Anybody studying physics at university?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Mintin8, Mar 29, 2010.

  1. Mintin8 macrumors 6502a

    Mintin8

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    #1
    Hello Macrumors, thought this would be the place to ask. Is anybody studying physics at university at the moment? If so what kind etc. I'm planning on just going in for straight physics to start off with.

    Basically, I would just like you to share your views about the course and what you eventually plan on doing once you leave university.

    Thanks a bunch.

    :D
     
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #2
    Generally everyone starts off taking the basic courses- Modern Physics/Quantum Mechanics, Classical Mechanics, E&M, Thermo/Stat Mech before specializing. A lot of people don't choose an area of physics they want to pursue more in-depth until graduate school.
     
  3. gauchogolfer macrumors 603

    gauchogolfer

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    #3
    As ^he said, undergraduate physics is going to be very broad based, as the goal of most programs is to prepare you for graduate school where you could specialize. I'd guess if your program is anything like mine was, you'll really only start branching out in the 3rd and 4th years, where you can focus on experimental/theoretical, high-energy/condensed matter, etc.
     
  4. Capt Crunch macrumors 6502

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    #4
    One thing I would recommend is a healthy dose of mathematics. Make sure that you take at least up to an advanced undergraduate Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. Most of the difficulties my colleagues had stemmed from not taking these courses. That said, many colleges make those classes requirements, but not all of them.

    As for leaving university there are a couple options. I was a math/physics double major, and I ended up going for my PhD in applied math. That's one option, getting your PhD in your desired field. The trouble is, it's hard to continue into academia unless you're really good.

    The alternative is to go into industry, and guys with PhDs in physics or math are pretty sought after, ESPECIALLY in mathematical finance. You can make a lot of money, although you'll work your ass off. I ended up moving into operations research (which is an interesting field, look it up if you don't know about it) and will probably end up in some technical/strategic business consulting job. Hopefully McKinsey, Bain, or BCG (on a side note, if anyone works at one of these places, I'd love to hear from you!).

    I would not try to get a job with just an undergraduate degree in physics. The tools and techniques that are sought after (simulation, numerical analysis application) generally don't come until a graduate career.
     
  5. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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  6. Watabou macrumors 68040

    Watabou

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    #6
    I'm taking Physics and from the book we're learning from, its just some huge amount of mechanics, some optics, some modern physics.

    Right, now we're still in mechanics and it's not too hard but it's not easy either. I got a B on the first midterm though. I'm majoring in computer science and i'm required to take all physics classes. And since I didn't take physics in high school, I have to start from the beginning :(
     
  7. NeuralControl macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    I assume this means you have a PhD? What do you specialize in?
     
  8. iOrlando macrumors 68000

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    #8
    took a physics course once. wow it was awful. professor was a total bore and his hair was so bad.

    i did like the TA though. would always joke around and complain how I couldn't do the experiments and he would do them for me.

    at first when I think of physics, i think of mythbusters, but you have to go through so much junk and bore before that.
     
  9. leomac08 macrumors 68020

    leomac08

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    #9
    The only physics i took in college (which i dropped the class)

    was Space Science

    and

    Intro to Astronomy


    guess which one i dropped?:D
     
  10. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

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    #10
    Surely, you must be joking, Capt Crunch. What school lets their students walk away with a bachelor's in physics without requiring lin alg or dif eq?

    Yes! Make your mark on humanity. Become a quant and contribute to the next financial meltdown!

    Srsly, if you're going to go down the shady path, go work for the NSA or something. At least those guys are a lot less sketchy. ;)
     
  11. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #11
    Plenty, actually. In a lot of cases it's assumed that you'll learn what you need to know about both in your physics classes. You'd undoubtedly be better served with a dedicated course in both, though.
     
  12. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

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    #12
    Come now, miles. Show me the sites of the "plenty" of reputable departments that don't require at least a one semester LADE course.
     
  13. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #13
  14. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

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    #14
    Aw hell, I'm bored, too.

    Brown Prerequisites: PHYS 0500, 0560; or MATH 0520, 0540 - the latter two being LinAlg. Brown doesn't seem to offer a separate ODE class before the PDE class, so I assume they fold it into another.

    Wellesley Pre-req for each of the 4 required advanced courses.

    Dartmouth From the site: "By its very nature, physics requires a strong mathematical background, and the physics major has a minimum mathematical prerequisite of the four-course Introductory Calculus sequence ending with Differential Equations (Math 3, 8, 13, 23, or equivalent). " No LinAlg, just "strongly" recommended but looks like it's a pre-req for a lot of courses.

    Caltech Caltech combines LinAlg into Calc I and DifEq into stats. Both are prerequisites for standard sophomore courses.

    Georgetown 155 (Mathematical and Computational Methods) -> Topics covered include linalg and difeqs.

    Okay, I'm not that bored but off hand, I'd be willing to bet that it's all a part of implied prereqs at these schools, too.
     
  15. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #15
    Key word: "or." You can get by at Brown without taking a dedicated LA or DE class.

    Where do you see that?

    Again, not a dedicated LA or DE class which was your original argument. Throughout any of the aforementioned physics curricula you're going to get the equivalent of a basic LA/DE class anyways, but that's not what you were arguing.

    I don't actually understand why any serious physics major wouldn't take a dedicated LA/DE course in addition to a programming course (perhaps time constraints...but even that's pretty weak), but to each their own. I guess they figure they cover enough of what the student needs for physics in the curriculum as it is.

    I'd also be willing to bet that by making a strong case, any stringent "math course" requirement could be waved in favor of a physics class that incorporates the required material or with a competency exam. But speculation knows no bounds.
     
  16. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

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    #16
    Took the standard Physics classes and a couple classes and labs in the Physics degree track, not something that is too fun if you are not really solid at math though -- I do OK and can grunt some of it out.

    However, once you pass some of the BS degree programs, the math does get a bit more fun ... took the EE degree though, but a few of the classes down Phsyics degree track, since the Physics minor was only like 2 semester of work difference (and I gave up)

    At least for me some of the EE grad level classes the shortcuts were what I was "better" at at least in transformations and then using graphical shortcuts to design the system for testing in the labs.

    The Phsyics classes and labs were a bit awkward, going into the deans office for a graduate level class was really really odd. Along with the math problems being tough, and not something you can grab a similar problem out of a book in the library.
     
  17. Signal-11 macrumors 65816

    Signal-11

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    #17
    With the other "or" being a combined phys/mathematical methods course.

    From the page: "There are four required upper level courses: Physics 302 (quantum mechanics), Physics 306 (advanced mechanics), Physics 305 (statistical mechanics), and Physics 314 (advanced electricity and magnetism)."

    The prereqs include Phys 216, the prereq for which is Math 215.

    Now you're just picking nits and no, that wasn't my original argument. These combo math classes are LA/DE + one or two topics. These are courses meant to teach the broader methodology, not specific solutions.

    I'm an engineer, not a physicist. I took several serious fluids classes out of sequence, also out of tune with the required maths, mostly because my profs waived them. I regretted it then and I regret it now. I would have got a lot more out those classes or maybe not had such a hard time had I not been struggling with the math, which I always "got" after the fact, not during, when it would've actually helped my comprehension of the subject.

    I suppose, but I think it's telling that you used the phrase "get by." Lazy students who just want to get away with doing the bare minimum will find a way and face it, these are not the students who will be doing physics for a living anyway.
     
  18. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #18
    In Medical Physics. ;) It's the study of radiation, radiation interactions with matter, interactions with cells and DNA, and a few other specialized topics. I suppose it's my specialty.

    The large majority of people in my field have a physics or engineering background (or comp sci, if you're thinking about research career), and then do the Masters and/or PhD in Medical Physics. Most unis do not offer an undergrad program in what I do, but mine did. I work at a hospital.



    And I don't know what you guys are going on about, but either a fairly large number of maths subjects are stated as prerequisites in the core curriculum, or they aren't stated, but are required to take many physics subjects. I don't know how you would survive a physics degree without taking at least 6 maths subjects over a 4 year degree and actually be enrolled in a physics program......unless all you take are first year subjects. In fact, I'd say a large chunk of a physics degree is mathematics courses, because if you only had to survive the physics subjects, a physics degree would probably take 2 years to finish. :p

    On a side note, my degree had different requirement because it was specialized, which meant that I took fewer maths and physics subjects, but filled those gaps with biology, biochemistry, organic chem, radiation biology, etc. However, I STILL had to take around 8 (!!!) maths subjects in 4 years. Off the top of my head:


    - Calc 1 and 2
    - Lin. Algebra
    - Statistics
    - Differential equations.
    - Computational mathematics
    - Mathematical Physics 1 and 2


    It has been awhile, but I may have missed one.

    My point is that I, as a semi-physicist, had to take that many math subjects, so I'm sure other programs would require them too.
     
  19. Capt Crunch macrumors 6502

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    #19
    The only linear algebra course that was required for me at UVA was a 300 level course that was nearly all mindless definitions and matrix manipulation. In my opinion, a proof based course that introduces the concept of a completely abstract vector space induced by an arbitrary inner product is essential for a 300 level quantum mechanics course. In my particular case, they did intro quantum mechanics without the use of linear algebra and we did the inner product integrals out by hand (tedious!) with no idea what they meant!

    I imagine there are many schools that aren't that dumb. Taking an advanced linear algebra course (as well as DiffEq) covers your bases.

    While some of the products that quants made certainly did their share in the meltdown, blaming the quants themselves is like blaming the gun manufacturer for making the gun. Instead, consider it this way: If quants didn't make the complex options that exist today, the financial institution would not exist as it does today. Rather, it would be much, much smaller. As a result, there would be a lot less money for loans for, for example, small businesses. The economy would be comparatively smaller and quality of life would be lower as a result. I don't think it's a complete exaggeration to say that the reason everyone has a car and a flat screen TV in their house is because of the financial institution.

    Moreover, a large part of the products made by quants are actually products designed to remove variability of the outcome at the expense of expected variation. Gambling can be done on short-term high variability, but sure money is made by knowing the price of an option in the future when nobody else does, regardless if it goes up, down, or neither.

    As for NSA, as awesome as the group is, they don't pay enough to deal with the government BS IMO. I turned NSA down to work for a contractor.
     
  20. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #20
    ...which is not dedicated LA/DE.

    Math 215: Mathematics for the Sciences I. Not dedicated LA/DE again.

    I guess it's open to some interpretation, but even in picking apart my original list you still don't admit that a number of the places I listed don't require anything of the sort you are trying to argue for:

    I think every person of science has their regrets about taking whatever class at whatever time.

    Having spent time in a "professional physics environment" I can promise you this is not the case at all, sadly.
     

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