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Complex analysis as physics major

  1. Jan 29, 2008 #1
    I am a physics major and I have taken many math courses, but not Complex Variables. I did a little contour integration along time ago, but I never took it as a course. I do, however, have the option to take this semester. Should I take it instead of another physics elective? I know that it is quite useful for advanced quantum, QFT, etc., but how important would you say it is to take it as a course (as opposed to just learning the techniques as the need arises).
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  3. Jan 29, 2008 #2
    I'm not a physics major but I've done complex analysis on 3rd semester and I have to say that's a very usefull tool for quantum mechs etc.Thruth is complex analysis is "complex" and I think although learning the methods along the way is ok,taking a complex analysis course will most probably make your life easier later.
  4. Jan 29, 2008 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you're planning to go to grad school, definitely take complex analysis if you have the chance. As a first-year grad student, I really missed not having taken a complex variables course as an undergraduate, and ended up taking the graduate-level course because of that.

    It's not only useful in quantum mechanics. My first semester E&M course used conformal mapping to solve some electrostatics problems.
  5. Jan 30, 2008 #4
    What are your other alternatives for the physics classes?

    I took three complex analysis classes as a physics undergrad. The tools came in handy in grad quantum. I was also able to help an astronomer friend solve a fluid flow problem.

    I don't remember very much from the last complex analysis class I took - the majority of the students were engineers and all I seem to recall is futzing with the boundary conditions in traffic flow problems.

    Oh, the other thing I remember: the professor was exceptionally doddering and he liked to use a microphone. One day the lecture was interrupted when the speakers suddenly crackled and started broadcasting a conversation in chinese overtop of the lecturer. Evidently the wireless mic was on the same frequency as someone's cellphone in the hallway outside the classroom.
  6. Jan 30, 2008 #5
    If you take Quantum, Complex will help you, perhaps even in an Under grad EM course it will come up. Its not necessary as you will probably learn the math required in each class, however, having taken a full class in complex will help you extremely in grad school, higher level math classes, and simply in undergrad classes that may use a minute amount of complex variable knowledge.
  7. Jan 30, 2008 #6
    I'm a first year grad student, and I took complex analysis in undergrad. It's definitely helpful. Not necessary, but helpful. So far in quantum, my professor covered one proof which required the use of a complex integration (for an integral in scattering theory). There was also half a lecture's worth involving complex analysis in E&M, plus one exam problem which required complex variables. But I just copied the pertinent relations from my notebook (it was open notes), so I didn't actually even need complex analysis for this. That's all so far, maybe I'll need more complex analysis later.

    Anyway, this is why I say that complex analysis isn't by any means a prereq, at least not in the first year of grad school. But it certainly isn't a waste of time to take it.
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