Bachelor's thesis: Theoretical vs Experimental

In summary, the conversation revolved around a student who will be starting their Bachelors degree thesis in one month. They have a mentor and a topic, Bohmian Mechanics. The student is not a great student and does not put effort into things they do not like. They are debating whether to take the easy or experimental route for their thesis or go all in with a theoretical thesis, which their mentor has warned may be difficult if they are not proficient in math. The student is looking for advice and opinions on whether a theoretical thesis is normal for a Bachelors degree and if it is possible for an average student. They also mention that their mentor does not know them well and they are looking for other opinions. The conversation ends with
  • #1
pablo.93
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Hey PF,
In 1 month I am going to start my Bs.c thesis. I already "have" a mentor that is willing to supervise me and a topic. The topic is Bohmian Mechanics. I know its disliked, but that's not why I am asking this question.

Tbh I'm not a great student, if I don't like something I will put literally 0 effort into it. Example: I hated my thermodynamics professor and the class altogether so I attended only once in the whole semester. I studied 1 day before the exam and somehow managed to pass. This leads me to think that I am not completely uncapable but I still have my doubts. Also physics is not my only passion so its not that I will do only physics in my life.
Ok enough of introduction. When I was speaking with my to be supervisor, he kind of "scared me away" of doing a theoretical physics thesis because he said that if I am not proficient in math I will stuggle a lot.
My grades in theoretical physics are ok, definitely not bad but not straight a's.
I am quite good in experimental stuff but I HATE experimental stuff.
So by now you can hopefully see where I am going.
Should I take the "easy(experimental)" way out but risk suffering because I don't care or I am bored or should I go all in and try to do the theoretical thesis, knowing that I may struggle, but still liking it?
 
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  • #2
pablo.93 said:
So by now you can hopefully see where I am going.
Not really. Cannot see where you are going. You either like or dislike your major subject? You need to be good with Mathematics for any and all parts of Physics. Have you time enough to postpone this thesis project or class/course? Are you able to pick a thesis topic more to your liking or interest?
 
  • #3
@symbolipoint

I chose that topic. Sorry if I am unclear, what I am really asking if its normal to do a thesis in theoretical physics in a Bachelors degree or its more for like top students.
If an average student, should be able to do a theoretical thesis.
 
  • #4
pablo.93 said:
if I don't like something I will put literally 0 effort into it.

If that's the case, you will not have a career in science. Given that, I don't see what difference it makes, except...

pablo.93 said:
he kind of "scared me away" of doing a theoretical physics thesis because he said that if I am not proficient in math I will stuggle a lot.

Why do you think our advice will be better than his?
 
  • #5
  • #6
Yes, but what are you going to do with these opinions? If your advisor, who knows you best, says one thing, and we say another, what are you going to do? I might even say you've made your decision already and are not looking for advice as much as validation. In that case, do what you want. You're an adult, you can make your own decisions.
 
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  • #7
Vanadium 50 said:
Yes, but what are you going to do with these opinions? If your advisor, who knows you best, says one thing, and we say another, what are you going to do? I might even say you've made your decision already and are not looking for advice as much as validation. In that case, do what you want. You're an adult, you can make your own decisions.
why are you so salty? my advisor doesn't know me at all. He was never my teacher. If adults make their own desicions then what's the point of this whole section of the forum? only for teens?
 
  • #8
pablo.93 said:
why are you so salty?

This makes my point. You don't want to hear advice that doesn't match your preconceptions. You're looking for validation.
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50 said:
This makes my point. You don't want to hear advice that doesn't match your preconceptions. You're looking for validation.
Are you tripping? When did you ever give a concrete piece of advice? I have re read all your comments. No single real answer. The professor wouldn't have accepted me if he would think that I am unable to do it. He just gave me a warning. I am looking for advice from people that went through the same and can give some insight on how it went for them. If idk 10 people say that for them the theoretical thesis was too hard then I might consider doing something easier. If many people say that they were unhappy with what they were doing because they chose the "easy route" then I will buckle up and grind. Easy question. I am not wasting my time answering to you anymore after this post.

<< Mentor Note -- profanity deleted from post >>
 
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  • #10
symbolipoint said:
Not really. Cannot see where you are going. You either like or dislike your major subject? You need to be good with Mathematics for any and all parts of Physics. Have you time enough to postpone this thesis project or class/course? Are you able to pick a thesis topic more to your liking or interest?

There is no "normal". An experimental project is not easier than a theoretical project. They might require different skillsets and to some extent different personalities (people who experiments generally likes the practical aspect of science) but one is not easier than the other.

Moreover, WHAT you do is often more important than the topic. "Bohmian Mechanics" is a very broad topic; what will you actually be doing? pen and paper calculations or computer programming? Some people are very good at the latter without being great at math and vice versa; but it is ALL theory.
The same is true for experimental physics.
 
  • #11
f95toli said:
There is no "normal". An experimental project is not easier than a theoretical project. They might require different skillsets and to some extent different personalities (people who experiments generally likes the practical aspect of science) but one is not easier than the other.

Moreover, WHAT you do is often more important than the topic. "Bohmian Mechanics" is a very broad topic; what will you actually be doing? pen and paper calculations or computer programming? Some people are very good at the latter without being great at math and vice versa; but it is ALL theory.
The same is true for experimental physics.
I know that experimental isn't easier than theoretical, I said that in my case , I do well in experimental without much effort. I LIKE theoretical but it requires more effort on my part. I have to discuss the exact topic with my to be supervisor yet. It will be pen and paper for what he said.
 
  • #12
pablo.93 said:
Should I take the "easy(experimental)" way out but risk suffering because I don't care or I am bored or should I go all in and try to do the theoretical thesis, knowing that I may struggle, but still liking it?

For what it's worth, it sounds like you're going in with a lot of assumptions here - some of which may be self-fulfilling.

First, is this idea that you're going to "hate" an experimental project. Sure, if you go in with that mindset, it's going to be tough to enjoy it, but the point of undergrad is to broaden your interests. You might find that what you've disliked about experimental work has been largely based on labs where you're under a time crunch coupled with inadequate preparation, working on a problem to which you already know the answer. Actual experimental work tends to be a lot more open-ended and relaxed.

Second, is that it sounds to me more like you're struggling with an issue of self-discipline. This idea that if you don't enjoy something, you won't put effort into it is itself a mindset. And this mindset is going to be a challenge for you until you learn to deal with it. Everyone struggles to put in the effort on tasks they find boring. But no one lives in a world of continuous, immediate gratification. You have to learn to deal effectively with short-term boring, demanding tasks to accomplish long-term goals.

With all of that said, I get it. You want a project you're excited about. But your advisor has said that this particular project is going to require advanced math skills. That doesn't necessarily mean that an "average" student can't do it. But it will mean you'll have to step up to the plate and develop those skills that are necessary, otherwise the project isn't going to get very far. And that's going to mean a lot of work, probably on stuff that doesn't excite you. And that will likely bring you back to your initial problem.

What I might recommend is that you go back to your advisor and talk about the specifics. Find out what skills you're going to need to advance the project and then you can figure out how realistic it's going to be for you to accomplish anything on that project. While you're at it, talk to other potential supervisors. You have a month before you have to start. Make your decisions based on the specific options you have in front of you rather than general ideas about what certain fields are like.
 
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  • #13
Choppy said:
Second, is that it sounds to me more like you're struggling with an issue of self-discipline. This idea that if you don't enjoy something, you won't put effort into it is itself a mindset. And this mindset is going to be a challenge for you until you learn to deal with it. Everyone struggles to put in the effort on tasks they find boring. But no one lives in a world of continuous, immediate gratification. You have to learn to deal effectively with short-term boring, demanding tasks to accomplish long-term goals.

With all of that said, I get it. You want a project you're excited about. But your advisor has said that this particular project is going to require advanced math skills. That doesn't necessarily mean that an "average" student can't do it. But it will mean you'll have to step up to the plate and develop those skills that are necessary, otherwise the project isn't going to get very far(this is what I am afraid of). And that's going to mean a lot of work, probably on stuff that doesn't excite you. And that will likely bring you back to your initial problem.

What I might recommend is that you go back to your advisor and talk about the specifics. Find out what skills you're going to need to advance the project and then you can figure out how realistic it's going to be for you to accomplish anything on that project. While you're at it, talk to other potential supervisors. You have a month before you have to start. Make your decisions based on the specific options you have in front of you rather than general ideas about what certain fields are like.
I totally agree with the self discipline part. Ok I will send him and email and also start reading a book I got on the subject to see what specific part of the topic I would like to work on and what it will take.
Thanks for your answer
 
  • #14
pablo.93 said:
why are you so salty? my advisor doesn't know me at all. He was never my teacher. If adults make their own desicions then what's the point of this whole section of the forum? only for teens?
Adults at college or university need to make their own decisions but often need the right guidance. You can only do your best to get the guidance you need, and then you must ultimately make your own decision. Then again, some adults are more so than are others.
 

1. What is the difference between a theoretical and experimental Bachelor's thesis?

A theoretical Bachelor's thesis is based on existing theories and concepts, while an experimental thesis involves conducting original research and collecting data to test a hypothesis.

2. Which type of thesis is more common in scientific fields?

In scientific fields, both theoretical and experimental theses are common. However, experimental theses are more common in fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics, where hands-on experimentation is necessary to advance knowledge.

3. Can a theoretical thesis include any experimental data?

Yes, a theoretical thesis can include experimental data if it is relevant to the topic being discussed. However, the focus of a theoretical thesis is on analyzing and interpreting existing theories rather than conducting original experiments.

4. How does the methodology differ between a theoretical and experimental thesis?

The methodology for a theoretical thesis involves reviewing and analyzing existing literature, while an experimental thesis involves designing and conducting experiments to collect data. Theoretical theses may also use mathematical models or simulations to support their arguments.

5. Which type of thesis is more suitable for a student with a strong background in mathematics?

A theoretical thesis may be more suitable for a student with a strong background in mathematics, as it often involves using mathematical models and equations to analyze and interpret theories. However, a student with a strong interest in conducting experiments may also excel in an experimental thesis, as many scientific experiments involve collecting and analyzing data using mathematical tools.

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