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Choosing the right subject for myself

  1. Aug 17, 2014 #1
    I am currently studying in the UK.Last week my A-level result was released and now I am thinking what I am going to study after my a 1-year gap.
    Personally,I am always fasinated by science and maths.But when it comes to performing experiments,I found it unmanageable.I am a great fan of theoretical ideas and I love imagining objects in an abstract way.Nevertheless my brain just doesn't work when I was get involved in practical situations.I enjoyed myself most when the mathematical theories are applied to the physical science.More specifically,when geometry comes to reality.For example,when I was dealing with the law of gravitation at highschool,I proved myself mathematically that a geostationary satellite could only be possible when it was placed directly above the equator.In addition I had been trying to work out the geometrical structure of some simple compound and the nucleus-electron distance during my physical chemistry course.I was doing this in the old days just merely because of my curiosity,so undoubtedly I will be applying for maths or physics in the future.(Although I like theoretical chemistry as well but the huge amount of practicals had stopped me further.)
    My parents have suggested a similar course----Engineering.So I have to choose one from 3 types of courses mentioned above.

    I am an introvert,and I did best in solitary work in a silent room.Often when I tried to explain the problems that I encountered,my peers and subject teachers couldn't understand what I was asking for....I was said to have a low presentation skill....Moreover,I always lack confidence,more often my teachers told me to express more and they said I was bright despite of the fact that I have a low self-esteem.I am so shy,I don't want the others to think that I am arrogant...

    Whatever happens,my dream is to pursue a post-grad study if I have such ability and conditions.

    Could anyone give me some suggestions and advice on my future subjects?

    Thx so much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2014 #2


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    Once you start work after university, engineering is just about 100% "practical situations".

    If you really can't handle labs, the only option of maths, physics and engineering is maths. But you really ought to be thinking about what you are want to do after you have a degree. Post-grad study isn't an end in itself. What happens after you have your MsC or PhD is "the rest of your life", and that could be another 50 years or more.
  4. Aug 18, 2014 #3
    Thx,I am thinking of doing some research after graduation,but it is still too early to say anything at this stage.
    BTW,is there a kind of mathematically-based course that mostly comprises of applying mathematical theorems into the scientific sector,without ignoring the proofs behind?As I have been searching for such courses.
    I guess that would not be applied maths,since from my A-level studies,applied maths is just a matter of substituting values into the formulas given.
  5. Aug 18, 2014 #4
    Interesting article here:


    I would think any decent Applied Mathematics course at University would take the type 2) approach of "Learn what the derivative means, derive the formula for the derivative of an arbitrary function at an arbitrary point, calculate a few derivatives from first principles, derive the product rule, quotient rule and chain rule, and then learn how to use them to differentiate combinations... " rather than the type 1) approach of just "substituting values" found in inferior A level teaching.

    To see what University mathematics is about read Gowers' book "Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction"... and the rest of his blog...

    P.S. I totally agree with AlephZero, if labs are out then the choice is easy! To get parents onside show them web pages like this:


    Engineering and Medicine are usually what parents want you to do 'cause they are obviously related to the "big money" careers of, er, Engineering and Medicine. Mathematics is less obviously a career! But if you show them what careers mathematics can lead to (Finance, Accountancy, Retail Management...) then they will be happier! (If you actually want to dedicate your life to solving Pure Mathematics problems, unpaid, in a cellar, don't tell them that yet!)
  6. Aug 18, 2014 #5
    Hi Devon,

    I think I was in a similar situation to you when I was in my final year of high school. I just finished first semester of university and my thinking changed completely. I was determined to do chemistry, physics or maths but I was relying on my high school experience to make my decisions. I found out that high school has almost nothing to do with university.

    I studied physics, chemistry, maths, intro electrical engineering and intro computer science in my first semester to get a taste of them all and I absolutely hated the things which I was planning to study. I did terribly in the experiments. I found them too overwhelming, unmanageable, fast paced and not fun at all. I still got good grades but I had about 3 hours per week of experimental labs and it was like hell.

    I never considered majoring in computer science but it was by far my favorite subject. In physics and chemistry classes we study about how physics and chemistry can be applied to make awesome things like particle accelerators, synthetic organic molecules like medicines, etc. but we did none of that cool stuff. In computer science, we were basically implementing things all the time and it was great.

    I ended up discontinuing chemistry (still doing electro mag) and majoring in EECS, which is basically a double major in EE and CS with about 7 maths subjects (lin alg, calc2, diff equations, probability, real and complex analysis and, etc.)

    I am now actually enjoying everything I am doing this semester and I never would have majored in this major if I relied solely on my high school experience.

    I think it is best for you to try different things and be OPEN MINDED.
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