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College Advice

  1. Apr 18, 2004 #1
    Hello, I'm a freshman from New Jersey studying at The University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign. I am studying electrical engineering now, but I am considering studying physics and math.

    I enjoy electrical engineering classes, but I am more interested in a research field and physics has always interested me. I think if I majored in physics I would do graduate school shortly after. I am also considering grad school for physics after completing undergraduate study in EE. If I did change major I would consider transfering to Rutgers University because I would recieve in-state tuition and be able to more easily afford graduate school.

    Is UIUC vs. Rutgers for physics a large difference in education?

    Am I better off majoring in physics or EE in my undergraduate if I then go to grad school for physics?

    Any general info about physics undergraduate, or physics as a proffession, etc is appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2004 #2
    Sorry, I'm not trying to hijack your thread...but I've been looking at that college for a while now. Does it have anyhting for physics? I'm also interested in engineering.
  4. Apr 18, 2004 #3


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    Actually, if you get accepted to grad school in Physics you should also get an assistantship which will mean your tuition should be covered as well as a small income. So do not pick your grad school based on location. Pick it based on what you wish to do and the presence of profs you want to work with.
  5. Apr 19, 2004 #4
    Ok, i thought that was an option but i wasn't sure the likelihood. Is it tough to get assistantships? Also, does anyone know how Rutgers is for physics? It seems they have a strong program on the graduate and PhD level, but for undergrad I am finding myself short on information.

    Also, how important is a highly ranked physics department? I felt for engineering a college's rank was more significant.

    I feel I could justify leaving college with higher loans having studied EE because of the higher salary... With physics I almost feel the lower my debt after college the better.

    Any thoughts? I'm really stuck and I'm hoping someone's experiences, perspective or suggestions could help me make the right choice.
  6. Apr 19, 2004 #5
    what made me choose my bachelor of science in physics was this and only this quote:
    if you have a job u love u will never work a day in ur life..."
    most people over look this but this is what i believe ppl should base their lives around, because if you dont stress over money you will always have it so physics is what i love and i will stick with, i hope these thoughts help u out dude
  7. Apr 19, 2004 #6


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    In terms of "prestigue" (and that's a VERY vague term), UIUC would carry more of it than Rutgers. Having said that, Rutgers is nothing to sneeze at either.

    The problem here is that when selecting a graduate school in physics, you need to have some rough idea of what AREA of physics you want to go into. Different schools have different strength in each area of physics. UIUC has long been considered as having the #1 ranked Condensed Matter physics program in the US (people at Stanford may disagree). Just look at all the pedigree of condensed matter physicists that it has produced. It is equally strong in high energy physics, being a significant player at Fermilab. It also has a very strong program in computational physics, benefitting from having a world-renowned CS program and as part of the national supercomputing center.

    The physics dept. at Rutgers, on the other hand, have made a name for itself in condensed matter theory, especially with respect to a technique called the Dynamical Mean Field theory (DMFT). People such as Kotliar are considered as the foremost expert in such areas. They had Andy Millis, who is one of the well-known condensed matter theorist, but he has since moved to Columbia last year. Rutgers also benefited from having close proximity to the infamous Bell Labs. However, Bell Labs nowadyas no longer carry the same degree of admiration and prestigue that it once had.

    Keep in mind, though, that no matter where you go, there is this one thing called the qualifying exams (or preliminary exams) that each physics dept has for all incomming phd candidates. If you are applying based on your EE degree, you should keep in mind that you may be deficient in a number of areas in physics that may hinder your ability to pass this exam. So allow for a year or two at the beginning of your graduate program to take advanced undergrad physics courses to catch up (depending on where you go, most schools require that you pass the qualifier by the end of your 2nd year of graduate school).

  8. Apr 19, 2004 #7


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    "If you have a job you love, you will never work a day in your life."

    I never thought about it that way.
  9. Apr 20, 2004 #8
    "The problem here is that when selecting a graduate school in physics, you need to
    have some rough idea of what AREA of physics you want to go into...."

    I realize this for graduate school. How important is this for undergrad? Would Rutgers vs. UIUC really affect my chances of acceptance for grad schools? Im beginning to doubt any advantage in doing EE undergrad when I want to do physics in grad school considering I don't know what area of physics I would want to study.

    The reason I chose UIUC over Rutgers, Va Tech, RIT, etc was it had the best EE program. If anyone can comment on the quality of education or the worth of attending UIUC vs Rutgers for physics, it'd be helpful.


    ps - KingNothing you've got a PM.
  10. Apr 20, 2004 #9


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    Honestly, at the undergrad level, I do not see any difference between the two for physics. You do not need to pick an area you want to specialize in, although it may be something you should consider by the time you get to your senior year, but this isn't really that necessary, only advantageous. At the undergraduate level, you want the best grades, and the widest "experience" as possible. Practically all large or well-known schools in the US have the latter.

  11. Apr 22, 2004 #10
    Hello Anish,

    Coincidentally enough, I am also from New Jersey attending UIUC. I am an Engineering Physics major here, so I guess i will tell you why I chose Rutgers over UIUC even though I am paying out of state tuition. To me, all kinds of studies are important, whether it be at the undergrad level or the grad level. I know a few guys at Rutgers who are majoring in physics or engineering, but UIUC and Rutgers physics is not the same. Our physics dept is ranked top 10 in the nation, and the engineering is top 5. Rutgers might have a decent one, but it still doesnt compare. Moreover, undergrad physics is also very important. For example, I have already landed an research program for the summer at BNL, and I dont think I would have gotten this opportunity if I had attended Rutgers. If you want to transfer to physics, I would highly recommend that you still stay here. I am also planning on going to grad school, but all that depends on how well I do in my undergrad. UIUC physics is really good, and it will give you research opportunities only a few other schools can offer. I am a freshman here, btw.
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