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Changing majors from Physics to Mathematics or CS?

  1. Nov 25, 2013 #1

    I'm in need of some advice.. I'm currently majoring in physics, but I've been thinking about changing my major. I'm in physics 1, and struggling because I have a bad professor who can't seem to teach the class.. I originally wanted to go to grad school to continue my studies as an Astrophysicist, but apparently I can't seem to do the physics.

    Anyway, if I do change my major it would either be to Mathematics or Computer Science. The thing is, I've never taken a commuter programming class to save my life. So I don't know if I'd like it or not. Here are two computer science courses that I can take for now:

    • CSCI-C 106 Introduction to Computers and Their Use (3 cr.)
      An introduction to computers and their use in information systems: use of standard application programs; foundations of information systems design and development; survey of programming languages. Satisfies the basic computer literacy requirement.
    • CSCI-C 201 Computer Programming II (4 cr.)
      P: Two years of high school mathematics or MATH-M 014. Computer programming and algorithms. Basic programming and program structure. Computer solutions of problems. A computer language will be taught. Lecture and discussion. Business majors cannot receive credit for CSCI-C 201 and CSCI-C 101 or CSCI-C 106.

    The thing is, I can't take 201 because it interferes with other classes that I'm taking next semester. (Calculus 2 & physics 2) So should I take 106 or wait next fall to take 201?

    The other option is Mathematics, I've always loved math and I've always seemed to have a passion for the subject; however, I'm not sure what I would do with a math degree. If anything, go to grad school to pursue my Ph.D, but the only options that I can think of would be teaching at a university, which does seem interesting, but not really for me.

    Any advice would be much appreciated. About Computer Science, or anything really. Thanks!
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 25, 2013 #2
    1. Please don't blame the professor. Yeah, there are bad professors, but there are other reasons for not doing well, and no matter what you major in bad professors will crop up. You have to learn to do well in spite of them.

    2. Continue to take physics, math, and CS courses, and figure out what you like the most. Just because you struggle with a subject does not mean you can neither do well or enjoy it. You haev time to decide!

    You said yourself you have limited CS experience, so take the lower catalog number and presumably easier course.

    Applied mathematics is a practical route for those who may prefer math to applied disciplines, as there is more of a mathematics focus (applied math =/= physics or engineering!), so consider trying that out. Pure math seems to have mainly academic prospects for careers but if someone would like to correct me please do.
  4. Nov 25, 2013 #3
    Please do some research before posting things like this.
  5. Nov 25, 2013 #4
    *pure math graduate school was the qualification I neglected, but even then the disclaimer "if someone would like to correct me, please do" is my get out of jail free card anyway.
  6. Nov 25, 2013 #5


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    The lower course sounds like one of those " this is a mouse, you move it around to move the pointer on the screen"

    Don't jump right onto CS if you've never done it, you may hate it. it's a useful tool, but if I had to do it every waking day, well, I'd never do that.
  7. Nov 25, 2013 #6
    I agree. It seems like a class for those who've never dealt with computers before.. Which would probably be a pointless class.
  8. Nov 25, 2013 #7
    There are plenty of online resources to look into programming. Why not take a look into completing some of these before you make the choice?

    However since it says computer programming II I'd hesitate to suggest you take that w/o doing programming I. When I did my compsci degree out programming II course was all on algorthims as opposed to this is how you program. With out that basis you might have a hard time keeping up with the class and wong get the most out of the course.

    In my current degree (electrical engineering) I know a few people who half-assed the first programming course, and it came back to bite them in the *$$ hard for the 2nd programming course :)
  9. Nov 25, 2013 #8


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    I happen to be in a similar situation as of late. Actually, I'm really starting to see a pattern here, with others and myself. There are those of us who go into college all young and naive wanting to be an Astrophysicist, and then from a combination of people looking at us weird and the introductory physics classes being so varied and rushed, we start to get discouraged.

    Then we start thinking "Hey... I'm sucking it up in physics, but I'm doing great in Calculus! Maybe pure Mathematics is more my thing... But what kinda job can I get with that?? Well if I couple it with Computer Science, I'll be swimming in jobs!"

    But this is just a phase. Or at least it was for me. Computer Science is a great topic and career area, but the come-down from the rigor of Physics, Calc, etc. to entry-level Computer Science is pretty big. Of course it will get much harder, but you have to ask yourself if you're passionate enough about it in general to muscle through the tougher CS stuff. I myself began to miss physics almost straight away. I was cursing for having to say, try and find the charge of a particle such a distance from a cylinder by modeling it as an infinite number of rings or whatever. But now I'd almost give anything to be doing stuff like that again.

    tl;dr Stargate is a terrible influence.

    EDIT: Most Physics programs require you take at least one programming course don't they? So taking that course(whichever the degree requires) can't hurt. Then you'll see if you enjoy it.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  10. Nov 26, 2013 #9
    Thanks guys for the replies.

    I found one more class that fits into my schedule:
    • CSCI-A201 Intro To Computer Programming I (3 cr.)
    "Fundamental programming constructs, including loops, arrays, classes, and files. General problem-solving techniques. Emphasis on modular programming, user-interface design, and developing good programming style. Not intended for computer science majors or minors."

    The program we'll be working with is called Python. I'm not a CS major/minor (yet), but I think it would be beneficial since I've had no programming experience.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2013
  11. Nov 26, 2013 #10
    Challenge yourself! I took too many basic courses and regret it, so I'd recommend toughing it out with the physics to see if it really isn't for you, and then do CSCI-C 201 Computer Programming II.

    Also, don't expect physics lecturers to lead you step by step through the material, text books do that. This isn't high school.
  12. Nov 26, 2013 #11


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    Take CSCI-A201 then, that sounds like the first proper intro to CS.
  13. Nov 26, 2013 #12
    Alrighty then. :D
    Now I'm taking 16 credit hours total:
    • Calculus 2
    • Physics 2 + lab (calculus based physics.)
    • Sociology
    • Intro To Computer Programming

    I'm just afraid that I'll be biting off more than I can chew, but since it's college I'll have to get used to taking a course load. So I'm sure I can do it. :)
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2013
  14. Nov 26, 2013 #13
    Python is a good language to learn. The school where I took compsci at has switch from teaching C/C++ in the first year course to Python/Java
    The great thing about programming once you get the basics down you can pick up any new language fairly easily :D
  15. Nov 26, 2013 #14
    Awesome, thanks!!
  16. Nov 27, 2013 #15
    Astrometry - you said you were thinking of moving majors to Computer Science, and you also pointed out that CSCI-A201 was not "not intended for computer science majors or minors." So it would be highly irrational to take CSCI-A201!

    I'm also not sure of your "I'll have to get used to taking a course load" attitude. Why take more courses than you have to - especially as you are struggling with physics. Far better to do "just enough" courses and ace them than do "more than you need" and scrape through. Why not just do:

    • Calculus 2
    • Physics 2 + lab (calculus based physics.)
    • Sociology

    Can you get away with scraping through sociology with a bare pass without doing much work on it? Then you can concentrate everything on Physics 2 and Calculus 2, which are tough course, and might need "everything". If you can get As in those two, which might require total dedication, 80 hours a week, then you might not have to move majors...

    Also - if you think you can't do physics, what makes you think you can do computer science? Computer science is not just "hacking programs", the serious courses are seriously complicated, just like physics. Acing physics 2 and calculus 2 would probably be the best test of whether you can succeed at the highest levels in computer science, mathematics, physics(!), or any other science. If I was you I would dedicate every waking hour to physics 2 and calculus 2, with short breaks for eating. Don't even think "I can't do the physics" unless you've *really* tried. If after *maximum* effort you still do badly in physics 2 and calculus 2, then start thinking business school...
  17. Nov 28, 2013 #16
    Well, I'm still currently a physics major and C201 is computer programming 2; therefore, it requires a previous programming course and A201 is an intro to programming 1. (I know it's weird.) So if I like computer programming then I may consider changing majors, but for now I'll stick with physics.

    I just haven't been spending much time as I should on physics. I'm acing Calculus 1 and sure Calculus 2 will be immensely more difficult than Calculus 1 or 3, but I can do it. I know this isn't high school anymore..... I've been reading the textbook and it definitely helps.
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