School recommendations/application advice

  • 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.

Post Reply
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:27 pm

School recommendations/application advice

Post by jcgiii » Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:01 pm

I’m looking for recommendations for more schools to apply to. I already have applied to U of Minnesota, UC-Santa Cruz, UC-Irvine, UCSB, and St. Andrew's (UK). My primary interest is in theory, particularly discrete/digital physics and quantum information. However, I’m willing to work in experimental, preferably in optics/photonics or quantum. It’d be nice to get a gauge of my chances too.

I also have suffered from 3 diagnosed mental illnesses throughout my college career (severe OCD, ADD, depression) which have caused me to be hospitalized one semester, take a lot of time off, and my grades to suffer. Also, I've struggled with addiction and some other personal problems. After a lot of inpatient and outpatient treatment, I believe I'm doing magnitudes better today. I’m looking for advice on how I’d want to approach this in my application, as I’m worried it could hurt me even further.

My profile:
Undergrad Institution: Big midwest research/land grant university, top 30 in physics
Major(s): BS Mathematics, BS Physics
Minor(s): Astrophysics
GPA in Major: 3.25
Overall GPA: 3.38
Length of Degree: 6 years (but was out of school for 1 year, and part-time for 1.5 years)
Position in Class: Probably about average
Type of Student: Domestic white male

GRE Scores :
Q: 163 (86%)
V: 163 (92%)
W: waiting to get back, think I did well though
P: 740 (59%) (may take again in spring, but then would have to do later admission)

Research Experience:
23 months total:
-8 months assembling/testing detector modules for NOvA neutrino experiment (at my university)

-9 months working on ultra-low background counting studies (ancillary work for my university’s SuperCDMS dark matter group), 6 months of this was mostly data analysis and 3 summer months were spent working full-time in Soudan Underground Lab identifying and fixing bad channels on the muon veto shield

-6 months working remotely on data analysis (ROOT/Python/ArcGIS) for CRAYFIS (cosmic ray detection using smartphones), paid by NYU

-Did semester-long, intensive experiment testing Bell’s inequality and the existence of photons with $50k worth of optical equipment with just one other undergrad for an experimental physics course. Got very good data and learned a ton about optics.

No publications. Fairly experienced with data analysis, analog/digital circuits, soldering, FPGAs, LabVIEW, Verilog, Bash, C/C++, Python, MATLAB, Mathematica, ROOT, and ArcGIS. Am comfortable and have worked extensively with Linux, Windows, and MacOS.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Sigma Pi Sigma. Dean’s List one semester. Several scholarships.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Independent kinematics tutor for one semester for non-physics college undergrad. Tour guide at big local science museum for 5 months while taking time off from school. Meditation Club officer (been meditating daily for two years, in addition to continuous therapy/psychiatry, I got into this because it has really made a difference in my mental well-being).

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Taking graduate level quantum this semester in addition to two graduate level math courses (mathematical logic & prob/stat theory). Received all A's and one A- in 7 out of last 8 physics courses (5 of which were at junior/senior level).

Special Bonus Points: Have 5 pretty complimentary letters:
-1 from advisor (who's a theorist and I have a decent relationship with)
-1 from APS DPF vice-chair/co-chair of SuperCDMS
-1 from very well-known NYU professor (from CRAYFIS)
-1 from former SLAC Theorist that I have a really strong relationship with
-1 from entrepreneur/angel investor that I did some work on a website with one summer

2 of the people writing me letters have extensive Wikipedia pages.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: see notes above about mental health challenges

Thanks : )
Last edited by jcgiii on Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:27 pm

Re: School recommendations/application advice

Post by jcgiii » Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:41 pm

bump :/

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2016 1:06 pm

Re: School recommendations/application advice

Post by epluseminus » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:06 am


Unfortunately I have just about as little of a clue as you do. But it does sound like you have a lot of research experience under your belt. You can really push this to your advantage. Have you talked to your supervisors about how to approach the mental health challenges in your letter? They probably would give you the best advice because they know you, but they also have experience in academia, so they can give you a good idea of how they would see things in an application.

Best of luck

Post Reply