• This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

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Post by braindrain » Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:06 pm

If anyone has seen PBS 'Einstein's Big Idea', it said he ended
up in the patent office because he couldn't get recommendation
letters for professor jobs. Now that's funny!

But here is a pointer to an interesting paper:
http://www.chem.harvard.edu/herschbach/ ... tudent.pdf

It's trying to show that even Einstein had a hard time and
probably would not have liked or survived in today's
environment. Which comes back to the same critiquing our
education and what are we supposed to measuring questions.
But, its also just for fun. There are some prof. comments at the end of the paper if you're time is limited.

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Post by tnoviell » Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:54 pm

Good discussion topic.

Although I myself am pursuing a PhD, I am thoroughly convinced it's really not a big deal. I've noticed many physics professors are extremely arrogant and socially inept. It's like getting a PhD means the world to them. I think the truly creative and most brilliant minds are those who aren't concerned with such status, titles, and material goals. Einstein, like many greats, is great because he cared for and loved physics. Getting things like a PhD is just an excuse to learn as much as he could. I'll take Feynman for an even more modern example - if you read any of his books, does it really come off that he cared more intensely about getting things like a PhD, or did he care for and love physics and science more than anything? Imagine, Feynman would go to strip clubs and do physics...I know that's not where my mind is at in strip clubs!

I see this in other people, and I see it within myself. Sometimes I wonder if I love science as much as these folks do. It's not about how smart you are, and creativity does definitely play a role. But are you willing to put forth the hardest work, and to learn everything? Can you sit and wonder like these people do? Do you, day and night, think about physics or other sciences? I know I don't.

Good stuff :)

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Post by rjharris » Mon Jan 08, 2007 9:21 pm


you've noticed that physics professors are socially inept and arrogant? are you referring to ones that have taught your classes or you've done research with, or just in general come off that way? i've had the exact opposite experience really. well, at least mine aren't arrogant. i can't really comment on the socially inept part of it. i had some really great conversations with a new prof that taught an astrophysics class about graduate school, applications, the whole mess, and he seemed like a really down to earth, nice guy. maybe that'll change when he gets tenure though. :)

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Post by tnoviell » Mon Jan 08, 2007 9:27 pm

Not all obviously, but the vast majority of the ones I've met from many places are really awkward people. I did most of my research in college in chemistry, and when I did physics research it was always somehow related to chemistry. I made many good friends that are grad students, and they say the same thing when they go visit other places.

I would say that even most of the physics grad students are very strange beings. I have one good friend at my school doing theoretical condensed matter, and he says he stays as far away from the other physics grad students because they're very, very weird people. I tend to agree with him.

Though I think many of my professors were good teachers, I could never imagine having a conversation about real life with them, such as sports.

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Post by icarus137 » Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:50 am

Einstein probably wouldnt like the way things are taught. It can be really difficult to keep creativity as you continue through your education. You start out bustlingly with curiosity and questions but it can become very easy to become complacent and just absorb what you are taught. I am not sure what most people's experience is but I know that many professors are not really receptive to questions in a class setting. This is probably in large part do to them trying to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. But if the students are not understanding, there is little point in continuing. I am speaking both from the perspective of a student and also from a teaching assistant. One of the biggest complaints I heard when I was a TA from students was that professors didnt stop for questions and also that they became lost in math. The professor will spend most of the class deriving an equation but in the end the student doesnt understand the physical concept of what the equation means.

I think it is more difficult in todays society also. You have to learn so much and often when you think that you have an original idea, it turns out that someone else has already beaten you to it..

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Post by braindrain » Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:00 pm

My physics professors were definitely not socially inept or
arrogant. I think it would be hard to be too arrogant because
we can always find problems to solve that are more difficult than
even their intelligence. After all, Einstein got stuck or was wrong about a couple of things. I thought my physics professors were interesting people to say the least - most have affiliations with major labs outside of school, international collaborations, and are really bright people so they do have outside interests, they just might
be too busy to schmooze. It was funny to find out this famous
prof. at my school was a long time saxophone player and in a jazz
band for years. It changed my whole image of that professor.
If you mean by socially inept that they are known for walking into
walls sometimes, that might be true. They are too busy too worry about all the departmental policies and such and seem forgetful. I
think though once we get going in our research and love what we
are doing, it will become a matter of priorities - our research will be
more important than lots of other things we normally do now.

I'm not sure a grad school where the students stay away from
each other on account of being weirdos would be so cool. Sounds
funny though. How weird could they be? I thought part of the fun and challenge was to tap into people around you for discussion and to be colleagues with, but maybe I'm asking too much.

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