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I am interested in studying theoretical physics in graduate schools, but all my research has been in experimental stuff (I worked in an optics lab last year and am now doing astronomical instrumetation). Is this going to signifigantly hurt me if I list theory as my field of interest?
I too would like to see an answer to this question. My research background has nothing to do with what I am interested in working on in grad school.... So this question is important... can I increase my chances of admission if I PRETEND to plan to study the same things in grad school that I worked on as an undergrad?
I doubt it. When you apply to graduate schools, I think they are looking for your future potential. If you can somehow prove that you will have a better future in theoretical research and they would be wrong if they did not admit you, you are on your way. I don't think your experimental experience will hurt you. On the contrary, I think you can use your experimental experience to prove that you are a dedicated and hard working student.