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Advantages of Majors/Minors

  1. May 1, 2015 #1
    Hi everyone, I have a question about the intricacies of Majors and Minors. Not sure if the topic/prefix is correct, any mod that thinks it should be under something else please go ahead and change it.

    But my question is regarding the specifics and impacts of majors and minors. I plan on pursuing a PhD in Theoretical Physics (most interested in Quantum Gravity and Particle Physics currently), and up until now I have always intended to do a double major in Pure Math and Physics. But more recently I have been realizing that I am interested in Theoretical Computer Science a lot more than I had thought (still not nearly as much as physics or math) and I am now thinking about a minor in CS or Theoretical CS if whatever University I attend offers it. I also have a little interest in Quantum Chemistry and Biochemistry/Biophysics, but for the most part that would most likely be studied as a hobby since those areas only hold my interest in very specific topics and not to the degree of math, physics, or CS.

    That's where my question comes in. Should I do a double major in Physics and Pure Math as I had originally intended and focus on research instead of CS, or would a minor make a considerable impact in grad school or, if it comes to it, in employability? Another thing I have begun thinking about is taking 5 years instead of 4 in undergrad to do the double major, a minor in CS and maybe even Biochem/Quantum chem, and still be able to conduct respectable research.

    I had originally thought that minors weren't really worth it, and I still lean towards that opinion. Is is best to go on with the physics/pure math double major and take classes in my other interests just on the side? Would I be satisfied with the programming/CS already involved in Theoretical Physics? Any input is appreciated. Sorry the OP is so long.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2015 #2


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    You could always minor in dance to bring up your GPA. You wouldn't be the first person to do so. ;)

    Seriously, computer science is helpful. The more you know, the better. I spend more time programming than physicing (not really a word, but I like it.) Is it worth minoring in? I would say so, but not if you do the double major. No need to kill yourself or burn yourself out before grad school. Is it even possible to take a minor with a double major at your school? Further, I'm not sure the math major will even be that helpful in your physics studies, if physics is your end goal.

    Anyway, what is theoretical computer science? It sounds like a needless buzz word.
  4. May 1, 2015 #3
    Sorry, I should've clarified, I'm not anywhere near college yet. And by theoretical computer science I just mean the more theoretical areas of the math behind CS. Regarding the math, I really like math and I thought it would be helpful with the area I'm most interested in right now, which is Quantum Gravity. Keep in mind, of course, that this is all subject to change given how far away I am from actually doing this.
  5. May 1, 2015 #4


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    What QG framework do you find most interesting? I would reckon some math courses, like topology and differential geometry would be helpful for work in QG and GR, but I know very little about the field itself. I don't know if a double math major would be justifiable just for these courses though. Generally, you learn these math topics (and other math topics, at the level you need to know them at for the course) while studying GR.

    I saw you mentioned employment; you would also be very unemployable with this focus, even after grad school. So if that's a concern, you might want to do more research. Especially if string theory is the framework you want to research.

    You'll never escape computer science nowadays, and I'm sure it's the same for the other sciences as well. So even if you don't minor in it, you'll need to pick it up as you go.
  6. May 1, 2015 #5
    Thanks a bunch! I really don't know enough to make any kind of judgement, but it seems to me that a more comprehensive and flexible mathematical structure is needed for QG research to start making better progress. From what I know it takes a super long time just because the calculations are so complicated, and that slows down progress a lot. Again, just my uninformed perspective.

    As far as CS goes, I agree, I definitely plan on taking several classes in Programming and whatnot and one of the reasons I hadn't planned on an actual degree in CS was that I think my interest in it will be satisfied by the programming that theoretical physics already entails.

    Also I'm pretty sure that my relative inexperience and youth compared with most of the people on this forum is the reason behind my having so many interests. I realize that I can't pursue nearly as much as I'd like to, but I would like to self study and maybe take a class or two in at least most of my interests.
  7. May 1, 2015 #6
    You need to realize that your interests are subject to change. You are interested in quantum gravity now, but that might change. In fact, I know quite some people who were into quantum gravity, but who started to dislike it when they saw what it was all about!
    So what you need to do is to keep as many options open as you can. Try to take a physics education that is as broad as possible. Certainly don't put everything on quantum gravity before you know what it's really like.

    Employability is another big concern. Mathematical physics degrees tend not to be very employable (that said, there are certainly jobs available in finance for example). A computer science major would definitely be a big plus there. And programming is always a useful skill to have in research!

    How much time do you have in college before declaring your major? I think it would be best to read up on proof-based math like abstract algebra to see how much you really like it. Don't hesitate to contact me if you want help with that.

    Also, theoretical CS is very close to mathematics, so you can definitely find some overlap there.

    About your thought to do 5 years instead of 4. I think that's a very bad idea. European countries already do their undergrad in 3 years (granted, they don't have to deal with annoying gen eds). But while you should definitely take time for your undergrad, you shouldn't let it last longer than necessary. You will want to start research/job as soon as you can. Furthermore, undergrad is very expensive!
    Also, taking a physics major, math major, CS minor AND biochem makes you look unfocused. Grad schools might not like this.
  8. May 1, 2015 #7
    Thanks Micromass! I do realize that my interests are subject to change, and I did mean to mention that (sorry I didn't). And as you know I am not in college, so I don't have to make any decisions regarding it right now. I'm just looking ahead and trying to get a better view of what decisions will entail when I am making them in the future.

    Regarding your last paragraph, I can see what you're saying and now that I think about it more clearly I agree. Like I said, I realize that I can't pursue all of these interests and when I say that those are my interests I only mean to keep my options open for input from more experienced members. Especially with the biochem, it is one of my more minor interests so I'd probably just end up taking a class for fun and maybe buying a book or two. I also agree with the 5 year undergrad being a ban plan, correct me if I'm wrong but research is going to be a lot more critical to my chances in grad school, which is really what I'm aiming for in the long run. Not really sure why I suggested it.
  9. May 1, 2015 #8


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    Minor in Dance? Computer Science helpful?
    In all seriousness, software for Choreography really does exist. Many kinds of connections are possible whether chose a minor related, a minor unrelated, or a set of other courses.
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