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Computer Science and Physics

  1. Jul 26, 2007 #1
    Hey all,

    I just found this site a week or so ago and I must say I love it. Tons of helpful information all around. I will be graduating in Spring 2008 with a BS in Computer Science. I have considered staying an extra year and taking some recommended upper level Physics classes to get into a Physics Grad program. However, part of my decision is the weighting of time and money. I'm a bit older than most college Seniors so I'm not sure that extra year is what I should do. My question really is, what are some areas of Physics/Computer Science that have a good deal of overlap? Also, is there an area of Physics that I could get into through the Computer Science side and get some physics along the way. Or is it better to get a good education in Physics and pickup the Computer Science along the way? I hope that made sense. If not I can clarify.

    Thanks for any and all advice and I look forward to reading your replys.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2007 #2


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    There are certainly more physicsts workign in software than working in physics (myself included) similairly many physicists working in physics probably spend more of their time in front of a compiler/mathematica than doing anything else. The quality of their software engineering is rather variable!

    I would say that there is a demand for CS that have some knowledge of physics. Any background in calculus is good for any sort of modelling, knowledge of mechanics/dynamics is a major part of games development.
  4. Jul 27, 2007 #3
    Thanks for reply mgb. Currently I'm leaning towards getting a BS in CS and then take some key Physics Undergrad classes then go to Grad school in CS with a bit of a Physics background.
  5. Jul 27, 2007 #4


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    You should know that CS grad school isn't necessarily well respected, in fact CS-PhDs are pretty much looked down on in an industry that is largely self taught. However a CS degree with a PhD in a numerical modelling/Bioinformatics or even something like protein folding would be possible.

    Good luck -
  6. Jul 27, 2007 #5
    Mostly self taught? I think you're confusing CS with programming/software develoment. There's much more to CS than code monkeying.
  7. Jul 27, 2007 #6


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    Oh - I agree totally, what I meant to say was that although grad school is pretty much a requirement to call yourself a physicist and to be taken seriously in industry, a CS-PhD doesn't open doors - in fact the opposite.

    Most people do not work in academia and programming/software development is where you find jobs.
  8. Jul 28, 2007 #7
    Thanks again. You have given me something new to weigh out in my decision. When you say a CS-PhD doesn't open door - in fact the opposite. Can you elaborate on what doors that may be. I mean, government work, research, private sector, etc.
  9. Jul 28, 2007 #8


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    Why hasn't anyone mentioned the fact that there IS a sub-division in physics known as computational physics?

    This is an area of study, and yes, you can go to graduate school and specialize in it. You are essentially a physicist, but you study computational techniques that are specifically needed in physics. For anyone who loves both physics and computer science, I would think this is a marriage made in heaven.

  10. Jul 28, 2007 #9
    Awesome Zz. Computational Physics sounds promising. I will definitely look into that.
  11. Jul 28, 2007 #10
    So a computer science major with a minor in physics, having taken the right courses, is fit to get into a computational physics program?
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2007
  12. Jul 31, 2007 #11
    In my experience, this is completely untrue.

    People's experiences vary, of course, so perhaps mgb_phys' CS Ph.D. has closed doors for him.
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