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Academic guidance in theoretical physics

  • Thread starter sunny304
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello everyone, been reading different articles on here for a while but finally decided to sign up as I needed some advice with regards to univesity.

Im looking to study theoretical physics at Glasgow University starting fall 2012, however im confused over my choice of courses. Glasgow allows single and joint honours with several course choices. Im not entirely sure whether I should study theoretical physics as a single honour, or study either applied math / computer science with physics as joint honours.

Just looking for some information as to what would be more useful as a degree, and would help more with postgrad study and eventually a career within the field.

Thank you for any help you can provide.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
MathematicalPhysicist
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making connections with the right people will help you more, careerwise.
 
  • #3
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I would presume most fields are like that anyways, but its certainly something ill look to try and do while im studying
 
  • #4
Im looking to study theoretical physics at Glasgow University starting fall 2012, however im confused over my choice of courses. Glasgow allows single and joint honours with several course choices. Im not entirely sure whether I should study theoretical physics as a single honour, or study either applied math / computer science with physics as joint honours.
I have quite a bit of experience with the University of Glasgow, so feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.

The University of Glasgow programme is designed such that you don't actually have to answer these questions just now. You have to apply to a specific course code, but it doesn't really mean much other than slightly narrowing the pool of classes you can take initially.

Any of the above options will mean ~the same thing in first and second year. So, say you apply to single honours physics. In first year, you need to take 3 subjects (which is the same for any subject at Glasgow, barring a few exceptions like law, medicine and engineering). Probably physics, mathematics and astronomy (or phyiscs, maths and some random subject, for instance you could choose history, if you wanted). In second year, you have a little bit more to think about.

You can take two of your first year subjects to the next level, and choose a random first year class again. Or, you can take all three to the next level. The final option (from a physics + maths point of view) is to take physics, then maths will allow you to make up double-credits, so you would only study physics + maths in second year.

At the end of your second year, you only then have to choose your degree subject - which can be one of any three subjects from your first year depending on what you did in your second. So, if you chose physics, astronomy and maths in year 1, the same in year 2, then for your degree you could either choose theoretical physics single, physics single, physics + astronomy combined, physics + astrophysics combined (there aren't enough astronomy credits at honours level to get a single degree that). Other than having the relevant courses completed, you're under no obligations from what you initially applied to to what you get your degree in up until this point.

The difference between theoretical physics + physics alone is almost nothing - there is something like 2 courses that will be switched out. The difference between physics + astronomy and physics + astrophysics is the same. Astrophysics here just means switching out an astronomy course for a physics course.

Theoretical physics is a bit of an unhelpful misnomer at undergraduate level. The basics are the same for both theory and experiment, I think universities only make the distinction at this level to try and attract people by fooling them into thinking theoretical physics is somehow more exotic than just single physics. The difference is usually always the fact that a lab class is switched out for a maths, or another physics, class. Other than that, everyone goes to the same physics classes.
 
  • #5
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Absolutely fantastic reply, from what you've described I really don't have to be looking at choosing anything until my third year ? By which time I imagine ill have enough experience of the subjects to make an informed decision.

Im still a good year and a half from starting however ill certain pm you if ive got any further questions.

Did you study at Glasgow ? Or are you currently ?
 
  • #6
Absolutely fantastic reply, from what you've described I really don't have to be looking at choosing anything until my third year ? By which time I imagine ill have enough experience of the subjects to make an informed decision.
Yes, exactly. You'll make a 'soft' decision when you apply, but essentially when you apply to Glasgow you apply to the faculty, and not really the subject. So applying to physics means applying to the faculty of science (though they've changed the names to schools or something now) - which means you need to do 2 science subjects + 1 more in whatever you choose. Apply to history and you'll be applying to the faculty of arts - so you'd need to do 2 arts subjects, but you could do history, english and maths for instance. This goes for type of degree as well. So, you apply to Physics Bsc, but decide you'd like to do the extra year and get an undergraduate masters, then provided you've got decent grades, you can 'change' to the Msci. The programme is the same in first and second year regardless.

Im still a good year and a half from starting however ill certain pm you if ive got any further questions.

Did you study at Glasgow ? Or are you currently ?
It's always good to be prepared! Remember to also look at Glasgow the city (and any other cities you might be considering), it's important to make sure you're set in a kind of environment you can be happy in. I spent a few years at Glasgow, yes, though I'm not there now I still have many friends and contacts in the department so I keep up to date with how things are going.
 
  • #7
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Ah okay, I understand now. That seems like a good way of doing things, and will let me get a feel for each subject before commiting to it.

I actually live just outside of Glasgow, so I do have maybe 6 or 7 Universities within commuting distance, but I have a lot of friends at Glasgow, as well as in the city itself so its the sensible choice for me really.

Thank you for all the information, been very handy, and helped alleviate my confusion.
Hopefully get in without any problems.
 

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