Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Call for Updates

Now that we're in the thick of the grad school application season, I thought I'd ask for another round of updates from those of us applying to grad schools (that means Jared and Ryan, I think). Where did you end up applying? Where do you hope to end up?

For those of us already in grad school, how is it? Any advice? How are classes? How is the comprehensive exam? Do you sleep? Enlighten us, please.

As for me, I am playing the "apply for fellowships" game this year. I've already applied for the NSF, I'm in the middle of applying for the DoE's CSGF, and I'm about to start the application for NASA's NESSF. After one semester, I'm starting to get the hang of graduate student life. My classes are actually covering new material now, which is nice. Colorado is cold and snowy, just like I like it. Life is somewhat more relaxed than I expected. I had heard enough stories of slave-driving advisers and sleep-stealing problem sets that I was expecting grad school to be a lot worse than it has been. I've had a few 70 hour weeks, but mostly I put in about 40-50 hours a week (~30 to classes, ~15-20 to research) and my advisor so far has been a pleasure to work with (although he does seem to be very particular about the color tables I use in figures). All in all, life is good.


  1. It will be hard to touch on all the things I should probably say in a comment but I will try.

    Classes are Irvine: First year classes are like boot camp. You will definitely work hard, but it is not too bad. Dr. Hirschmann was good preparation for classes here.

    One caveat on the above: Like Nick I tried to do research, mostly in the sitting in on advanced high-energy classes and keeping up with interesting papers. Had I have not done this the classes would seem like less work. I'm doing more than expected in other words.

    Research: I can't speak for all research groups, but the ones I am acquainted with are very active. (So active in fact that it is impossible to keep up with what everyone is doing.) There are 5-6 speakers who come every week from other schools so there are plenty of talks in many areas to attend.

    It is too late, but for anybody in the future, if there is a group at Irvine doing what you are interested in, chances are it is very active and you will not have a shortage of things to work on.

    Again, one caveat for high-energy physics: Irvine focuses on beyond the standard model physics at energies accessible by future accelerator and other experiments. You will learn a ton of supersymmetry, technicolor, extra-dimension, and string phenomenology at testable levels. If you want to do high-energy physics that focuses on energies where everything is unified in an elegant unbroken beyond the plank scale theory you will be able to do that, but will work largely independently since that isn't everyone's focus here.

    So if you want to work on string theory, supersymmetry, ... at energy levels low enough where symmetries are mostly broken and are possibly accessible by the LHC, I don't think you could be at very many schools that are better than Irvine. If you want to put all of quantum gravity in a single equation then there may be some better schools.

    Personally, I think it is best this way, even if you wanted to one day unify all physics. It's better, in my opinion, to have a really strong background in understanding what a theory of everything needs to reproduce at low energies to be able to have the insight about what direction a theory of everything needs to go.

    TA assignments: They are supposed to take 20 hours a week, but it is more like 15.

    Expense: Southern California is a fairly expensive place to live, but it is expensive because it is such a fun place to live too. :) If you want to make money from your salary go somewhere else, but if it is enough that you just break even, come to Irvine and enjoy So. Cal.

    Irvine has a much more "research institution" feel than BYU. I don't know if anyone in the department, graduate student or professor, knows a single undergraduate. That is a joke, but in a large way, it sometimes feels like that.

    To say it in another way: there are more post docs and visiting researchers than there are professors.

  2. I have put in my applications to Penn State, CU-Boulder, University of Arizona and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There has been some issue with my GRE scores not being sent out but that has been mostly resolved. If Nick would put in the good word for me at CU-Boulder I just might get in. I have also contacted one of the professors at UNC and he said he would be looking for my application. I was planning on contacting one or more professors at Penn State and that just might increase my chances of getting in. Right now I'm just hoping I get in somewhere and, not to seem impatient, I want to know where so I can start planning for certain things....Jared knows what I am talking about.

  3. So I finally decided upon Baylor, TAMU, Wisc-Madison,Ohio and SUNY-Stony Brook. My first choice is still Baylor but any of those places would be great!
    I was accepted to go to the BYU Jerusalem Center for the Spring Term so I have pushed my graduation back until August as a result. I am still looking in how to fund this little adventure, but I think it will come together.
    This semester is going pretty well (academically speaking) since I am taking 6 hours of research credits (instead of 6 credits of regular yucky classes). Now we are actually making progress!

  4. Just wanted to tell everyone good luck. It is sad, for me, to see us splitting up. :( But, it means we are moving on to bigger things.

    Again, good luck with the places you are all applying to or other things you involved with like research and funding.

  5. It's good to hear that things are moving forward for everybody. Like Joe said, we're breaking up the band, but as anyone who has seen any of the Blue Brother's movies knows, you can always get the band back together.

    As for Ryan, I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything from the admissions committe. As of a couple months ago they were expecting to accept bigger than normal group. This is mainly because there aren't enough TA's and last year's incoming class was very small (there are 10 of us).

    For Jared, I wanted to ask if Ohio meant Ohio State or Ohio University. If it's Ohio State, who are you looking to work with? My REU adviser, Samir Mathur, does a lot of cool stuff with string theory/black holes. He was great to work with for a summer and I imagine he'd be a good adviser for you as a grad student, if that's what you'd like to do. I can't say much for Columbus as a city, but Ohio State is a great school.

    Despite the fact that we'll be scattering across the country, I hope we all keep in touch. I'll keep posting here on the blog, and I hope you all do too.


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