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Computational Math/Physics

  1. Mar 8, 2010 #1
    I am an undergraduate physics and applied math major in his junior year, and it is about time for me to start seriously researching graduate programs.

    I have had some experience in the lab, enough to know that I would rather not be an experimentalist in some field like condensed matter. At the same time, while theory appeals to me, I don't feel that it the right path to take.

    My main interests are applied math and physics, but I am also very interested in computation. I have heard of graduate programs in computational math and computational physics, but I have only a hazy idea of what is involved in each.

    One of the things I like about physics is how "academic" it feels, as a course of study. Engineering didn't appeal to me, because it seemed too uninvolved with the math and physics behind it. On the other hand, over the summer I worked on a physics research project that was mostly computational. It involved some computational geometry and neural networks. I especially enjoyed learning some of the theory behind neural nets, and then being able to apply it to the problem at hand (image analysis). I am thinking that this sort of thing is what I want to do in graduate school.

    So, I have a few questions about computational math/physics that I am hoping someone could answer:

    1) Is there a difference between computational math / computational physics / computational science? I have heard all of these phrases used, sometimes interchangeably.

    2) A physics PhD has the option of staying in academia and becoming a professor. I don't know of many courses in computational science, however, so are there options in academia for someone with a computational degree, or will I be expected to go into industry?

    3) I am a physics major foremost, and my applied math degree is just a by-product of having taken some additional interesting classes. That said, I haven't taken any "pure" math classes, like analysis or abstract algebra (though I have taken advanced linear algebra). In applying to, say, a computational mathematics program, am I at a disadvantage? Is it likely that I will need to take the math GRE?

    4) What are some good computational graduate programs?

  2. jcsd
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