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Programs Advice on Extra Math Classes for a Physics Degree

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opus

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To preface, I'm starting my Physics degree this upcoming semester. For the past year, I've been doing all of my generals while I took care of the mathematical prerequisites for the degree (College Algebra Preparation Class, College Algebra, and Trigonometry). Now that those are complete, I can officially declare my major to Physics.

I am what the university calls a "non-traditional student", meaning I didn't go straight to college after high school. More specifically, after high school I enlisted in the Navy and did seven years, which is why I took the math preparation classes- because it had been a long time since I had done any mathematics.

This has put me in an awkward situation. I am using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and to receive the housing allowance, I need to be at least full time. However, now that I have completed all of my generals except one, I am not able to be a full-time student as just a Physics major (traditionally, a student would take the required Phys classes, and a couple generals and that would put them at full time). That is, due to the prerequisite structure of the degree, I will only be able to be about 3/4 time.

So what I can do in this situation, is do a double-major situation for a couple of years until I get out of the bottle-neck caused by all the prerequisites. Then once I am there, drop the additional degree and focus solely on the Physics.

Now since Mathematics and Physics are so related, I have chosen the second degree and Mathematics/Statistics Composite, which is basically an Applied Mathematics degree as I'm told.

So my question is, what classes would you suggest that I take from this degree that would best supplement my future Physics education?

To give you some context, here is a list of the requirements for the Physics degree at my university, and the classes offered for the Mathematics/Statistics degree.

Physics Requirements:

  • Calculus I, II, III
  • Linear Algebra
  • Ordinary Differential Equations
  • Phys I and II
  • Intro to Computer Methods in Physics
  • Intro Modern Physics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • E&M I and II
  • Thermal Physics
  • Intermediate Modern Physics
  • Foundations of Waves
  • Optics
  • QM I and II
  • Labs, research, etc
Mathematics/Statistics Requirements:
  • All the mathematical requirements for the Physics degree
  • Foundations of Analysis
  • Intro Algebraic Structures
  • Intro Analysis
  • Intro Probability
  • Intro Mathematical Statistics
  • Statistics for Scientists
  • Linear Regression and Time Series
  • Design of Experiements
  • Electives can include things such as Partial Differential Equations, Differential Geometry, Complex Variables, or whatever undergraduate math course that's offered really.

Thank you!
 

Dr. Courtney

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I don't usually recommend double majoring or taking a full course load of STEM classes. If you need more courses to be full time, take 3 STEM classes at the most and the rest humanities. It doesn't matter if you don't need them for graduation. You can't take a full course load of STEM classes you need and give them the attention and time to learn what is needed and maintain a decent GPA.
 

opus

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I don't usually recommend double majoring or taking a full course load of STEM classes. If you need more courses to be full time, take 3 STEM classes at the most and the rest humanities. It doesn't matter if you don't need them for graduation. You can't take a full course load of STEM classes you need and give them the attention and time to learn what is needed and maintain a decent GPA.
I completely agree. However, its not possible to take more humanities. The only reason I can take more classes is if they count towards a degree, and the secondary degree must be very closely related to the first. For example, I cant do History and Physics but I could do Physics and Math or Physics and Computer Science etc. These are the rules of the GI Bill governed by Veterans Affairs. And unfortunately, all of my generals except one are competed so I cant choose any of them for additional credit hours.
 

Dr Transport

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What about computer programming classes...
 

opus

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And to give further specificity, these additional classes would be sparsely laid out throughout my degree path. For example, here is what my tentative degree path would look like:

Fall 2018:
Calc I
Chem I
My last general Ed
Intro Computer Science

Spring 2019:
Calc II
Phys I
Phys I Lab
Chem II

Summer 2019:
Linear Algebra

Fall 2019:
Calc III
Phys II
Phys II Lab
Computer Methods in Physics
Ordinary Differential Equations

Spring 2020:
Classical Mechanics
E&M I
Intro Modern Physics
Intermediate Physics Lab

Fall 2020:
Foundations of Waves
E&M II
Research in Physiscs
Thermal Physics

Spring 2021:
Quantum Mechanics I
Optics
Intermediate Modern Physics
Advanced Physics Lab

Fall 2021:
Quantum Mechanics II
Phys Elective

So as you can seen, most semesters are pretty filled up, it's just a few where I'd need additional credits, particularly towards the end. Each class, with the exception for Phys I and II as well as Calc I and II are 3 credits. 12 credits counts as full time. So really we're just talking about two or three extra math classes, although I do understand some semesters are already heavy even without the extras.

The reason I would like to be full time is because in being full time, I get a housing allowance that allows me to not have to work and to be strictly a student.
 

opus

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What about computer programming classes...
Would definitely love to do that as well. I don't know which would be more beneficial, but either one would be great I think.
 

Dr Transport

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unless a summer term is a full term,it has been suggested recently not to take a course like linear algebra as a shortened summer class..
 

Dr Transport

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Would definitely love to do that as well. I don't know which would be more beneficial, but either one would be great I think.
All I can say is that I am having trouble finding people with physics degrees with enough computing background to hire. After a year of C++, i'd suggest an algorithms course or an operating systems course. We do a significant amount of algorithm work and can't get graduates with those skills.
 

opus

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unless a summer term is a full term,it has been suggested recently not to take a course like linear algebra as a shortened summer class..
Ah and that brings up another question for me.
The reason I chose that is because the other option is to take the Linear Algebra/ODE hybrid class. As I have been told, this is less than ideal, because it really just skims each topic and is designed for the engineering students. If I want to take the classes separately, and not take linear algebra in the summer, it would set my graduation date back an entire year due to them both being required for any physics class past Phys II. So the options are A) take linear algebra in the summer and ODE in the fall, B) take them as the hybrid class in the fall, or C) take them separately in full semesters and graduate a year later.
 

opus

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All I can say is that I am having trouble finding people with physics degrees with enough computing background to hire. After a year of C++, i'd suggest an algorithms course or an operating systems course. We do a significant amount of algorithm work and can't get graduates with those skills.
That is really good to know, thank you!
 
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If I want to take the classes separately, and not take linear algebra in the summer, it would set my graduation date back an entire year due to them both being required for any physics class past Phys II.
I went to college on the GI Bill, but I'm sure the rules were different back then (70s) from what they are now. Basically if you were a full-time student, you got a flat amount of money.

I don't know how much the housing allowance is, but possibly it would be worthwhile to forgo it, and work at a part-time job (including a possible work-study job at your school). It's good to have a plan for a graduation date, but the classes in your major are all very hard, and it would be easy to get off-track, due to the stress of a heavy load. If it meant taking an extra year, but doing better, that might be a good tradeoff.
 

opus

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Thanks for the reply Mark, and I agree that setting graduation a little further back isn't that much of a big deal, especially since I love going to classes. However, even now, due to the fact that I had to take 3 math classes before Calculus, that puts me at a 5 years. So extending it further would put me at six years for a bachelors. What's your opinion on that? Also, what's your opinion on the idea of a LinearAlg/ODE hybrid class?
 

opus

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I'll also note that I have no idea how well I'll take to some of these classes, so it may actually be inevitable to extend it a bit if it's needed. That part will need to be played by feel.
 
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Thanks for the reply Mark, and I agree that setting graduation a little further back isn't that much of a big deal, especially since I love going to classes. However, even now, due to the fact that I had to take 3 math classes before Calculus, that puts me at a 5 years. So extending it further would put me at six years for a bachelors. What's your opinion on that? Also, what's your opinion on the idea of a LinearAlg/ODE hybrid class?
IMO, if it takes longer, but you do better (as opposed to getting terrible grades and having to retake classes or ever reconsider your major), that's a better deal. On the hybrid LA/ODE class, my preference would be to not take the hybrid class. From what @Dr Transport said, it seemed to him that the hybrid class was geared toward engineering students, who have a different mindset from physics students.

Also, if you can squeeze in the CS classes, that would be a good thing -- C++, Java, or Python would be good choices.
 

opus

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Ok thanks for the advice everyone! Greatly appreciated.
 

ZapperZ

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I'm having trouble understanding the situation here.

The way I understand it, you are not able to take all the classes you want to take as a physics major, because of all the "prerequisites", and thus, it is causing you to be below the full-time limit. I'm scratching my head to understand this.

  1. How many credits per semester do you need to make you a full-time student?
  2. How many physics courses can you take each semester during this "bottleneck" period?
  3. How many math courses can you take each semester during this "bottleneck" period?
  4. How many elective courses can you take each semester during this "bottleneck" period?

Is doing #2,3, and 4 not enough to satisfy #1? This is what I find rather puzzling.

But more importantly, have you discussed this with the person who should know not only your situation, but also the school's requirement and workload better than anyone of us here, i.e. your academic advisor?

Zz.
 

opus

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The way I understand it, you are not able to take all the classes you want to take as a physics major, because of all the "prerequisites", and thus, it is causing you to be below the full-time limit. I'm scratching my head to understand this.
No not at all. I mean of course I'd love to take as many classes as I can because they're all interesting, but this is not the case. Let me try to be more clear.

How many credits per semester do you need to make you a full-time student?
12 credits.

How many physics courses can you take each semester during this "bottleneck" period?
In Fall I can start Physics I, and that's the only one. But I will be taking it in the Spring so that I can have a semester of Calculus under my belt.

After that, I can take Physics II and Computer Methods in Physics. This is a total of 8 credits which includes the Phys lab.

Next, it starts to open a bit considering by now, Linear Algebra and ODE will be completed. So to start, Classical Mechanics, E&M I, Waves, and Modern Physics are available. Once these are done, I can take pretty much whatever.

How many math courses can you take each semester during this "bottleneck" period?
Starting this semester is Calculus I. This is all I can take. Spring semester will be Calc II and this is all I can take. After this, I can take Calc III, Linear Algebra and ODE. So to answer your question, one math course per semester until I complete Calc II.

How many elective courses can you take each semester during this "bottleneck" period?
This is hard to say. It depends on what I would take. Some electives have minimal prerequisites. Some have more prerequisites. What I have been told by my advisor, is that it would be ideal to use the 6 elective credits (2 classes) for upper division classes like maybe a graduate level class as it would look good on graduate school applications.

To be clear, most semesters have a full class load of science and mathematics. That is, at least 12 credits in just Phys and Math. This is heavy, and I do not want to add to them in any way shape or form.
However, towards the end of the degree, in the Fall semester, as laid out by my advisor, I will only be taking one class and that is QMII. So my question is geared towards classes that I can take on top of that so that I can still be full time.
 

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