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A Chemical-Physics major - what prog. language should I know?

  1. Nov 22, 2006 #1
    I'm an undergraduate student studying Chemical-Physics. It's somewhat like half-and-half of both majors. My goal is to do something in the field of Chemistry or Physics - perhaps starting out as entry-level Chemist or Physics doing menial lab work. My ultimate goal, however, is to do Medical Physics along the line of QA for medical devices. Additionally, after completing my degree, I plan to go for Nursing for job security.

    In regards to the programming language, I have took intro programming class (Java). Now, I've search for Physics jobs and seen some of them requiring knowledge of programming like in C++, Fortran, Java, and so on. I was wondering which is the most in demand if I were to perform computing tasks in Physics.

    I've looked at my school catalog and there are options to take "Data Structures", "Programming Languages (learning C/C++, Java/LISP)", and "Scientific Visualization (Matlab)"

    Any advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2006 #2
    Matlab is used a lot for numerical methods with visualization since that is all build right in. C/Fortran are what most physicists use if they don't use Matlab. I don't know if I would worry about "Data structures" since I don't really know what the class description is. I would suggest taking both of the other classes as being a proficient programmer is important to any scientist (in my eyes).
  4. Nov 22, 2006 #3
    data structures is a pretty fundamental class in computer science. I would imagine that if you're planning on a career of some kind in computing you would want to know that stuff.
  5. Nov 22, 2006 #4
    I agree with jbusc, but that data structrues class might not invovle any programming. I know the data structure and algor class at my university doesn't invovle any programming which sucks but thats how some are i guess.

    If you want to jump into programming take another java or c++ class, if you know java u can easily learn C++ and vice versa.
  6. Nov 27, 2006 #5
    I concur -- learn a regular "programming language" if you haven't already done so (independently or through a class). It's a pretty important skill. Matlab is cool -- but parts of it can require program writing skills, and you can usually access a manual (either coming with the program or being assessable from online)... And "data structures" yeah -- what is THAT?
  7. Nov 28, 2006 #6
    C and Fortran are a must. For most mathematical tasks, fortran comes out being faster - but C is a more broad purpose language; know them both

    C++ is, in my opinion, overhyped as its object oriented nature tends to lend some unnecessary overhead to certain computations (in particular, random number generation using a mersenne twister in c++ is over an order of magnitude slower than a simple C code bit shifting miller-parks algorithm).

    Matlab is good for plotting data... but that's about it. If you want speed, you'd have to look elsewhere.
  8. Nov 28, 2006 #7
    C isn't always faster than C++, just in some cases, that can occur in any language.

    If you know C++ you can always code in C if you want, but its not the same if you know C you don't know C++.

    So if you want to kill 2 languages with 1 stone, learn C++ and you can easily adapt to the small changes in C.
  9. Nov 28, 2006 #8
    Object-Oriented programing languages are a great tool for general programming; however, I am unsure as to if they will be of much use in physics/chemistry.

    But if you know Java, I would just go ahead and learn C++, as the leap isn't that huge. After that go ahead and learn C.

    Perl may also be a language to look into, its what my school uses for part of their computational physics course (according to the people who took it last year).

    Fortan, from what I have gathered from math majors and other physics majors, is begining, at least in my school, to get the boot.

    Hope that helps.
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