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Condensed Matter; Mathematics/Experimental Skills Needed

  1. Mar 30, 2006 #1
    Can anyone say concisely what the key mathematical subjects/techniques one must master for theoretical condensed matter physics are? (To be specific; things like Mesoscopic physics, Nanomagnetism, Semiconductor Physics, and then of course the low temperature stuff)

    Also, in general what hands on skills/techniques would be handy in the lab? (e.g electronics machine shop stuff, equipment used, etc)

    Also, is Mathematica used at all for numerical work in Condensed Matter?
    Can someone suggest a good reference for going beyond a basic/intermediate use of mathematica for numerical work in physics.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2006 #2
    Numerical work(electron structure calculations for example) is mostly done with fortran, c and c++. People often do use matlab to fit models to experimental data. Basically the mathematics you must master is what you need for advanced quantum mechanics. That's been discussed numerous times in the quantum physics forum and I suggest you do a search there.

    The experimental skills and such are usually something you learn along the way by doing. Experienced researchers and lab engineers/technicians are an invaluable source of knowledge on instrumentation. Knowing basic electronics and instrumentation (amplifiers, detectors etc. etc. ) is good but you won't really learn too much anything useful until you start using them. Perseverance and patience are good virtues (not skills though...) because the key thing in building experimental setups is that nothing EVER works at the first, second, ... Nth attempt.
  4. Mar 30, 2006 #3


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    d2dbo : What is your current background ? Are you an undergrad or grad student ?
  5. Mar 30, 2006 #4

    Dr Transport

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    I agree, the types of calculations will dictate the math required. For example, my research for my degree did not involve many-body techniques at all, never had to calculate a Greens' function in anything I did. Now if you work in superconductivity, the entire field is full of many-body techniques and you better know it.

    As for the experimental techniques, I would suggest learning from the mechanical engineering department some basic shop techniques like working with lathes, mills and presses. It will come in handy. Electronics is a necessary evil to design and work with custom detectors. LabView to program lab setups to automate data taking is a really important skill (I had to learn it in the last 6 months for work I am doing). Glass blowing is something that an experimental group may need.

    The one skill I cannot put enough emphasis on is determination of experimental uncertainty. Right now in industry, there is a hugh push to put error bars on all their data.
  6. Apr 5, 2006 #5
    This is a little bit of cheating since I was also a double major in math, but my math courses in Topology, Differential Geometry, and Group/Ring Theory were not only a lot of fun but had a ton of applications to condensed matter, especially topology (i.e. topological derivation of flux quantization, topological point defects). If you were to learn these subjects on your own, Dover has some great books (for cheap) on the subjects.
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