Different field of research

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Joined: Mon May 13, 2019 9:38 pm

Different field of research

Post by thesoulreaper » Sun Oct 04, 2020 7:44 pm

I am currently applying to physics graduate schools. Most of the research I have done in my undergraduate career has little to do with what I want to pursue in graduate school. Some of the fields I have worked in are nuclear astrophysics, theoretical quantum information/quantum optics, and accelerator physics. I intend to apply for experimental condensed matter physics. I have taken advanced courses in this area, but I haven't worked in a lab during my undergrad, mainly because there weren't opportunities at my undergrad, I wasn't eligible to apply for REU's (International student) and covid happened my senior year which prevented me from doing undergrad research unless I was already working in a lab. Should I explain this in my SOP? How much does this hurt my chances of getting into a grad school?

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Re: Different field of research

Post by geekusprimus » Tue Oct 06, 2020 5:36 pm

Firstly, experimental condensed matter is arguably the biggest field in physics and always has tons of funding and openings. It's not like HEP theory where you need to have perfect scores, know someone famous, and sacrifice your firstborn child on the altar of Dirac to get in someplace more prestigious than Bum State University at Middle of Nowhere.

Secondly, I found during the application process that having quality research and good recommendation letters was more important than having research in your specific field. The only school that was a perfect match for my undergraduate research actually rejected me. It would be nice going into the application process to have some condensed matter research experience, but condensed matter is probably the field where that matters least; there dozens of different topics that have very little in common but are all classified as "condensed matter," whether that's x-ray crystallography, nanomagnetism, or semiconductors.

To make a long story short, you probably don't need to waste a lot of time trying to explain your lack of condensed matter research. Focus on how your existing research experiences have prepared you to be a successful graduate student.

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