Advice:Prior graduate experience

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Advice for students coming to SBU with completed graduate coursework

  • Make sure that the Graduate School has your transcripts
  • If you wish to place out of one or more core courses, you can appear before a panel of professors in your first week.
    • Bring the syllabus and any exams or homeworks for any relevant courses you've taken
    • Review course materials beforehand, especially if you're rusty - they may ask questions
  • If you have taken an advanced lab course previously and wish to get out of taking Grad Lab, bring your completed lab reports and the syllabus from the lab course you took.
  • The comprehensive exams can help gauge how prepared you are for any core courses you plan to take. In particular,
    • Will you be prepared to take more than two relatively intense courses? (includes cores as well as any QFT or string theory course, among others)
  • Four regular courses plus a TA assignment is a very heavy burden, no matter how prepared you are. It is generally not advised that anyone do this the first semester. Only consider this if you are absolutely certain that you are quite well-prepared.

Suggested Timeline

See Also: PhD Requirements

First Year:

  • Students who have taken grad courses previously and have gotten credit for them at Stony Brook should use the extra time during the first year to start taking courses that satisfy breadth course requirements and may be useful for their research interests.
    • In particular, if a student has arrives with credit for quantum mechanics, they should consider taking QFT and/or Particle Physics their first year.
    • However, even well-prepared students should not take too many core courses each semester.
  • Courses like E&M and QFT take a lot of time especially when teaching.
  • Do not be afraid to put off a requirement like Grad Lab or one final breadth course until later.
  • Be on the lookout for Summer research.
  • Talk to professors and see about going to their group meetings to see what kinds of things they do and if you are interested. Expressing interest sometime in the second semester is a good idea, either towards the beginning if you think you might have time to start a little something that semester or towards the middle/end if you won't have time until the summer.

First summer:

  • Find someone who does interesting research and try to do some work for them. If they can't pay you (this will be true of most or all theory professors), try to find another source of funding for the summer, e.g. summer TA. Use this time to either try explore a research area or to start building a relationship with a potential advisor.
  • Take a vacation: you'll have worked very hard the first year, definitely take some time to recharge.

Second Year:

  • Students who arrive with a substantial amount of course credit may finish taking classes as soon as their 3rd semester.
    • However, there will likely still be courses you are interested in taking.
  • During this time students should be at least doing some reading for a prospective advisor.
  • Students may take an advanced course in their field each semester.
  • During the 4th semester, a student should be started in a research group and finishing the final course or two if necessary.
  • An advanced student should expect to take the oral exam during the summer after the fourth semester.

Third Year and Beyond:

  • You should have passed the comprehensive exams by now.
  • From the 3rd year on, students should be doing research full time and auditing at most one course a semester if it is relevant to their research.