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How to make the most of a gap year during the Covid-19 era?

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2020 4:17 pm
by StarLore20
Hello Everyone,

I am opening this thread to get insights into my future prospects for a career in Physics in the era of Covid-19.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics in May of 2020 with a 3.6 GPA from a low-ranked undergraduate institution in the United States (GRE Quant: 156, Verbal: 156, Writing: 5, Physics: 800). I had applied to ten graduate programs for Fall 2020 admission, but I was rejected from all of the schools I had chosen. I also have three years of undergraduate research experience, where the focus of my work was in high-energy astrophysics. Based on my findings, I was able to present at multiple conferences and publish one paper. I had mainly applied to astronomy programs and Physics programs with an astronomy focus. But I feel as though this was a mistake due to small cohort sizes and available funds in this field. Due to the circumstances, I had chosen to take a gap year and instead apply for full-time opportunities related to my degree to gain additional experience in the field (mainly in Data Science). I have applied for close to 50 positions and have received a few interviews, but I have not heard back on further updates at this time.

My issue is that I am struggling to gain confidence with my degree and with understanding what my options are after graduating. Besides gaining additional experience and strengthening my test scores, I am not sure what significant gaps I need to address to succeed in the workforce and academia. I am willing to widen my research interests to other areas of Physics which are compatible with my undergraduate degree (such as Condensed Matter Physics and Computational Physics). I am looking for an avenue to improve my profile with additional research experience or full-time jobs with a research focus.

What is the story I can tell during my gap year period to improve my prospects for graduate studies, if I choose to apply again?

Would I need to change the focus of my chosen programs to something other than Astronomy, or could I stick with this field?

If I do not stick with Astronomy, which areas are the most optimally funded at this time, due to the pandemic?

Thank you for your guidance.

Re: How to make the most of a gap year during the Covid-19 era?

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2020 1:52 pm
by StarLore20
Bump up ! Any thoughts ? :?:

Re: How to make the most of a gap year during the Covid-19 era?

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2020 4:52 pm
by profw
I would think that you have a chance getting into a decent graduate program based on what you said about your academic record and research credential. Did you only apply for highly competitive programs last year? If not, you might need to think a bit if all the letters are good. Any chance a reference doesn't think highly of you?

Are you applying this fall? If you do, I'm not sure what you can do now to improve your chance. If you want to try next year, then apply for research positions at DOE labs, REU sites, work hard and get a solid letter would be good.

btw, high energy astrophysics and astronomy are not the same thing

Re: How to make the most of a gap year during the Covid-19 era?

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 9:04 pm
by StarLore20
Thanks for your suggestions.

After opening this thread, I have been able to mold a career path for myself focused on either a post baccalaureate position in Physics or as a software engineer (IT related/programming).

But, I am currently debating which of these is the most promising at this time.

I find many people who have obtained a PhD in Physics are working as a Data Scientist or in other IT focused positions, which has caused me to re-evaluate my long term career goals.

What will be the difference of working in the field with a Bachelor's Degree in Physics compared to with a Physics PhD and several additional years of academic and research experience?

If I pick the software engineer career path with my Physics undergraduate degree, would a Master's degree be beneficial to have (and what would these benefits be in the long term)?

Are there any virtual learning programs I could consider to enhance my skills as a Physics graduate?

Thanks for your guidance.