A few weeks ago, my professor from last term approached me during a departmental tea. She told me that some people at a nearby (nationally recognized) physics laboratory asked her if she knew of any good students to do an internship over the summer, and she thought of me! I apparently was the best in my class last term, so she offered me the internship first. We had an informational meeting yesterday morning. I haven’t decided whether to take it yet (for reasons which will be clear later).
Meanwhile, I’m trying to finalize a tentative plan (even though a tentative plan is, by definition, not final) for what courses I want to take for the rest of my master’s program. The list of elective courses contains many courses in many other disciplines besides statistics, such as political science, biology, or economics (at the graduate level). Unfortunately, my background is quite focused on math and statistics, so taking an elective course in a different department would require a lot of extra work to get comfortable with the background material.
My current professor (for my difficult class) and I have been talking a bit over the recent weeks. He’s pretty close to my age (because he’s a genius who started college early and I’m old for a graduate student), so it’s really easy to talk to him. It also helps that he thinks very highly of me (because I didn’t fail his quiz as badly as everyone else). Because he used to be the master’s advisor, I asked him to help me make my tentative course plan.
After a brief look over my grades and course history (I made a spreadsheet), my professor said I could have applied for the Ph.D. program right from the beginning. From what he’s seen in me so far this term, he has a very good impression of me. He wants me to do research with him next term and continue over the summer, even offering to support me (using one of his numerous research grants) over the summer! He thinks I’m good enough to possibly get a paper submitted by the end of the summer.
My professor wants me to apply for the Ph.D. program (in the fall) and take as many first-year Ph.D. level courses as I can. That way, my last year in the master’s program would count as the first year of Ph.D. program. If I did manage to submit a paper, a letter of recommendation from my professor would basically be an automatic acceptance.
I thought I knew what I wanted when I came here, but now I’m not so sure. Having someone have so much confidence in my abilities as to offer me research funding over the summer means a lot to me. I want to believe that my professor is right when he says that I have what it takes to get a Ph.D., but I don’t know if I do. And even if I do have what it takes, I’m not sure if a Ph.D. is really what I want. On the other hand, I should keep my options open, right?
My current dilemma is that I have two great summer opportunities, but I can only choose one. A computational physics laboratory internship or a more theoretical research assistantship? The larger dilemma (which affects the summer dilemma) is that I don’t have a clear idea of what I should do in the long term. Should I stick with a master’s or stay for a Ph.D.? If I did stay, should I go into industry or stay in academia?
My professor from last term wants me to make a decision about the internship in about a week, so I have to decide pretty quickly. And I’m not known for making decisions quickly.