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Courses Course selection strategy?

  1. Aug 10, 2008 #1
    I'm starting grad school in physics at UIUC this fall and I'm really agonizing over course selection. In particular I'm not sure whether to take Quantum Mechanics or Quantum Field Theory.

    I want to do Condensed Matter Theory, and learning QFT would probably make it easier to find someone to work for during my first summer. But I've only had one year of QM, and looking over lectures from previous years, I would certainly learn some new physics in the graduate course. I think QM would be fairly easy because I have a good background in the relevant math and I've been studying Shankar all summer as Qual preparation (UIUC uses Shankar for graduate QM, and also Baym, which seems somewhat more advanced.) But I also think that I could succeed in the QFT course - I'm just worried about later being blindsided by some basic QM topic that I skipped over...

    I guess what I really want to know is if I should think of my first year as a time to really solidify my knowledge of fundamental topics, or if I need to be gearing all my decisions towards being a useful researcher as soon as possible.

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2008 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Filling in the gaps does not become easier with time.
  4. Aug 11, 2008 #3
    Take QM. You should think of your first year as a time to make sure your foundation of knowledge is strong. Approach potential research advisors still, though - just because field theoretic methods are hot doesn't mean that's all there is, and also you might not need to know more than they can give you a quick tutorial on to think about a project.
  5. Aug 11, 2008 #4


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    Another vote for QM before QFT. It's useful to be really comfortable with second quantization, some quantum stat mech and perturbation theory before jumping into QFT. Presumably you will also pick up useful math skills (transforms, contour integrals and analytic continuation, etc.) along the way, during your first year.
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