Kaplan-Yorke attractor (created with Dynamics)

Notes to Prospective Grad Students

Graduate students in the Chaos group at Maryland come from a wide variety of disiplines, including physics, engineering, and applied math. Based on your experience you should apply to the department that suits your interests.

Here is what to expect in the first several years of grad studies. The following comments are derived from my experiences in the physics department, but in general, they also hold true for students in other disciplines.

I would say that the first year is generally the toughest because that's when you are saddled with taking core courses, teaching undegraduates, and preparing for the PhD Qualifying exam. Basically, the transition from an undergraduate to a graduate student is pretty discontinuous, and most people will admit that the experience is generally much tougher than they expected. Of course, all is not doom and gloom. Times do get much better once a student passes the first year and the Qualifying exam. I think what gets most people through the tough times is the friendship and camaraderie they develop with their fellow grad students.

The normal course for a grad student in physics would be as follows:

  • first year
    • 2 to 3 core courses per semester (electrodynamics, statistical physics, classical mechanics, math methods, quantum I and II).
    • TAing Undegraduates (or RA)
    • RA mainly in beginning of summer
    • Lock yourself in a room for a month or two for the Qualifying exam
    • Pass the Qual at end of first year (ideally)
  • second year
    • more courses (chaos students are typically considered theorists, and must take the requisite courses [many-body or field theory])
    • take grad lab or electronics
    • Look for thesis advisor and possibly do small projects with potential thesis advisor
  • third year to ?
    • Decide on thesis advisor and work towards your graduation!
As usual, your mileage may vary, but you get the picture. For math students, they usually take their Qual at the end of the second year, and they are generally supported by Teaching Assistantships in their grad career, except for the summers when they can apply for summer RA (Research Assistantships).

Finally, here are the contact information you need to apply for the various graduate programs:

I hope this helps!