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Abstract Algebra for Physics undergrad

  1. Jan 10, 2012 #1
    I'm doing a Physics undergrad and this semester I have the following courses: Thermodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Numerical Methods, an Astrophysics course, and a Computational Lab. I've also taken Abstract Algebra which has twice as many lectures as any of these. Add to this the fact that I did nothing in the first semester and I'm now planning to work through half of Griffiths' E&M book to catch up.

    Do you think I should drop Abstract Algebra? Somebody told me it was useful for Particle Physics, but as it's a course aimed toward mathematicians I'm not so sure. I'd be doing it as a course above and beyond the requirements for this year. I basically took it because I want to take extra courses as an undergraduate to impress people when I'm applying for a Phd. Does this actually impress people?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2012 #2


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    There is some abstract algebra in field theory and particle physics (C* and Clifford algebras, for example). But if your course is aimed at mathematicians, there is a significant chance that the focus will be on problems which are completely irrelevant for your physics interests. It is quite possible that you'd spend 50% of your time investigating the intricacies of finite fields or generalized algebras over ringoids; which is not the most effective route if you could spend the same time on learning Lie groups or differential geometry. So if you are worried if taking the course impacts your core curriculum, it might be better to drop it.

    However, I have to admit that I don't actually know how the PhD application process works in the US, so take that with a grain of salt. Knowing more is always better than knowing less, but time is limited and in practice all that really matters is knowing the right things. Of course telling in advance is difficult, and not knowing something from other fields might prevent you from seeing opportunities in your own area.
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