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Computational Physics. Where to start?

  1. Jan 27, 2016 #1
    Hi. I am interested in Computational Physics. I am a third year undergrad student and while I do like Physics in general, I am more attracted by the mathematical and computational part of it. How do I go about learning what's the field of Comp. Physics like? Where do I start? I do know some Python, C++ and Matlab but I would call my skills as low-intermediate at best.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Jan 27, 2016 #3


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    1. Where in the world ARE you?

    2. What are you majoring in now?

    3. If you are in a US institution, are you a member of your local chapter of SPS? If not, are you a student member of the APS?

    4. If you are, are you aware of the Division of Computational Physics under the APS? If yes, have you looked there?

    5. Have you asked your advisor/professor at your own school?

    6. Are you planning on pursuing a graduate education after your undergraduate degree? Where might that be?

    7. Are you aware of any computational physics journals, and have you looked at any of them?

    8. And finally, have you done a Google search? If you did, you would have come across this article in the top 5 results. Did you read it?

  5. Jan 27, 2016 #4
    ZapperZ gave some great advice. I would add that in my experience, most computational Physics is solving differential equations in one way or another. There are several important undergrad courses one should take: Differential Equations, Partial Differential Equations, Mathematical Methods in Physics, and Numerical Analysis. Most undergrad Physics majors have to take Diff Eq and Math Methods, but one drawn to computational Physics should take all four.
  6. Jan 27, 2016 #5
    1. I'm from Europe
    2. Getting a Bachelor's in Physics
    5. No, I did not. There aren't any Master's degree programmes in Computational Physics available in my university.
    6. I do. I am not sure what branch of science though but I am not planning on to leaving STEM field. I also wish to stay in Europe.
    7. Frankly speaking, no, I am not.
    8. I have done Google searches. The article though did not provide me with anything I did not already know. I am fairly familiar with what a computer is used for in science. Articles like these just give you on overview of what the field is like, not what (or more precisely how) it's done.
  7. Jan 27, 2016 #6
    I have taken Mathematical Methods course which covered both ODEs, PDEs and some other stuff (albeit not too rigorously). Numerical methods is what I would need to look into deeper.
  8. Jan 27, 2016 #7


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    I wish you would have attempted to elaborate a bit more because obviously, the "theme" of what I was asking was obvious.

    3. If you are in Europe, are you a student member of the EPS?

    4. If you are, are you aware of the Computational Physics Group under the EPS? If yes, have you looked there?

    5. Have you asked your advisor/professor at your own school? Even if your school does not have such a program, he/she might know (i) where you can look for more info (ii) know or is aware of schools near you that might have such a program at the graduate level (iii) can direct your studies into that area.

  9. Jan 27, 2016 #8
    I do not wish to name my country because of my own reasons. Lets put it this way - my school is not in the top 100 or even top 200 schools.
    3-4. I am not and to be honest, I never looked into what EPS is, what they do or what they can offer me.
  10. Jan 27, 2016 #9
    Privacy is fine, for whatever reasons. But the local help and advice may be more valuable than folks far away who don't know your detailed circumstances. Start talking to folks in your department who understand the local landscape and opportunities much better than we do. Most physics faculty love to sit down and encourage physics majors how to succeed and move forward. If the first local faculty member doesn't know how to address your questions, I bet they know someone in your department who does.
  11. Jan 27, 2016 #10


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    That is no problem, but you may wish to remove it from your profile then, as well.
  12. Jan 27, 2016 #11
    I am not sure what 'detail circumstances' you mean. I am quite certain they won't give me names of good schools in Europe with comp. physics programmes. The best they could do is offer me some work in a lab but as I mentioned earlier, I would like to continue my studies.
  13. Jan 27, 2016 #12
    Your local faculty will know what courses are best to take and what local and regional opportunities there are.

    When I was in college, my local faculty helped me tremendously:

    1. Invited me to work in their lab
    2. Invited me to work in their theory group
    3. Provided meaningful and challenging programming tasks
    4. Added me as a co-authors on papers when I made significant computational contributions
    5. Suggested which courses I should take
    6. Suggested which grad schools I should apply to
    7. Advised whether my GRE scores were good enough, in light of my whole academic record
    8. Made me aware of summer internships at national labs
    9. Wrote letters of recommendation for internships and grad school
    10. Secured departmental approval allowing more relevant Physics courses to count toward my graduation

    You should trust and work with your local faculty. The odds are pretty good that they will help you a lot.
  14. Jan 27, 2016 #13
    I am doing some work in a lab though it's not a lab where I wish to spend my post-grad time. Anyway, thanks for replies. I guess I'll have to see what my faculty has to say.
  15. Feb 1, 2016 #14
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