Alec Hamaker

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Alec Hamaker

Earning his PhD in Nuclear Physics at Michigan State University.


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Alec's Advice

My biggest piece of advice to anyone planning on going to graduate school in the sciences (may also apply to other fields) is to find research opportunities both at Hanover and in other environments. The majority of what you do in graduate school will be research, so you better make sure you enjoy it before committing to it. Also, after talking to several admissions counselors at graduate school fairs, everyone says that they look for research experience. In fact, some told me that they would not accept someone if he/she did not have research experience.

While at Hanover, students should not hesitate to ask professors if they can help with some of the research the professors are working on, or if the professors know someone at another school who is doing interesting research that might allow a student from Hanover to join his/her team.

It is also important to get research experience outside of Hanover. This will help broaden the student's horizon, so they can see that everyone does research differently. Meeting faculty at other schools will also help you get a better idea of which schools are doing research in your areas of interest. For example, my faculty advisor was able to connect me with everyone who is studying radiofrequency (RF) carpets. Now I am going to MSU where the majority of RF carpet technology is being developed.

I would also like to discuss my preparation for the physics GRE and general GRE. During the summer before my senior year, I studied for the physics GRE every day for at least one hour. The best way to study for this exam is to work through the five practice tests that they have available online. I first started out by taking an exam in the test environment. Then I went through the exam and made sure I knew how to do each question. I would typically go through the exam two or three times before moving onto the next one. I also created a formula sheet as I went through exams which I started memorizing about a month before the exam.

For the general GRE, I started out by studying for one hour three days a week. I alternated between qualitative and quantitative questions and did one timed essay a week. When I was about a month out from the exam I began studying every day for an hour.

These tests can seem overwhelming which is why I advise people to start studying early for them so they don't get overwhelmed studying the week before the exam.

My final piece of advice is something I wish I did more of: Don't be afraid to ask questions! Whether it be in class or while discussing homework with other students. If you are planning on going to graduate school in a certain field it is because you want to become an expert or at least well versed in your field, so it is important that you learn the things that confuse you!