InquilineKea wrote:High-energy physics - isn't that the precise area that's suffering from funding cuts? (which is why it seems so difficult to get in?) Obviously, some fields are enjoying an explosion in funding, but in the US, we all know that much of the sexy work is now being done at CERN instead, so people are more interested in funding other areas of science.
The discussion above was referring to hep-theory as opposed to hep-ex. hep-th isn't just straight up particle physics theory; depending on how an institution is organized, their hep-th department generally includes stuff like relativity, grand unified theories, string theory and all sorts of theoretical physics at small distances/high energies/early universe.
While funding cuts indeed play a factor, HET is difficult to get into because there are fewer profs compared to other fields, which means that they take on fewer students, but there's huge interest from the applicant pool. Not to mention that the general trend among applications is that those applying for theory need a higher PGRE score than those applying for experiment. All of these factors contribute into making HET admissions difficult.
In contrast, there are more people working in hep-ex and the groups tend to be larger because it generally takes more people to run the massive particle physics experiments. While the Tevatron at Fermilab is shutting down, most schools aren't just shutting down their high energy experiment groups; they are transitioning faculty and incoming students to the CERN experiments. Just because the research is physically located at Europe doesn't mean that North American schools aren't involved. For what it's worth, at my current institution, while the Tevatron group is somewhat cash strapped and has a couple of soon-to-be graduating students, the LHC group is booming and is rolling in money.