1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Back to Undergrad to study Physics?

  1. Sep 14, 2014 #1
    Hello Physics forum!

    I've been lurking around on here for the past few months and finally mustered up the courage to ask this question to you all. To the mods, I apologize if this is in the wrong section!

    Some background: I recently graduated with a degree in Psychology due to the fact that I was Pre-Med. However, having taken the MCAT recently, I've begun to doubt my passion to do Medicine. To be honest, I've been pressured into it as my elder siblings are all in Medical School/Doctors. My true passion lies with Physics, and after having a bad experience with it in undergrad (my General Physics professor was TERRIBLE), I decided to teach myself physics using Physics by Giancoli. I literally read the first 700 pages of that book and did almost every practice problem and loved every second of it. However, this occurred during my final year of undergrad, making it especially difficult to change my major and do something else.

    As of today, I am still applying to medical schools but I am hesitant on moving forward. Even if I get accepted I REALLY want to get a physics degree. So, my question is, how do I move forward? Is it possible for me to apply to an upper tier school for undergrad to major in physics? As of right now, a masters and PhD are out of the question because I am lacking an undergraduate degree in Physics. Therefore, what should I do?

    To end off, I have great work ethic. I've taken upper level Bio classes (graduate level) and have aced all. To state it simply, my cumulative GPA in undergrad was a 4.0 out of 4.0. Pre-Med prerequisites usually include Gen Chem, Gen Physics, Organic Chem, and Gen Bio, so I have a pretty strong foundation when it comes to the chemistry aspect of Physics. I've always loved theoretical physics and have read several of Brian Greene's books about String Theory and Parallel Universes. So, I'm not just some guy who likes physics for a semester and moves on, I truly believe it is my calling.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2014 #2

    Rocket50

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You made a mistake by listening to your family. Doing something not because you love it is a recipe for failure. Even if you did well on the MCAT, if you know you aren't going to enjoy the medical profession, there is no point in continuing it. The solution for you right now seems to be going to some university to study physics at the undergrad level. Maybe you can get some transfer credit for the math and physics courses you took in your premed and graduate a semester early. However, you may not get into an "upper tier" university. But honestly your undergraduate years don't matter much unless you went to some university no one has ever heard of.

    By the way, if you went through Giancoli and really enjoyed it, that's good. But don't pick physics solely because you like those popular science books. They make a poor depiction about what physics is, at least at the start. You can't start with doing string theory research, you have to work your way up there (which takes a lot of time and effort).
     
  4. Sep 14, 2014 #3

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Giancoli is a real introductory physics textbook, actually two of them, one which doesn't use calculus:

    https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Principles-Applications-Douglas-Giancoli/dp/0321625927

    and one which does use calculus:

    https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Scientists-Engineers-Modern-4th/dp/0131495089

    Upper-level undergraduate physics courses are significantly more challenging, of course.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Sep 14, 2014 #4

    Rocket50

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Sep 14, 2014 #5

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Well, yeah, it's a long way from either Giancoli book to string theory. It's also a pretty significant step up from Giancoli to upper-level undergrad books like Griffiths (E&M), Griffiths (QM), Marion (classical mechanics), Schroeder (thermo), etc.; then to graduate-level books like Jackson (E&M), Goldstein (classical mechanics); and then to the "fun stuff" like string theory. :smile: It's something you have to navigate one step at a time and decide whether you want to continue another step.
     
  7. Sep 14, 2014 #6

    vela

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor

    I think it's good you're thinking about this. If you're not into medicine, you'll probably regret staying on your current path, which will involve a lot of work and end with a job you only tolerate or, worse, hate.

    If you took the typical intro physics courses pre-med students take, it's usually a poor experience because there's too much material crammed into one year for students who are not physics-inclined. Is Giancoli the book they used in that course?

    Can you go back to your undergrad institution for a second baccalaureate?
     
  8. Sep 14, 2014 #7

    eri

    User Avatar

    Most top schools will not consider admitting someone for a second bachelors degree. Can you stay at your own school and pick up another major, graduating late?
     
  9. Sep 14, 2014 #8

    Rocket50

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    He already graduated.
     
  10. Sep 14, 2014 #9
    Without a doubt. I was born into a South-Asian family and for my entire existence (I'm 21), I've been told that Medical School is my only path/choice. Yet, if I am not passionate about Medicine, becoming a physician would be more of a liability to others considering I wouldn't be motivated to actually learn.

    I completely understand, Physics is a lot more complex than Giancoli, but, I strongly believe I enjoy that stuff or at least, would love to get to that stage.

    Agreed, the first book I bought was University Physics with Modern Physics by Young, Freedman, and Ford - which had calculus in it. However, because the MCAT required me to know Physics from a conceptual standpoint, I decided to go with Giancoli which was a little more friendly. I have taken Calculus I before and ended up with the highest grade in my class, math would not be too much of an issue.

    Yes, I had the unfortunate experience of taking General Physics I and II with lab during undergrad with a professor that did NOT use any textbook, did not provide good notes, did not teach physics at all but spent the entire class talking about himself and how great he was. The class was every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half, but he would cut it short to 30 minute classes or less. Horrible experience. The other pre-meds that I knew didn't have to work that hard with physics because they took AP level in high school. I was not one of those students.

    So I decided to learn physics on my own and picked up Giancoli (my second physics book). I loved every second of reading that book, practicing problems, and making over a 200 Flashcards packed with conceptual information from each section of each chapter.

    I am not sure about going back to the school I graduated from, simply because the Physics department is poorly managed. Therefore, I was hoping someone else with a similar experience to mine would post what they did and how they managed the shift. I would love to go to a school that is at least a step above the one I went to.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
  11. Sep 14, 2014 #10

    Rocket50

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You both misunderstood me. The popular science books were Brian Greene's string theory and parallel universe books. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2014
  12. Sep 14, 2014 #11
    Right, I still got the crux of your point. Coincidentally I saw this video that made the statement all too true. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfxfnokQuLM
    at the 2 minute mark lol.
     
  13. Sep 14, 2014 #12

    Rocket50

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In case it is of some help, I hava friend doing premed who later decided of doing computer science. He switched schools and is currently in second year IIRC.
     
  14. Sep 14, 2014 #13

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    This. I would also encourage you to talk to the schools where they say they admit such students, and find out if they truly do - in physics. Many schools that have a policy to admit 2nd bachelors seekers often restrict the majors they can enter. I would call both the admissions office and the physics department.
     
  15. Sep 14, 2014 #14

    vela

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor

    Have you tried working through University Physics? That'll prepare you better for taking upper-division physics courses.

    Like you, after I graduated with a BS, I knew that while I wanted to do graduate work in a different field. While I worked, I took classes through the university's extension program. Basically, the university would let me take any of the regular courses as long as I forked up the money. The plan was to apply to grad school for math after I had gotten adequate preparation, even though I wouldn't have BS in math. Doing something like that might be another option for you, though it could be a very expensive way to go.
     
  16. Sep 15, 2014 #15

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

  17. Sep 17, 2014 #16
    That isn't necessarily true. I know a girl who actually went back to undergrad twice. Or more like she never really left. Just kept getting degrees and then applying to another school after a year off and repeat. She got three different undergrad degrees from three different top 30-type schools (at least one was in chem, I forget what the others were in, one might have been math). She might have even gone for a fourth actually hah, I forget, but actually it might have been her fourth when she arrived at my school to get a chem degree. Of course staying extra long to pick up a second major can also be possible, although some schools get fierce since long times to graduation hurt their US News rankings (another reason why the ranking methodology can be silly), but at some places you can stay for five or six years.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2014
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook