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Theoretical Physics in Chicago



Hello, just decided to search for some guidance on deciding my future.

I am a rising senior at a liberal arts college, with a major in physics and math, (minor in philosophy and music). I have spent 2 summers doing  Experimental Condensed Matter research, and one summer (current summer) doing Theoretical Quantum research.

For reasons outside of physics (mostly family), I would like to spend the next few years of my life in Chicago. The idea of studying graduate physics in Chicago sounds convient and easy, although I wonder if it may not be the right decision and I should wait until I have the freedom to live where ever and study where ever. I don't have a very specific field of interest, and I think I can get interested in most problems, as long as they remain mathy/theoretical/chalkboard style of work as opposed to experimental work. I have a ~3.95 GPA in physics, something around 3.7 in math. Haven't taken the GRE or the physics GRE, I am fairly confident that if I decide to I can get a decent score. 


Basically my questions boil down to 

1) Recommendations of physics (or possibly math) programs in Chicago that fit this mold. At this point in my life being paid to learn and work on problems sounds amazing. Perhaps this shows that I am not specifically interested in a certain problem enough, but browsing the research page of University of Chicago for example is a bit overwhelming in terms of possibilities. I would love to even just know recommendations of fields and areas of research as well. 

2) Advice on whether evening applying to schools within such a strict geographical limit makes sense.


thanks for reading

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Hey! I'm not a Physics PhD student, but I know loads of them at University of Chicago! One of my closest friends is a theoretical physicist here and loves it. 

1) The great thing about programs like this is you typically don't pick a research group (aka an advisor to work with) until later in your career when you complete your coursework. This means you have 1-2.5 years to take classes, go to talks, email / meet with faculty etc to find a subject and advisor that feels like a good fit for you! The UChicago website is definitely confusing, but everything is cross-listed basically (i.e. lets say you like one of the faculty in the biophysics or astrophysics department, if you apply to just plain physics it is highly likely you could work with any of those faculty if you'd like to). From what I hear, there arent *that* many theoretical faculty at UChicago (there are more experimentalists), but I could be totally wrong about that. 

2) I don't think its necessarily that bad to only apply to schools in a geographical limit, especially if Chicago is the limit. There are SO many universities in chicago that may fit your needs. If you were limiting yourself to an area with only 2 schools, I'd be concerned, but I think that there are many options in Chicago. It is better for you to be happy in graduate school, and if that means you'd like to be close to family, then do that! 

Feel free to reach out! I can connect you with current students in theoretical and/or experimental physics here at UChicago! 

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