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Topic: PhD without knowing concentration?  (Read 12513 times)

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Offline lrc3233

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PhD without knowing concentration?
« on: November 09, 2008, 11:34:21 PM »
Hi,

I'm considering applying for a PhD program in chemistry, but I'm not sure what area it would be in. I'm pretty open minded and can find most things really interesting without too much effort.

So with that being said, is it "ok" to apply to grad school with such a loose set of interests? I work really hard and learn quickly and I'm sure I'd be able to succeed in any program I did pick, but would graduate schools be receptive to that?

In the applications, there's usually personal statements that ask what my goals are and many ask for specific faculty I might want to work for. I obviously can't name faculty who I know for sure I want to work for but I can pick some who sound interesting. Does this mean I am under some obligation to work with them?

Ok so rather lengthy but here's a summary:

Will I have a chance at getting accepted without knowing the specific area of chemistry I'd like to go into?

Thanks for any advice!

Offline Mitch

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2008, 12:48:45 PM »
The answer is, of course. Here is a quick thing I did on how to write a chemistry personal statements:
http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2008/01/31/chemistry-personal-statements-for-graduate-schools/
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Offline JGK

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2008, 09:39:36 PM »
You could apply but you will be competing against people who have an identified area of interest and an enthusiasm for it. 

This may well see you studying for a PhD in  a subject which doesn't hold your interest which could make the whole experience a huge disappointment for you.

You would be better off targeting research areas that do interest you and going for those.
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Offline enahs

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2008, 09:44:56 PM »
Yes, but I would not expect to get into the top chemistry departments across the country due to competition.
It is fairly common to get a bachelors degree and one thing and go for a graduates degree in another. Very common actually. You will be required to take a lot of remedial classes though; they will most likely stick you in with the undergrads for a class a semester.

But understanding chemistry as a whole take a long time (I am not there). Believe it or not, to do a specific type of research in graduate school does not usally take much general knowledge. It helps. And learning the basics about calculating concentrations (as your subjected suggested) will be a must. Learn them before you apply.

But, do you have any experience with chemistry? How do you know you will enjoy it?

Offline nj_bartel

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2008, 10:04:28 PM »
Quote
And learning the basics about calculating concentrations (as your subjected suggested) will be a must. Learn them before you apply.

 :P :P :P

Offline macman104

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2008, 10:17:09 PM »
I can't tell if enahs is serious or not, lol.

Offline enahs

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2008, 10:30:26 PM »
I am tired. Is my wording only making sense to me? Why do both of you find that interesting?

Offline macman104

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2008, 10:57:36 PM »
I am tired. Is my wording only making sense to me? Why do both of you find that interesting?

Because, it sounds like you're making a joke.  The OP isn't talking about knowing what concentration is.  They're saying they know they want to do a Ph.D in chemistry, but they don't know if they want to do organic, nuclear, physical, analytical, etc...

I imagine the OP is a chemistry major, but like I said, they just don't know what area of chemistry to go into.  Reread Mitch and JGK's response's with that understanding.  Does the thread make more sense, lol?

Offline Mitch

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2008, 02:52:33 AM »
I think enahs was trying to be funny. I'd be surprised if he was really reading it that way.
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Offline enahs

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2008, 08:39:26 AM »
I really am a tard, no, seriously I am.

I give up!

Offline macman104

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2008, 09:45:08 AM »
I really am a tard, no, seriously I am.

I give up!
Lol, wow enahs...just wow.  Have you been working late, or...you must have some sort of excuse (or maybe you're above statement is ;)).

Offline enahs

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2008, 09:29:49 PM »
I really am a tard, no, seriously I am.

I give up!
Lol, wow enahs...just wow.  Have you been working late, or...you must have some sort of excuse (or maybe you're above statement is ;)).

Truthfully, I have not had a single day off in over a year. I even went in on Christmas day last year. Doing research at 4 different institutions is killings me (but I enjoy most of it, just not the amount of time).

Plus, I am a tard.

Offline dfx-

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2008, 11:52:39 PM »
I really am a tard, no, seriously I am.

I give up!

If it helps...that's how I read it too... ;D
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Offline Fleaker

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2008, 06:52:05 PM »
I really am a tard, no, seriously I am.

I give up!

If it helps...that's how I read it too... ;D


As did I :-).

Upon reading the post, I now get that he meant area of concentration!
My experience is that if you do not do research that you have a personal interest in, you will find very little satisfaction in it. Also, when choosing faculty to work with and/or your PhD advisers, make sure that you can identify with them. Bear in mind that you'll be spending quite some time with them both in the lab, in meetings, at conferences, and the "grant accepted" parties!

My best advice is to try out various types of chemistry and self-assess. You need to recall which courses you liked most: if you're into mathematics, perhaps analytical, physical, or computational chemistry, if you prefer synthesis, maybe organic/inorganic chemistry, if you like biology as a mixer, then biochemistry could be right. Think: would I like to be in the lab synthesizing new compounds, or would I rather use equipment and analyze and characterize these compounds? Do I like to do organic chemistry and smell all of those solvents, or would I prefer to stick with inorganic chemistry and salts? Do I want to work on basic research (theory) or applied research that has more immediate use(s)? In my eyes, your lack of interest in any one field could mean several things: first, that  maybe you did not get enough laboratory experience in your undergraduate career and you never attended any practicals, second, that perhaps you like too many different aspects of chemistry and cannot find anyone one type that you like more than the other, or perhaps the opposite: you don't really like any of it.

If you are a strong candidate that has good scores on the GRE and a good GPA with good recommendations,  you'll likely have few problems getting into a good program. I think it would be ridiculous to expect a new grad student to have a very specific interest picked out. I should mention that another factor that many professors look for is the amount of research a prospective candidate has; for me, I would prefer someone with more laboratory experience than and perhaps weaker academically because there is less of a learning curve and they can be put into the laboratory right away. If you go to graduate school and then chase the PhD, you'll find that class is less and less of a component in your studies--it is present, but time invested in class dwindles as the years go by and more is spent on research and working toward your thesis and dissertation.

Good luck whatever betide!

Fleaker
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Offline nj_bartel

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Re: PhD without knowing concentration?
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2009, 06:44:47 PM »
I've never heard positive remarks about an online PhD.

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