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Competition between chemistry and physics?

  1. May 6, 2013 #1

    sdm

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    So...I've been set on majoring in physics for a long time, but today my chemistry teacher asked me what my major was going to be. I told her physics. So shes says "Why do you want to study physics!!!!???"
    Did she say this because she teaches chemistry or what?
    At the beginning of the semester she said chemistry was the central science but I thought physics was...
    I'm confused why she would say something like that, she said it as if majoring in physics is bad!
    Is there some sort of competition between chemistry and physics??
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2013 #2
    Oh yea, there is competition. Its friendly though, for the most part.

    Physics is a fundamental and underlying science. Chemistry is considered the "central science" because it is connected to physics and biology placing in the center of the big three.
     
  4. May 7, 2013 #3
    Chemists probably like to think there actually is some competition. You know they actually think that what they do is real science.:biggrin:
     
  5. May 7, 2013 #4
    This kind of hubris is the downfall of modern physics as an institution.

    Chemists are actually very smart and many are far more capable than physicists. You do yourself a disservice by minimizing chem (and bio) and distancing yourself form them. There is far more relevant research and open questions in chem and bio than there is in physics.

    All over the country chem and bio departments are accepting physicist ex-pats because that is where "real" science is happening - in the study of complex systems. Meanwhile, physics departments are either retooling for modern topics that revolve around chem and bio, or they are turning into departments that simply teach.
     
  6. May 7, 2013 #5
    Wow . You actually took that post seriously?
    I agree with everything you said.
     
  7. May 7, 2013 #6
    Of course. Its an attitude that physics as a culture often has, to its own detriment.
     
  8. May 7, 2013 #7
    :biggrin: = sarcasm.
     
  9. May 7, 2013 #8

    ZombieFeynman

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    Your teacher may have been joking, or perhaps she is just a bit rude or ignorant. Science is a very interdisciplinary endeavor nowadays. Physicists have much to learn from chemists and physicists have much to offer chemists. Sometimes they study the same things, but often from different perspectives. They sometimes implement different techniques but other times their approaches are very analogous.

    At the end of the day, nature does not separate herself into physics, chemistry and biology. Perhaps neither should we.
     
  10. May 7, 2013 #9

    atyy

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    Chemistry is the central science, just like number theory is the queen of mathematics.

    Besides, Rutherford was a chemist :p

    As are, apparently, Walter Kohn and John Pople.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
  11. May 7, 2013 #10

    wukunlin

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    This is all apple vs orange talk lol. Do what you find is interesting will always be the best decision.
     
  12. May 7, 2013 #11
    Chemistry and chemical engineering give you the most options out of college hands down, imo. Also, research into materials has really been homogenized between disciplines. In depth, Quantum mechanical knowledge at phd level and materials research is pretty much a requirement. However, the quantum mechanics taught to chemistry majors is typically really specialized so it wouldn't get you a dedicated physics job by any stretch. But during my undergraduate classes in chemical engineering I had to take 2 graduate level classes to graduate and I took advanced thermodynamics (statistical mechanics basically) and a class where we built a basic simulation package for approximating schrodinger equation for n-body systems (grid based approximation methods).

    Basically you want to work in photonics physics or EE. You want to work in pure applied physics get a physics degree.

    You don't want to get a phd, chemical engineering. Chemistry and Physics both require a phd imo for any good job prospects.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
  13. May 7, 2013 #12

    ZapperZ

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    I find it strange that you attack physics "culture" in this thread, especially when in the OP, it is someone from Chemistry who seems to belittle the field of physics. You seem to have ignored that completely.

    So it is OK for a chemistry instructor to belittle physics, but when something slightly off-the-cuff is said about chemistry, somehow the whole physics culture has a problem?

    Zz.
     
  14. May 7, 2013 #13
    Not the whole physics culture, but a part of it. I call it like I see it.

    Also there is a difference between physics as a subject and physics as a culture. The subject is great, the culture has a too much hubris.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
  15. May 7, 2013 #14

    George Jones

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    I agree with Zapperz. How much experience do you have with chemistry "culture"? I have been associated with several universities, and the attitudes in chemistry departments can be every bit as bad (or good) as in physics departments. I have one particular chemistry department in mind, where the hubris and egos of some members were out of this world.
     
  16. May 7, 2013 #15
    A bit. I did my grad work in a group with chemists and physicists. My professor had degrees in each and was based in the chemistry department.

    My undergrad research adviser became a physics ex-pat too, joining a biology department some years after I was in the group.

    IME chemistry and biology are more accepting, modern and relevant than physics. This is a function of the culture, not the subject.
     
  17. May 7, 2013 #16

    ZapperZ

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    I can say the same as well. The Physics dept. that I'm attached to now has 3 faculty members with PhDs in Chemistry. Not only that, the dept. manages a large collaborative team consisting of biologist and chemists and runs several beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source.

    Maybe it is a function of the culture at YOUR institution.

    Zz.
     
  18. May 7, 2013 #17
    It could be. I have been at more than one institution though and collaborated across a few as well. I did some work at the APS as a grad student, with chemists and physicists. But my group was based in the chemistry department. My grad institution was certainly an old school one. They resisted modernization attempts by the younger faculty and students. No research rotations, too many classes on ancient material, no concern for job placement at all. As an undergrad my institution did successfully implement these changes (for the grad program) while I was there, but it was not easy. The younger more relevant professors had to drag the old timers kicking and screaming into research rotations, less pointless graduate classes in pure physics and concern for job placement.
     
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