I am in my last semester of Physics and Mathematics and, at the same time, my first semester in a MS in Applied Math (which I will finish in two more semesters) in one of the top universities for physics grad programs. I plan on pursuing a PhD in Physics by Fall 2020 and was wondering what was the best option to do this summer to increase my chances of being accepted in a program at a top university. I plan on applying somewhere else.

One option is looking for a research internship at another university or a national lab. On the other hand, I have been working in several projects at my home university and I am in a collaboration with another university. I have a publication done with a small group and a renowned professor in mathematics, and if I stay this summer I might be able to finish one or two more since I have been working in said projects for a year or more. The important thing is that I want to publish them before I send in my applications for PhD programs this fall. I think there is a considerably smaller chance of publishing if I go to an internship, and I might be able to apply to short programs like two week summer schools while I work here at my university. Furthermore, I already have participated in two summer internships at a Fermilab and Princeton, so I don't know if it makes any difference participating in a third internship, or if it would be better to potentially publish 1 or 2 publications more before I apply to a PhD program.

Summarizing, what do you think is more important: another internship or another (one or two) publication(s)?

Thank you for your opinions!

closed as off-topic by Azor Ahai, user68958, padawan, Enthusiastic Engineer, Jon Custer May 1 at 13:55

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Stay where you are.

Normally, I would say, sure, do the summer trip. But you've got a lot of balls in the air, considering the masters.

Plus, you've already checked the summer trip box twice. Checking it a third time won't change the application.


I think the relavant question is which PhD (sub)field you want to persue. If you are able to publish in exactly this sub-field go for the publications but if you can do an internship in exactly the same sub-field as you plan to do your PhD go for this one. As I read from your post you tick the boxes for publications as well as internships (and having just more is not giving you a significant boost anymore for a PhD application).

The more important thing is that you already know a lot about the potential PhD topic (and have developed own ideas what to do in detail) when you go for the PhD interview. The best applicants are those where I get the impression that they know what they want and they know what they are talking about.


For your Ph.D. application you want to demonstrate a number of things. First, that you are excited about a research area within your field and that you have begun some good work there. Second, that you know a bit about what it takes to be a successful researcher in general, including the importance of high quality publications describing your results; if you've already generated and submitted important results for publication, that is obviously even better. And third, that you have strong aptitude in your field.

I think it might be best for you to stay where you are and continue to produce research and publications. I assume that this will lead to a very strong letter of reference from your research advisor there. If you have another strong letter of reference from a prior research internship, plus one from a course in your department where you excelled, your application for Ph.D. study is likely to be quite strong.

  • Thank you for your answer. I was planning on using recommendation letters of the professors I am currently working with. Do you think using only recommendation letters from only research advisors would be worse than the recommendation letters you mentioned? I have been working with my letter writers for 2 years, 1 year and 7 months. I also have other letter writers (research advisors as well) if it is possible to send more than 3. Mainly because my two internships were 3 and 2 years ago, so that's why I did not plan on asking my internship supervisors for recommendation letters. – The Bosco Apr 26 at 1:05
  • The goal is to get strong letters that attest to your prospects as a Ph.D. student and researcher. You mention "advisors". If they are all advising you on the same project, then they may be somewhat duplicative. I don't think you can go too wrong here, but having at least one letter that describes a different perspective on you (different project, course, etc) can be helpful. It sounds like you are in very good shape for a strong application. – alerera Apr 26 at 11:42
  • They are all from different projects. Again thank you for your answer! – The Bosco Apr 26 at 17:08

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