I am a few years out of undergrad, graduated with a CompE BS with math minor, but was wanting to head into graduate school for mathematics and/or mathematical physics (particle or high energy theory). How do I get back into the mathematics/physics community to the point where I would have good recommendations for the next round of applications (currently I have none)?

Thanks in advance.

  • 4
    Can you not get recommendations from, e.g., the faculty who taught you the courses you took in order to do a minor in mathematics? Mar 12, 2015 at 22:30
  • I really don't have much of a relationship with any of them beyond simply taking the course that they taught. However, if that is the way to go then I could certainly do that. Would those be more valuable when applying to math programs than people at work (PhD engineers) as my recommenders?
    – ililil
    Mar 13, 2015 at 15:50
  • For math programs: I recommend that you get at least one of your letters from a math faculty member who taught you undergrad, yes. It is not necessary to have any relationship beyond having taken the courses in order to get a good letter. It depends rather how strong an impression you made on them during the courses. If for instance you were consistently at or near the top of classes full of strong, capable students, then great. Mar 13, 2015 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


All graduate schools want to admit candidates who will succeed in their program, which is why most require an undergraduate degree. Here is a quote about a Physics Master's Admission from the University of Tennessee.

A student who enrolls in graduate study with the intention of attaining an advanced degree in physics will have completed an undergraduate major in physics or its equivalent.

Nevertheless since there is such a high overlap in math, physics, and computer science/engineering; you will likely be able to find a graduate program that will accept you -- especially if you are willing to take a year of prerequisite classes. Here is another quote about a master's degree in Applied Math

The following prerequisites must be satisfied in our program or in course work passed elsewhere and judged equivalent by the department

  1. Numerical Analysis, Numerical Algebra, or Numerical Algorithms
  2. Methods in Applied Mathematics or both Differential Eqns. II and Partial Differential Eqs.
  3. Advanced Calculus
  4. Matrix Algebra II
  • Hmm. I find it interesting that despite having a PhD in mathematics (plus 12 more years in academia...) I have knowledge or coursework in only one of the four prerequisites. Or possibly two: I don't know exactly what "matrix algebra II" means, but I have spent some years studying matrix algebras. Mar 12, 2015 at 23:07
  • While I have a PhD in computational atomic physics, I haven't taken a class in Quantum Field Theory, General Relativity, or Particle Physics.
    – Nick Vence
    Mar 13, 2015 at 0:14
  • What sort of merit is there in self study towards topics listed on admissions pages? I have been working through textbooks on material that I did not take during undergrad but don't really know how do display this knowledge to an admissions committee other than having a recommender vouch for me (and I suppose the GRE...).
    – ililil
    Mar 13, 2015 at 15:55
  • Self-study will be good for many reasons: it will make graduate school easier, it can focus your interests, and it can prepare you for the subject GRE which is often required for admission. Consider attending weekly departmental seminars of a local university. If you make friends with a professor and become interested in his research, you will most likely get accepted into the program (provided you fulfill any prerequisites).
    – Nick Vence
    Mar 13, 2015 at 18:07

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