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2 questions

  1. Aug 28, 2011 #1
    1) If you have a BS in physics, what is the minimum amount of time to get a PhD in physics? Typically, is it best to get it done quickly or take your time with it, maybe getting your masters first? Also, if I don't want to become a professor, is it really worth me getting?

    2) I want to get in to watching Leonard Susskind's lectures from Stanford (on iTunes U), but I am wondering what order I should watch the different classes in, if it matters. Here is the list of courses:

    -Classical Mechanics
    -Einstein's Theory
    -Quantum Mechanics
    -Special Relativity
    -Statistical Mechanics
    -Modern Theoretical Physics
    -New Revolutions in Particle Physics: Basic Concepts
    -String Theory and M-Theory
    -Supersymmetry, Grand unification, and String Theory
    -Topics in String Theory

    When would these courses usually be taken for someone? Like 4th year undergrad? Also, what topics should be known before watching these?

    Thanks a lot!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2011 #2


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    One year if you are exceptionally smart. For the average student, 5-6 years (in the US).

    Most PhD students are awarded a Masters along the way.

    "Worth" is a subjective term. Answer this question yourself.
  4. Aug 28, 2011 #3
    Unless your college runs 24hrs for classes, maybe...
  5. Aug 28, 2011 #4
    Great, thanks.
  6. Aug 30, 2011 #5


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    Gold Member

    Bull. That's impossible and it has nothing to do with how smart you are.
  7. Aug 30, 2011 #6


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    Pengwuino is right. The average physics student spends 6.5 years in grad school (according to stats from the APS a few years ago), and that includes a few years of masters coursework, a possible thesis and/or qualifying exam before moving on to the PhD itself. How long it takes depends on many factors, and how smart you are isn't a big one. Big ones are the topic you pick, how complicated your project is, the dept, and your adviser. Getting a PhD isn't about getting out in the least amount of time. You're more likely to get a job if you have experience and publications, and that means more time in grad school.
  8. Sep 2, 2011 #7
    Still looking for an answer to my 2nd question. Is anyone familiar with those courses?
  9. Sep 3, 2011 #8
    His lectures are ordered in an appropriate way already. They are listed as:

    1 Classical Mechanics (Fall 2007) iTunes YouTube
    2 Quantum Mechanics (Winter 2008) iTunes YouTube
    3 Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory (Spring 2008) iTunes YouTube
    4 Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (Fall 2008) iTunes YouTube
    5 Cosmology (Winter 2009) iTunes YouTube
    6 Statistical Mechanics (Spring 2009) iTunes YouTube
    Particle Physics: 1 Basic Concepts (Fall 2009) iTunes YouTube
    Particle Physics: 2 Standard Model (Winter 2010) iTunes YouTube
    Particle Physics: 3 Supersymmetry, Grand Unification, String Theory (Spring 2010) iTunes
    String Theory and M-Theory (Fall 2010) iTunes YouTube
    Topics in String Theory (Winter 2011) iTunes YouTube (no official playlist created by Stanford yet)

    *copied from wikipedia*. I agree with this order as well.

    Oh and in a normal undergrad you would generally take courses 1-6 over 3rd and 4th year (at least that's for me in a 4 year honors program). I suppose in a 3 year program it might just be over 2nd and 3rd year.

    The others are generally graduate courses and wouldn't be taken in undergrad.
  10. Sep 3, 2011 #9
    Fantastic, thank you. What do you think are the prerequisite math courses?
  11. Sep 3, 2011 #10
    In general you should have a pretty good knowledge of calculus (multivariable, including differential and vector calc), Linear Algebra, Differential equations (ordinary and partial), and potentially some statistics, I'm not sure about stat mech. This should be sufficient for 1-6. I'm not sure how much detail #4 goes into with General Relativity, or even if the math is taught concurrently; but you'll need to understand calculus on manifolds, riemannian geometry, differential topology... and possibly some more. Usually this is taught concurrently with the course when needed.

    As for the particle physics/string theory stuff, that's beyond me, I'm not really sure.
  12. Sep 3, 2011 #11
    1. One thing you can do to finish in less time - to get Master's in 1.5-2 years, then go to PhD program in Europe or New Zeland. A lot of countries have fixed time for getting PhD - 3 years.

    2. for me, I took Classical Mech, Special Relativity, Quantum Mech, Statistical Phys, Basics of Particle Phys as undergad. General Theory of Relativity and more advanced Particle Phys as Master Student. And taking some of them again as a PhD student
  13. Sep 3, 2011 #12
    Great, thanks guys. Looks like I need to work on some math first, then I'll begin watching.
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