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John Felde | University of Maryland | USA

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Physics GRE Bootcamp

I recently participated in a weekend program offering free advice to undergraduate students preparing to take the Physics GRE exam.  In case you and not a physicist yourself, the Physics GRE (Graduate Record Exam) is one of those dreadful comprehensive exams that students must take before applying to most US Ph.D. programs.  Personally, I have never been much of a fan of these tests.  Probably because I was never very good at them…  Nevertheless, they are a reality which all students must face.

The event was sponsored by the California Professoriate for Access to Physics Careers (CPAPC), and funded by the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies.  Attendance was surprisingly large, about 80 undergraduate students from many Universities in Northern and Southern California made the trip to Davis.

Me having lunch with some students from Cal State University, Chico.

The workshop began with a practice GRE exam taken under realistic test conditions.  The students then broke out into small groups to discuss the problems.  Rooms were prepared by subject: Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Optics/Waves/Thermodynamics, and Special Relativity/Atomic Physics/Laboratory techniques.  In each room a current graduate student served as the topic expert to assist the discussions.  I was assigned to the room covering Special Relativity/Atomic Physics/Laboratory techniques.  In some cases students have limited exposure to these fields and so I experienced a constant barrage of questions, which I suppose is better than having no questions at all.

Student responses after the weekend were very positive.  In most cases the students appreciated the opportunity to begin studying for the exam, and to receive valuable advice from the graduate TAs and Faculty about the test and graduate school in general.  Since the weekend, plans have already been put forth for the next bootcamp, and even possibilities of expanding the operation to include other Universities.

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One Response to “Physics GRE Bootcamp”

  1. JOhn-

    UC Davis must be a great place to do Physics. Also Astronomy. I thiknk James Bullock is there.

    But, you are writing at the US/LHC blog, so I want to tell you about two projects running on BOINC software (from UC Berkeley) to contribute to the work of the LHC at CERN. I hope that you can join us and entreat your colleagues at Davis to also join us.

    LHC@home 1.0 is a project which contributes to tuning the magnets by running simulations of what happens in the beamline. The project is at http://lhcathome.web.cern.ch/LHCathome/Sixtrack/ .

    LHC@homwe 2.0 is a project which simulates “events”. This project actually runs on a BOINC software wrapper, but in an Oracle VM running Scientific Linux.

    I don’t think this will help your CV the way the LBNE will, but you will feel great about it, especially if you can get some colleagues to join up.

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