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Programs Can I get a Ph.D. in physics if my bachelor's degree isn't in physics

754
1
Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Then ZapperZ,what do you suggest me to do,if I want to pursue research in Physics?

Are you definitely saying that I cannot do MSc in Physics after B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering?

If I not,what degree can I take to become a lecturer of Physics? ( If I do M.Tech after B.Tech,can I take a course in Phd. that will allow me to teach Physics?)

I just can't find anyone around to properly guide me.... pleeeease help!
 
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ZapperZ

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Then ZapperZ,what do you suggest me to do,if I want to pursue research in Physics?

Are you definitely saying that I cannot do MSc in Physics after B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering?

If I not,what degree can I take to become a lecturer of Physics? ( If I do M.Tech after B.Tech,can I take a course in Phd. that will allow me to teach Physics?)

I just can't find anyone around to properly guide me.... pleeeease help!
I'm sure you'll understand if my patience is running rather thin right now with this, because you seem to be comprehending something that I haven't said!

Have you read (and understood), what I wrote in Post #1, 7, 9, and 13? Only YOU can determine if you're well-prepared to do graduate work in physics. Not me. That is the WHOLE POINT of this thread!

Zz.
 
1,117
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Actually, ZapperZ already said exactly what you need to do in his first post!

... you may need to consider spending an extra year of enrolling in advanced undergraduate courses.
In my case, "so-and-so" was computer science, and after a year, I was definitely ready for an MS program in physics.
 
192
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Nice thread. I'm studying Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and am having doubts all the time if this was the right choice. The course is interesting, but I feel like physics what I should have chosen.
 
754
1
Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Right...I think I get the message!
 
2
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

This thread is making me think more and more about engineering (as if I ever stopped)....i'll continue tapping my fingers nervously as I keep reading this post..
 
6
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Hi,
I'd think it is quite feasible to go to a post-grad degree in physics with a BS in EE or other degrees that require/demonstrate strong quantitative skills. There are big areas of overlap between physics and engineering, physics and chemistry and physics and biology. Just for example, in MIT there is a professor of physics that is interested in wireless power transfer, and there is a collaboration on this between the physics and engineering departments. I think it is important to realize that unlike undergraduate studies, your grad school experience will vastly depend on your chosen specialization and supervisor (at least for PhD, less so for MS), So it can be good to look at some researchers profiles on the web and try to contact them by email. Your skills and background may be just what some professor is looking for. She/he may help you to understand your chances to get into school, and maybe even help.
Of course, perhaps you really want to change direction, e.,g, you have BS in EE but would like to do research in string theory, then frankly I think this would be very difficult. But who know,
Ed Witten had his bachelor degree in history with a minor in linguistics. He went on to do a PhD in physics in Harvard and become the most cited physicist of all times. Of course, he is a genius and such a path is really a super freak thing. But switching from a natural science or math degree seems realistic.
 

ZapperZ

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

It is rather misleading to cite unusual exceptions as "proof". This gives the wrong impression that such a thing can be done, and done often. It isn't.

I've had a couple of physics professors who came from EE undergraduate background. So certainly it is doable to come from relatively close background and do a Ph.D in physics. But again, look at the qualifying exam and figure out if, based on your degree, are you able to get through right away without taking remedial courses?

The tests I've listed removed the original question from being simply a matter of opinion to something that has a concrete self-evaluation. It is now no longer purely anecdotal, but an actual "experiment".

Zz.
 
6,814
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

2. Qualifying exams are, I think, unique to US schools. There may be some form of that in other parts of the world, but I use that phrase to define the single-most annoying, nerve-wrecking, sleep-depriving, stress-inducing barrier that any phd candidate in a US institution has to go through.
Not all. The astronomy department at UT Austin doesn't have qualifiers and replaces them with a second year project and presentation.
 
135
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Maybe its just a personal bias, but, I feel a significant proportion of people asking this question, of transferring to physics after undergrad, are either from mechanical or electrical engineering. Now, doing undergrad in physics just wasn't an option for me due to some personal reasons. From among the engineering fields I chose mechanical, feeling it was the closest to a physics degree and provided the next best preparation for physics grad school, besides physics. I'm looking for confirmation of this feeling of mine and that I made the correct decision.

Like any standard mechanical engineering degree plan, we are required to complete multiple courses in all of the following: classical mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. We are only required a Resnick level of EM course (which I hear is enough for physics GRE!) along with circuit analysis or logic design and an electronics course. I also intend to take "Electromagnetics, Fields and Waves" as an extra course from EE department , which, from its course description, seems to be an intermediate level EM course, almost at the level of Griffith's Electrodynamics. Also, I maybe able to take a modern physics course, covering basic relativity and quantum physics, from engineering sciences faculty. Besides this, we do single and multivariable calc, diff eqs, statistics and probability, numerical analysis, and in senior year, as a part of specialization, we can take Finite Element Method which is basically just numerical solutions of PDEs (I think).

I'm well aware that all the courses I mentioned will be applications oriented, unlike how they would have been in a physics degree, but still, aren't we covering everything, in greater detail, except modern physics? I agree modern physics is a large part of a physics curriculum but wouldn't one or two additional modern physics course be enough to get me upto the level of an average physics grad?

On the other hand, a EE, besides "over-mastering" electromagnetism, will not cover any of the other basic fields of physics, will he? No thermo, no fluid and only an introductory first year mechanics course to fill the classical mechanics spot. So, isn't a mechE better off in terms of basic physics preparation ?
 
21
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Nobody wants to pursue graduate studies in chemistry.

Why does physics get all the love?

:(
 

jtbell

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Why does physics get all the love?

:(
Because this is first and foremost a physics forum! We have forums for other subjects, of course, but those are basically sideshows. People who are mainly into other areas like (say) chemistry have more appropriate places to hang out, I'm sure.
 
155
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

This all leads me to a question for ZapperZ. I am a Physics major now in my undergrad, I am also getting a double major in Math, so effectively between the 2, I am getting almost every Math credit available at my school. Still undecided between either math or physics for graduate school. If I choose Physics, should my math background be enough for graduate school in Physics?

Math courses I will have by graduate-Calc, I, II, III, and Intro to Proofs couse, Discrete Methods, Real Analysis, Linear and Matrix Algebra, Euclidian and non Euclidian Geometry, Modern Algebra, Prob and Stats, Math Methods for Physical Science and Engineering, and Differential Equations. If there is anything else I really need, please let me know. I do not want to have lack of math become an issue. It has always been my strength, in fact, many times, my mathematical understanding of things has helped me in my Physics classes.
 
21
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

@Dougggggg

Lol.
 
21
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I laughed because your post beats the whole point of this thread.

I'm not offended nor wanting to offend, I just saw the unintentional irony in what you wrote.

:P
 
155
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I can see how that could be something one could notice, maybe I should have clarified with something along the lines, is there any other math I should take or study to be prepared for graduate school for Physics.
 
21
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

The answer to your question is to be found in the first post of this thread.

That's what I meant.
 
155
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

If your refering to his "So you want to be a Physicist" article, I have read it and the math section ended with an etc. So I was honestly just checking to see if there is anything else I should take. I don't want to overlook anything before I graduate.
 
13
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I think that this thread should be "sticky-ed", or at least linked to Zz's main faq-type thread ("So you want to be a physicist").

Either way, thanks for info, ZapperZ.
 

ZapperZ

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

No problem. Because of the comments on here, I've added a chapter to my essay covering this topic.

Zz.
 
Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Hi!
I am currently in my final year doing Mechanical Engg from a Govt college (in India).
I have written GRE and will start applying for universities in 3 week's time.
But, my interest in Mechanical engg is declining day by day. Since my 9th grade, I've always wanted to study Physics, and wish to study it after I complete B.Tech.

My question is: Is it possible for me to jump to pure Physics with an Engg background?
If I have to apply to foreign universities, what are the requirements I will need, to compensate for my lack of a basic degree in Physics?
Will writing PHYSICS GRE help me?
Or should I try for an internship in a Physics related field?

I am desperately looking forward to your replies.
Thank you.
 
21
0
Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Im yet to start my undergrad degree and was leaning towards a bsc maths and economics.
This would be having, say, 70% of maths and 30% economics content.
I will also have a few certificate of professional development in astronomy and cosmology by the time i finish this degree.

Do u think after doing all i wrote above i will be able to take astrophysics as a subject for masters and research degrees? I mean, am i technically qualified for it? Or its also like english and physics difference?
Sorry the procedure you told cannot be done by me as i dont really hold any degree yet!
 

ZapperZ

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Hi!
I am currently in my final year doing Mechanical Engg from a Govt college (in India).
I have written GRE and will start applying for universities in 3 week's time.
But, my interest in Mechanical engg is declining day by day. Since my 9th grade, I've always wanted to study Physics, and wish to study it after I complete B.Tech.

My question is: Is it possible for me to jump to pure Physics with an Engg background?
If I have to apply to foreign universities, what are the requirements I will need, to compensate for my lack of a basic degree in Physics?
Will writing PHYSICS GRE help me?
Or should I try for an internship in a Physics related field?

I am desperately looking forward to your replies.
Thank you.
Im yet to start my undergrad degree and was leaning towards a bsc maths and economics.
This would be having, say, 70% of maths and 30% economics content.
I will also have a few certificate of professional development in astronomy and cosmology by the time i finish this degree.

Do u think after doing all i wrote above i will be able to take astrophysics as a subject for masters and research degrees? I mean, am i technically qualified for it? Or its also like english and physics difference?
Sorry the procedure you told cannot be done by me as i dont really hold any degree yet!
I think both of you missed the whole point of this thread. So I will repeat it.

If you wish to do graduate work in physics (or astrophysics) in the US, I have outlined to you two ways for you to check for yourself if you have the capability to survive graduate school. I won't repeat what those are, because they have been plainly described in the very first post in this thread.

This is a solid, first-order check that you can do for yourself, without needing the opinion or intervention of others. Until you can do that, then this thread should not be used, because it was NOT meant to deal with such-and-such a scenario for the possibility of doing this or that.

Zz.
 
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8
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Zapperz, thank you for recommending this thread for answers to my questions:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=563251

I read through this whole thread and still have a few specific questions regarding preparation for grad work.

Need I only be concerned with preparation for grad work or do I also have to have a degree in physics (or more closely related than what I have- international relations) to wave at them when applying? This distinction is important. If it's prep alone that I should be concerned with then I can go about it in any way I choose, take classes from here or there and do some independent study. However, if grad programs really need to see a degree, I will have to complete a structured program at a university.
 

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