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Programs Chemistry BS to Physics PhD

  1. Dec 14, 2011 #1
    Hello all,

    I am rather new to these forums, and I have a question about lateral transfer between chemistry and physics. First, my background pertaining to physics:

    3 semesters calculus
    1 semester each: ordinary differential equations, linear algebra, abstract algebra, probability and statistics, and a course in mathematical proofs and logic

    General physics 1 and 2. These were at a weak school, so I don't feel I know them very well.
    1 semester mathematical physics (Mary Boas's book)
    1 semester E & M (Griffith's book)

    Physical chemistry 1 and 2. First semester was thermodynamics, second was (mostly) an introduction to quantum mechanics.
    Quantum Chemistry
    Inorganic Chemistry
    Other chemistry courses leading to BS in chemistry

    As I've progressed in chemistry, I've realized that the aspects I enjoy the most of chemistry are the ones closest to physics. I've already applied to several theoretical chemistry PhD programs (and been accepted to one rather good one), so I don't plan on applying to physics PhD programs as well, but my questions are as follows:

    1) If, as I begin graduate school, I continue to find that my interests tend toward work heavy in physics level QM-i.e. beyond things like DFT, ab initio methods, etc., in such fields as quantum field theory, could I just study it in the chemistry PhD program, possibly under a physicist?
    2) If, once I begin a chemistry PhD program, I wish to laterally transfer to physics, how difficult would this be? Obviously, this could depend a great deal on the school I attend, but if anyone has any general idea I'd be interested.
    3) And, most important of all, with my background in physics, could I survive graduate level physics work?

    Any input from those familiar with this type of situation is much appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2011 #2
    im not an expert on this, but imo i think what you would want to do is aim for a masters in chemistry, taking coursework that is heavily in the physics dept. so that you could take a physics gre and be able to have enough study between your bs/ms to apply to a regular graduate program in physics.

    ie: what classes are you still missing from the core physics undergrad, and can you squeeze them into your masters program?
  4. Dec 14, 2011 #3
    I appreciate the advice, but in my situation, already having been accepted into a PhD program I'd like, I wouldn't want to give that up to pursue a masters. What I'd really like is the opportunity to study graduate physics and work with some physicists to see if that's where my interests lie. I know that some programs, in particular Harvard's chemical physics program, give the option of taking coursework in either the physics or chemistry departments, and have advisers from both departments. Maybe I'll get in there.
  5. Dec 14, 2011 #4
    maybe, but since you are already accepted to graduate programs, you don't have to reapply as a masters student, you just change your course of study when you get there from a phd to a masters.
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