Applying to a PhD in Pure Math without a background in Math

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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zhenyong
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:49 pm

Applying to a PhD in Pure Math without a background in Math

Post by zhenyong » Sat Jun 05, 2021 5:39 am

Not from the US. I have a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Master of Engineering Science.

Mid-way through my undergraduate study, I realized that I am more interested in pure math than physics and wanted to apply for a PhD in pure math after my graduation. I had done research and written a thesis related to math (related to general relativity) for my undergraduate final year project under the supervision of a math lecturer. Unfortunately, after graduation I could not find a math research project for master’s degree and had to apply for a masters in another field. I ended up working on a project related to signal processing.

My undergraduate CGPA is not great (2.92/4.0), so I worked hard in my master’s study and managed to publish a conference paper and a journal paper (one more currently under review, and one more has not been submitted yet). This allowed me to graduate earlier. Now that I have completed my master’s degree, I want to apply for a PhD in pure math. I had consulted several professors from different universities, and I was told that my background is more qualified for applied math instead. So, I applied to five universities for PhD in applied math last year. I got rejected from four of them, the remaining one is still under review. This made me feel that my achievements in my master’s study are not helping me in the admissions at all.

But deep down, I am still more interested in pure math. Given my background, is it possible for me to get admitted to a PhD in pure math? I am aware that my background is not qualified for pure math. From what I have learned, it seems that I could either:
i. Take the GRE general and math subject test (uncertain due to the pandemic) and apply to grad schools in the US or
ii. Apply to a master’s in pure math in other countries.

Did anyone have a similar experience? Or this is just a pipe dream?

SchursLemma
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:16 am

Re: Applying to a PhD in Pure Math without a background in Math

Post by SchursLemma » Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:58 am

The GRE math subject test is just used as a filtering criterion by most grad programs. The main thing that will help you with admissions is the math courses you've taken.

From what you've described about your background, it doesn't seem to me that you've taken many math courses, especially proof-based ones if you're particularly interested in pure math. I'd say that you should enroll in a masters degree in math and then apply for PhD. Oh and take as many advanced classes as you can - grad schools expect more from people with masters degrees. Though it will be difficult for you to get into masters programs in Europe for example, as you do not have an undergraduate degree in math, and as far as I am aware, top places in Europe for a masters in math all require a bachelors in math.

Best of luck!

zhenyong
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:49 pm

Re: Applying to a PhD in Pure Math without a background in Math

Post by zhenyong » Tue Jun 08, 2021 2:56 am

SchursLemma wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:58 am
The GRE math subject test is just used as a filtering criterion by most grad programs. The main thing that will help you with admissions is the math courses you've taken.

From what you've described about your background, it doesn't seem to me that you've taken many math courses, especially proof-based ones if you're particularly interested in pure math. I'd say that you should enroll in a masters degree in math and then apply for PhD. Oh and take as many advanced classes as you can - grad schools expect more from people with masters degrees. Though it will be difficult for you to get into masters programs in Europe for example, as you do not have an undergraduate degree in math, and as far as I am aware, top places in Europe for a masters in math all require a bachelors in math.

Best of luck!
Thanks! You're right, I wasn't able to take pure math classes at my university, they weren't even offered. I have looked at the admission requirements for Europe universities' masters and phd programs, I think they are out of the question for me. Some professors told me that phd programs in the US generally provide basic math courses. Would my thought of applying for phd programs in the US and take the basic courses to bridge the gaps in my background be unreasonable?



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