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Academic Advice for Applied Math?

  1. Mar 13, 2010 #1
    Desperately need some advice PF, thanks so much for any input!


    I am going to change my major from physics/astronomy to applied maths, for two reasons:

    1. I seems to have more of a natural ability in math and programming than physics style problem solving.
    2. I will be able to finish more quickly.

    I can already sense the reply from someone telling me that finishing more quickly is irrelevant but right now it is very relevent to me for various reasons I will enumerate if asked.

    Inquiry for PF
    I would like to get involved eventually in either solving physics/astronomy problems in applied math or doing something like mathematical physics. What are my graduate school options in this regard? I've only taken Intro Physics and Astronomy so far and plan to study more on my own and perhaps take classes eventually if I was gearing up for admission to grad school.

    ps. There is a very slight nagging sensation in my head that I should stick out physics and astro and take longer, but you must understand this is balanced again various other things going on in my life. Can an applied mathematician go to physics or astronomy grad school?
    Or, at least as an applied mathematician can he find a rewarding career dealing with physics or astronomy problems in a academic or lab type setting?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2010 #2
    Sounds to me like what you really want to be doing is physics. Why switch to math? I'm not the most familiar with loads of physicists, but it seems that most train on the physics and do the math on the side. Of the math PhDs working in physics, I'm only familiar with pure math types going that route. I'd imagine that applied mathematicians would work more on the experimental side of physics, which I'm not at all familiar with.

    One thing I would mention is that applied math is a very broad field. A close friend is earning an applied math PhD at a top school now, and I haven't heard her mention anyone in her department who is interested in physics. You might have to do a lot of searching to find an applied math department with a physics interest.

    Applied math is so applicable to everything technical that almost any sort of technical job in industry would be open to you (depending on your research focus), or any sort of research in finance, operations research, engineering, statistics... it's very versatile. But again, that probably just makes it harder to find groups with a physics interest.

    Of course, I'm not an expert on this if anyone wants to correct me.
  4. Mar 14, 2010 #3
    I could do either Applied or Pure math and finish my degree on time. Thought Applied would be more applicable since I'm taking more Scientific Computing and Differential Equations classes instead of abstract algebra,no?
  5. Mar 16, 2010 #4
    Okay are there no people who pursued an applied math undergrad degree on this forum?
  6. Mar 16, 2010 #5
    I'm three years into an applied-math BS. The basics required at my school are a couple of classes in DEs, numerical analysis/scientific computing, computer science, math modeling, dynamic systems, etc. In none of these classes have I studied much physics, other then a bit in PDEs (heat and wave equations) and dynamic systems.

    As for graduate school, I'd suggest jumping on Google and checking out the research areas at the big schools such as Cornell, Brown, Cal Tech, Maryland, Michigan, etc. These larger schools have seperate applied-math departments and typically have a ton of info on their websites. Check out their research areas and stuff. For instance, I think Cornell and Maryland are big in dynamics and Brown is big with bio-mathematics.

    However, I would agree with kote in saying that if you want to study physics and astronomy, the best way to do that is to actually major in them. I know your pain though: I found that I really, really like analysis and am regretting not getting into a pure-math program. I want to study topology and functional analysis instead of modeling and scientific computing. :frown:
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