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A Bit of Advice on Major Selection

  1. Dec 25, 2014 #1

    interhacker

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    Gold Member

    Hi guys. I need a bit of an advice in deciding my major. My university allows only one major (along with minors) and I'm having a little bit of trouble in deciding what to do. Here's the thing. I want to go into Theoretical Physics in grad school and so I have two options:

    1- Major in Physics
    2- Major in Mathematics + minor in Physics

    One thing I've realized is that I'm really really bad at experiments and practical work (which rules majoring in Electrical Engineering out almost completely). I have this twitching problem that compromises my motor skills.
    Whereas, from my current academic standing it seems I'm good at Mathematics and Mathematical Physics courses such as Mechanics.

    According to my undergraduate student handbook, a Physics major requires 43 credit hours worth of core courses. Here are the core courses I'll need to take specifically for a major in Physics:

    Calculus II
    Electricity and Magnetism
    Waves and Optics
    Quantum Mechanics I
    Mathematical Methods in Physics and Engineering I
    Experimental Physics II
    Classical Mechanics
    Quantum Mechanics II
    Statistical Mechanics
    Electromagnetic Fields and Waves
    At least one of: Atomic, Molecular and Laser Physics OR Condensed Matter Physics
    At least one of: General Relativity OR Astrophysics OR Nuclear and Particle Physics

    A Math major requires only 30 credit hours worth of core courses:

    Calculus II
    Linear Algebra II
    Introduction to Differential Equations
    Introduction to Formal Mathematics
    Introduction to Analysis I
    Introduction to Analysis II
    Complex Variables
    Ordinary Differential Equations
    Advanced Calculus
    Algebra I

    Along with this, for a Minor in Physics I'll take (notice that now I won't have to take the Experimental Physics labs which I'm terrible at):

    Electricity and Magnetism
    Waves and Optics
    Quantum Mechanics I
    Quantum Mechanics II
    Classical Mechanics
    General Relativity

    And since a Math major requires less credit hours than a Physics major, I can use them to take the following extra Physics courses:
    Advanced Quantum Mechanics
    Nuclear and Particle Physics

    What path do you think will best prepare me for studying Theoretical Physics in graduate school? Your advice is highly appreciated. Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2014 #2

    jtbell

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    Graduate schools in the US expect generally expect incoming students to have taken upper-division courses in classical mechanics, electricity & magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics / statistical mechanics. Therefore if you want to go to grad school in the US, I suggest that if you do a math major with physics minor, you take statistical mechanics as one of your elective courses.
     
  4. Dec 25, 2014 #3

    interhacker

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    That can be easily managed. In fact, I think if I plan well, I might even be able to take Statistical Mechanics in addition to the other two extra physics courses I'm taking. Otherwise I'll take it instead of Nuclear and Particle Physics or Advanced QM. If I go by the math route, will that be enough to prepare me for Theoretical Physics in a US grad school?
     
  5. Dec 25, 2014 #4
    What courses have you taken thus far?
     
  6. Dec 25, 2014 #5

    interhacker

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    Mechanics. Calculus 1. Along with some core requirements for my science school such as introductory chemistry and computer science. Next semester I'll take linear algebra with Differential Equations and modern physics along with what's left of my core requirements: introductory biology. Chem Lab. Bio lab. Engineering lab.

    From sophomore year it'll essentially just be physics and math courses. I'll start working on my major's core requirements (the ones I've listed ) depending on the major I choose.
     
  7. Dec 25, 2014 #6
    At my school the jump you just said would never happen. Modern without EM? LA&DEQ's Without calculus 2 minimum? Where do you go?
     
  8. Dec 25, 2014 #7

    interhacker

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    I have no idea man. It's happening somehow. I go to LUMS. Good science school for a poor developing country but nothing compared to US schools. They have good grad school placements though. I know people who are now doing their doctorate at MIT and UC Berkeley.
     
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