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A Future In Physics?

  1. Aug 22, 2007 #1
    I am entering my senior year of college as a computer science major, but have recently made the realization that my passion is physics more specifically astrophysics. I have not a clue how to proceed from this point, if I change my major now it would be equivalent to losing 3 years of work, and extend my undergraduate career 3 years past my expected completion date. Am I out of luck with a computer science degree or is there still hope for me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 22, 2007 #2


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    I'm sure people will comment with specifics about course and options but:
    Is this just I'm bored with my course/worried about exams student angst?
    Are you interested in actually doing research, ie spending days working out why your N-Body simulation isn't working or manually removing cosmic ray hits from your CCD images - or are you just interested in reading and understanding popular books.
    There is nothing wrong with having an interest in a science as a hobby - without it being a career. You might be more interested in learning as you progress with more specialised and advanced books rather than spending 3 years in maths classes before you start the master+PhD+Postdocs you will need before you actually do anything interesting.
  4. Aug 22, 2007 #3
    It does not have to do with my aptitude in computer science, I am fairly close to a perfect grade point average. I guess in a way my interest in computer science is wavering, but I really attribute this to my growing infatuation with astrophysics. Don't get me wrong I still find comp sci interesting, but I find astrophysics enthralling.
  5. Aug 22, 2007 #4


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    Ok, it was just meant to make you think.

    Basically there aren't many jobs in astrophysics and what jobs there are, are in academic institutions. That means a degree + masters + post-docs before you can look for a 'real' job.
    If you can switch to maths/physics depends on your institute and what courses you took. You don't need a degree in Astronomy/Astrophysics - most people have either physics or maths degree with a couple of final year courses in astrophysics. These final year courses are generally at a level you could pick up yourself with the right maths background anyway.
    There are a number of areas of astrophysics that are heavily computational (N-Body, Hydrodynamics, simulations etc) these all have a fairly high maths requirement, at least advanced calculus - you could possibly get into this area with a CS degree with maths specialisation or a CS masters.
  6. Aug 22, 2007 #5
    You are going to need at least some physics coursework (mechanics, thermo, stat mech, E&M and probably QM) to make yourself attractive as an astrophysics graduate student. I bet that with a CS degree and great marks you would probably find some astro grad programs that would admit you - but you will get in to a better program if you strengthen your math and physics background.

    You haven't mentioned how much physics/math coursework you've done so far....?

    It is probably worth talking to an advisor in the physics department of your school for course-specific advice.
  7. Aug 24, 2007 #6
    I'll chime in on this one...

    I was entering my junior year as a chemistry major when I realized I wanted to go into physics. Although chem is close, most need the physics in order to be able to do well and go on into a physics grad program, which is what i'm assuming you want to do.

    Definitely talk to your advisor and the physics advisor at your school and get more info. Personally I took an extra 3 years just as you might and finished up both degrees. Now i'm preparing to start grad school in a month. For me though, I wouldn't have wanted to go onto graduate studies or research in physics without the undergrad coursework. If you're really interested in the physics and not the prestige of physics I think you'll the same. Obviously there may be obstacles to overcome, I certainly had many. But if you're motivated enough you'll stick with it. But for sure start talking with advisor's and professors is what i'd recommend, then make up your own mind. Good luck.
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