Friday, December 28, 2007

Oh great science/math people who stop by here


I'm looking at grad schools, and I have no idea what to do with it. I've been putting it off because it is so overwhelming and this past quarter I've been struggling with so many health issues I just couldn't add more stress to my life.

I'm in love with Abstract algebra, linear algebra, and physics. I want to find a school where I could be a research assistant or at least be a TA that doesn't have to teach entry level math b/c my pre-calc is HORRIBLE. I'd prefer to start next winter/spring, but there are some places that only start in the fall (though one of them I'm going to apply for even though I don't think I'll get in, but hey, no application fee so why the hell not).

Any tips on researching grad schools? What I can find, or if you're in math what programs should I look into given what I like? My advisor is out of the country for the rest of the year and to be completely honest the closest person I have to an advisor is in the physics department whereas I'm in math.

Or should I just do a post-bacc and finish my physics degree too?

Thoughts? Ideas? Pointers, please. (I'll love you forever.)


Rebecca said...

You might want to look into applied math programs. In my (biased) opinion, that is where you will find a good mixture of cool math (including linear algebra and abstract algebra) and applications (most of which are physics).

There's a really good one at Rice University that might be a good fit for you: the Computational and Applied Math department. They do a lot of interdisciplinary work. I am familiar with the work of some folks there, who have worked on inverse problems and partial differential equations. It's a very prestigious department in the applied math world, and additionally, it is the academic home of Richard Tapia, who is famous in the computing world for bringing diversity issues to the forefront.

There are other applied math departments; UC-Boulder, Brown, NYU's Courant Institute come to mind.

Hope this helps!

Southern Grad Girl said...

So I know nothing of math graduate programs, seeing as I'm a biologist myself. But I did just go through the incredibly tiring process of applying for grad school.

Yes, you should apply to places you don't think you'll get in. If math is anything like my field, there will be very few (and not the strongest) programs that allow students to start at times other than Fall. So you may want to reconsider your start time.

Be candid in your essays...many people told me that my listing both my strengths and weaknesses made them look twice. And above all, nail your interviews. Lots of places interview twice the number of people they accept, so they're really important. This means knowing why you applied to that particular school, having some answer to what you're interested in (I don't know is okay, but it needs to be longer than that) and being able to ask questions of the professors (especially if they're explaining their research to you).

I would guess that at least some physics programs would look at you without a BS in physics (because of the math and the physics background). There's a couple of history majors in my life sciences program, which is definitely more distant.

Just be very, very sure you want to go to graduate school. I'm not trying to discourage you, but it sucks a lot of the time. From this perspective at least a lot of what you do seems like jumping through hoops for people, just because they can make you. That's bad enough as it is; if you don't really want to be there, I'd imagine it would be insufferable.

I don't TA (though I still receive a stipend...not sure if this is just a life sciences thing or not), so I'm no help there. I'm happy to talk further off blog, if you want.


Kate said...

Have you talked to your physics guy? While he can't answer all your questions, he should be able to get you started on how to look.

Kate said...

I'm not in your field, so I don't know what schools are good or not for you, but I do have one piece of advice: go to a grad school with a union! You will not find guaranteed funding, TA or RAships or other good stuff at non-union schools with the exception of a few Ivies. I'm not sure how you find out all the grad schools with unions, but I would check out (coalition of grad employee unions, which may have a listing), the American Federation of Teachers and the United Auto Workers.

It's not something anyone wants to be thinking about, but it's something I wish I had thought about in addition to prestige, the department, the advisor, etc., when I was looking at grad schools.

lost clown said...

Actually, one of the schools I'm applying to is union, which made me very happy (being a member of the IWW and all). I'll look into it more.

Oh, and I will talk to Andrew. We've briefly spoken about it before, but a sit down would be great.

Breena Ronan said...

I'm not in science or math, but I thought I would mention a few things since I'm just completing some applications for grad school.The first time I applied I just thought about program prestige, interesting faculty, and getting some sort of funding. This time I thought a lot more about stuff that will affect my daily life, like the union thing. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most large public universities have TA unions, and most private universities don't. I checked TA/RA salaries, health coverage, and local cost of living. I also considered quarters/semesters (I hate quarters) and health insurance for family members, so you'll want to think about what is important in your particular situation. Maybe weather if you are affected by SAD? You'll be in grad school for a long time, so you might as well be comfortable.