I have studied Physics (Diploma) and since 3 years I work as a Software Engineer.

But I am starting to miss the high degree of intellectual challenge. So I am thinking to go back to academia. Unfortunately my Diploma grade was B (German 2), likewise the grade of my in-depth elective Theoretical Particle Physics. I think I could have done better, but my mother died of cancer during my Diploma thesis and this didn't leave much focus and time for me. Plus I started working on a Web App in the last 2 months of my studies. Other grades were better, my Math elective (Functional Analysis) was A+, likewise Theoretical Physics. My undergraduate studies' grades were mixed, between A+ and B-.

My thesis also does not look so well. Because of a lack of time it has orthographic errors, discussion of results is too short and the source code snippets in it look ugly. Once I applied for a job through a head hunter and after they saw my thesis they completely lost interest in me as a candidate.

So question: how hard is it in such a situation to apply for a PhD Programme and is it a good idea at all? What would be a good strategy when applying? I am interested in Mathematics, Theoretical Physics, Mathematical Physics or Computer Science.

  • 1
    Why the downvote? I tried to keep the question as reusable by others as possible. In fact, trying to find information about such a problem on the web, I found absolutely nothing...
    – user6302
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 19:36

2 Answers 2


If you're serious about getting into a grad school, then you need to take the initiative. In your situation, just sending off applications is unlikely to be enough. What you need to do is to get someone on the inside of an institution to want to work with you. So -- contact individual professors and let them know that you are interested in working with them. This means you need to figure out who they are, what they work on, and, when you contact them, you need to make it about why you can be of help in their research area. It's a lot of work, but the process will probably be good for you as well, narrowing down what it is you really are interested in, what your abilities are, and what kind of work you want to do. Good luck!

  • Thanks, this sounds good. Actually this also avoid the already mentioned problem of avoiding that I would get engaged into something I am not interested in.
    – user6302
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 15:49

In Germany even some renowned research institutes mention in the job offers that people with at least grade B should be encouraged to apply for a position. So I don't see here a major problem for you. No one looks on your pre-diploma grades, this is now different with the bachelor AND master degree. But you have to make a presentation of your diploma work for the job interview. I don't know what speaks against adding results that you worked out after that thesis to make the work more impressive, as you didn't have as much time as other students with a scholarship or rich parents and were forced to work besides your diploma work, especially as the diploma needs 12 months in germany. If they want you to send them your diplom pdf, than of course you have to look for another group.

The major problem I see is that you wrote your thesis now 3 years ago, and 2-2.5 years is also a deadline I saw several times in such german PhD job offers, as after some time you simply loose knowledge.

Nonetheless you should try it, write a few dozen applications and look how much invitations for a job interview you get and in what fields, but be clear what your motivation is. Your question does sound to me like you a bored and desperated in your current job, that is not the best reason for a Prof. to hire you, you should show interest in a specific topic, related to your diploma work would make your motivation to do a PhD more credible to me.

  • Actually I am seeking something more mathematical, before I started my current job I though it would involve at least some non-trivial Mathematics. (Having seen R&D papers on their website.) Being much more well-informed about the industry now, I found out such jobs are really rare. Of those rare jobs most require a PhD
    – user6302
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 18:56
  • Anyway... Hiding the original thesis seems dodgy to me, I think I won't be very comfortable with this
    – user6302
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 19:56
  • @user6302 I didn't tell you to hide it, mostly they want you to make a presentation and anyway have no time to read your thesis, so it's more about how you sell the results you produced in that presentation.
    – James Last
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 20:11
  • Ok ok, I get your point
    – user6302
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 20:12

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