying beforehand? I chatted about this with the prof I did research with, and he said he received a lot of emails from students who apply and he sees no point in doing this.

2. Are there any other schools you would recommend I should apply to in HEP-ex given my stats? I felt my spectrum is too narrow. I probably add more safties and reaches.

Any suggestions are appreciated! Thanks!

Re: Profile Evaluation

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2022 12:26 pm
by geekusprimus
What's the point of contacting professors in the school you are applying beforehand?
It depends on why you're writing the professor. Are you trying to butter him or her up for the admissions process? If so, you're not going to accomplish much. Connections do help in admissions, but that typically comes through one of your letter writers, a research collaboration, or someone you've met at a conference. Cold emails to professors are about as effective as telemarketing.

On the other hand, if you're just trying to get a handle on what sort of research options are available when you apply to a school, contacting a professor can be very useful. Sometimes a professor is planning to retire in the next few years, so they don't intend to take on more students. Other times a professor already has a full research group and is either lacking time or funding for more students. My advisor, for example, is unlikely to take on more students in the next year; he might have the funding for it, but he probably doesn't have the time, and our collaboration probably doesn't have the HPC resources to handle more students. Anyone writing him an email now would probably get a response that could be paraphrased as, "Thanks for your interest, but I don't foresee having an available spot for at least another year and a half." That would be a saved application for anyone interested in working with him.
Are there any other schools you would recommend I should apply to in HEP-ex given my stats? I felt my spectrum is too narrow. I probably add more safties and reaches.
When I applied to schools, my undergraduate advisor recommended that I cast a wide net. You've got a lot of good schools on your list, but they're all fairly close to each other in terms of competitiveness. I would thin out a few of the schools in your current list (most of which I would label as "matches" for your profile), then cast your net a little bit wider. A lot of schools are still recovering from budget issues due to COVID and probably playing it safe because of fears about the long-term health of the economy, so it would be nice to have some more safeties on this list. Texas A&M, for example, would be a fairly respectable safety for you with a pretty large high-energy group (theory and experiment). That being said, you also don't want to sell your application short, so add in a couple more reaches. Stanford might be a good choice here because they operate SLAC.

An easy way to go about thinning the schools on your list would be to look at their specialties. My guess is that all of those schools have pretty active particle experiment groups, but I would specifically think about what you're interested in. Are you interested in astroparticle, for example? In that case, places with connections to HAWC and neutrino experiments like IceCube and Super-K would be great. Are you more interested in accelerator physics? I would then focus on schools with faculty participating in experiments at the LHC, Fermilab, SLAC, etc. If you're not sure, I would look for schools with a good mix of faculty.

Re: Profile Evaluation

Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2022 10:57 pm
by fdiwol
Thanks, geekusprimus! I will hunt more safeties and reaches.