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Advice on doing an MS in computational Physics (graduated with B.Tech in CSE)

  1. Aug 3, 2010 #1
    Hello, I am a Computer Science and Engineering B.Tech. from ISM Dhanbad (equivalent to IIT), India. Recently, I have become interested in the Computational Physics MS program which I read about on this forum (recommended many times by ZapperZ). The interest arose mainly because I have always been interested in Physics and my background is in CSE. On the face of it, the Comp Phys program offers me the perfect blend of Physics and Computers I can get. But I was looking for more information from people in the know. Let me state some things I have learnt(perhaps wrongly?) about Comp Phys:

    1. It does not need a major background in Physics to get into (apart from having taken basic Physics courses like special relativity in undergraduate program).
    2. Physics courses can be taken while doing the MS to learn the Physics involved better.

    I have catching up to do with some Physics at undergrad level and Zz's advice (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=64966) on going into Physics from a so-and-so degree provides a direction. I am confident that I can learn the basic Physics to a good level again by the start of the course (at least a year away). But does point (1) above still hold?

    Secondly, I have read that computational Physics is emerging as almost a third aspect of Physics, two being Theoretical and Experimental. How true is that and how much is the interaction between Theoreticians/Experimentalists and Comp Phys guys? Can one move into the other two areas from Comp Phys?

    Thirdly, what are the career options I might be looking at after this course? I have read that Comp Phys grads are in demand in Physics research and it is a burgeoning field, and also that avenues are open from Wall Street finance jobs to Computer Games. I am not interested in Finance or similar applications and would like very much to work within the Physics community. But just so that I know my options, can someone throw more light on this, especially on the kind of Programming jobs which might open up after this program? (I have 2 years experience in the IT industry )

    So basically, I am thinking of this program as the perfect synthesis of two subjects I have an interest in. If I find that my idea has some potential based on inputs from some of you guys, I will go ahead and look into the colleges available and so on. Hope to hear from some of you and hope you are having a good time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2010 #2


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    Well computational physics is probably the 4th aspect or area of physics, the others being theoretical, experimental, and applied physics (engineering).

    Computational physics spans the other the three, and the other three crossover into the other areas.

    For some ideas, see - Journal of Computational Physics

  4. Aug 9, 2010 #3
    Thanks Astronuc for that description of Computational Physics and the Elsevier link. I also did some digging on the net and have a better understanding of what it is all about.

    But can someone tell me what job options exist after this program? And does someone know about the pre-requisites for this program (since I don't have a Physics undergrad degree)?
  5. Aug 10, 2010 #4


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    If you want to work within the physics community, your best bet is to use the MS degree as a stepping-stone to get a Ph.D. later. That's not to say you can't get a job with just the MS, but I would say a strong majority of people actually working in physics are people who either have or are working towards their Ph.D.'s, at least in the US and Europe. I would like to say that this job is probably not the best sort of job to pursue in a number of ways, though, the most important being job security. Most physicists end up as postdocs that move from job to job over many years. Very few end up with permanent positions anywhere. It's conceivable that the opportunities for a person with an MS, though fewer, may be more stable.

    Anyway, your first contact should definitely be the school in question. A quick search turned up their website here:

    They could definitely inform you better than anybody here what is required to get in, and what the opportunities are.
  6. Aug 10, 2010 #5
    When I was in college at ISM, we had to take one year of Physics courses as part of the course curriculum. (Indian education system has this rigid system of curricula, you have to take what is set) Those courses were taught by the faculty from Physics dept. They were not the best to go to, because the students were disinterested and the teachers were consequently looking to just 'do a job' on these courses. I guess they would not have a great idea about the opportunities with an MS in Comp Phys, though I could try to ask.

    I assume Physics community would mean academia and research institutes. Is it possible to work outside these in a job which is still related to Physics or other sciences (like modelling weather patterns)? I do know about the paucity of jobs that Physics PhDs or MS grads face, but might that not be because they want to work in academia or Physics research only. I am not saying I would not be interested in it, but at this point I want to see whether I would like that or not(I just want to learn the Physics for the fun of it, and see whether I can make a career out of my twin skills with Computing/Programming and Physics). One advantage I found with this program was that it is a professional degree, meaning it is oriented towards employment opportunities. I think I am simply in the dark about what those might be, apart from doing a further PhD.
  7. Aug 10, 2010 #6


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    Well, you might be surprised. Talk to somebody, at least, at the institution. If they don't know what sorts of jobs you might take, they should definitely know somebody who does. I think it'd be a really good place to start.

    Well, yes, absolutely. But that will vary tremendously depending upon which area of physics you prefer. Solid state physics, for instance, is really important for manufacturing computer components (e.g. chips, hard drives). There's also a lot of active work in applying physics to biological systems (biophysics). There may be other areas of physics that are important for industry as well, I don't know. I guess I just didn't think of that because my own area (Cosmology) is almost completely divorced from anything done in industry.
  8. Aug 10, 2010 #7
    It's good to know that knowledge of Physics and Computing can help in many areas. But I am not sure of admission without a Physics background and whether the Physics GRE would be sufficient for it. Also, I looked for MS programs in CP in the US, and there were not too many (about 7-8, some of which were PhD). Could you suggest were I could look for more programs?

    Thanks a lot for your advice!!
  9. Aug 10, 2010 #8


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    Well, in physics in the US, MS's really aren't that common at all. Basically the way it works is people almost invariably pursue a Ph.D., and then if they don't get a good enough score on their preliminary examination, they get kicked out with a master's degree (where they often go on to make much more money than the people who stay in the program).

    Anyway, as I've said a few times, talk to somebody at a university. ISM sounds like a great place to at least get started on finding out more. You shouldn't be too concerned, by the way, about having had a poor experience with their physics classes so far. The physics classes for non-physics-majors are uniformly pretty crappy.

    Unfortunately my knowledge of what sorts of programs are available is very limited, so I'm not the right person to ask there.
  10. Aug 10, 2010 #9
    I will definitely ask people at my college. Thanks for your help!

    But any info on programs and jobs will be appreciated.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2010
  11. Aug 24, 2010 #10
    You may visit the IIIT, Hyderabad web site in this regard. They are working exactly in this direction.
  12. Aug 29, 2010 #11
    Thanks Manoj for that information... I do meet the eligibility criteria for that course. I did not consider Indian universities fearing that they many not be inclined to admit grads with a CS background into such a course. I'll check for other courses too. But do you know anything about that course at all or the Physics faculty at that institute?
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