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Chemistry or Physics - please help!

  1. Jan 14, 2012 #1
    I'm currently an Honours Chem student at UBC (I'd say a fairly reputable school), but I'm slightly disenchanted with the program. I absolutely hate organic chemistry, and there's just not enough math thus far. I'm thinking of either elaborating my degree so I do a Combined Honours in Chem and Math, or ultimately switching into Honours Physics and delaying myself a year (instead of going into my 3rd year of chem or chem/math, I'd be going back in second year as a physics major).

    However, here's a list of what I think of both:
    - fascinating in the theoretical side; I really enjoy physical and inorganic chemistry.
    - the job market seems more promising (at least in Canada), and my skillset is more widely applicable. Also, grad school is probably easier to get into (especially with a chem/math degree).
    - I still have a chance at applying to medical school with a pretty good GPA.

    - unbelievably interesting, at least when explaining how the universe and everything in it works.
    - more mathematics.
    - I'm worried that I won't do as amazingly as I think, but I'm pretty sure that it's just inhibition at this point.

    I can't find any help, sadly, without a bit of bias. Please, help me figure out what's best for me - both in terms of job market and overall happiness.

    Thank you!

    EDIT: as for graduate work, as a chemist, I'd probably be doing inorganic/physical stuff - maybe even chemical engineering. As a physics grad student, I'm not entirely sure at this point.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2012 #2
    I'd say tough it out and try and get a masters in chemE. Excellent job prospects, more math, and it would only take 1 extra year than if you switched to physics now. Research the chemE MS and see if it is for you.
  4. Jan 14, 2012 #3
    I'm going to graduate school in Fall to do theoretical chemistry. So heres my input.

    Add something else - be it a math minor, or physics minor, or whatever. A chemistry degree by itself is pretty much useless for couple reasons. One, one's time is split between subjects that simply do not correlate with one another at all. Two, there is a very low expectation for chemistry majors who want to do any type of physical chemistry and courses are taught at a very low level.

    If you want better preparation in p chem, don't do just chemistry. If you can reasonably do Chem + math (time-wise), that would be awesome.
  5. Jan 14, 2012 #4
    So, it would be advisable to swap into Honours Chem + Math vs. just Honours Chemistry as I am right now? Would that be more beneficial if I were to do chemical engineering? Or would a plain chem degree work better for that?
  6. Jan 14, 2012 #5
    I only have second-hand information about the Canadian education system (I'm US-born and educated), so some of these comments might not be applicable. You will need to adjust as necessary.

    1.) While I know people who have made the chemistry to chemical engineering switch, you're going to have an adjustment period (of some sort) where you have to learn all of the ChemE material that isn't taught in chemistry (or physics, or math) curricula involving reactor design & thermodynamics, as well as related ChemE material, and in general getting used to working with no less than a kilogram of material. ;)

    I would also suggest that you investigate what people with chemistry vs. chemical engineering backgrounds do outside of academia - there can be quite a bit of overlap within the ivory tower. Given that my one excursion outside of academia was in the biomedical/health care field (and I'm back in academia), I am definitely not the person to ask for first-hand knowledge.

    2.) The generality of a chemistry degree can be a bit problematic if you want to do theoretical chemistry/physical chemistry. A program where you get more math and physics under your belt can be very helpful. Whether you want to go for a double degree, or a minor program to go along with a major....you'll have to judge what would be most feasible for you in terms of finances/timing/personal life factors.

    3.) I actually don't know anyone who did a medical degree in Canada, but here in the US, you'll need a modest amount of biology coursework (one year) to fulfill the requirements for essentially all medical schools. Of course, I'd recommend trying to shadow some physicians and checking out one of the countless med school forums for some information (and to see if you really want to do medicine as a career - it's not all House or [/i]Grey's Anatomy[/i], after all!).

    4.) Everyone complains about the math content in chemistry undergraduate curricula. Some think it's too much, some think it's not enough....which my cynicism makes me think that there's probably just enough to keep it as is. ;)
  7. Jan 16, 2012 #6
    As a chemistry senior who has taken chemistry's physical chemistry and 2nd year modern physics from the physics department, here's my comments.

    Physical chemistry's quantum chemistry is taught at a higher level than 2nd year modern physics. However, it is not as rigorous as 3rd year quantum mechanics for physics department. Physical chemistry series is the only 3 required classes in the degree that will require you to use the math you've learned. For the rest of your classes, all the math you learned is useless.
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