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A Bit of Advice on Major Selection

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  • Thread starter interhacker
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  • #1
interhacker
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Main Question or Discussion Point

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.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #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.
 
  • #3
interhacker
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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.
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?
 
  • #4
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What courses have you taken thus far?
 
  • #5
interhacker
Gold Member
64
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What courses have you taken thus far?
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.
 
  • #6
356
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?
 
  • #7
interhacker
Gold Member
64
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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?
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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