Courses and Additional Study required for Grad School Physics

  • #1
interhacker
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I've applied to the best ranked (according to QS) university in my country, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Of course the university isn't really all that nice in international standards, but in impoverished third-world standards, its facilities and faculty are pretty tolerable. The trouble is, NUST has a (half-)decent electrical engineering department, but an utterly horrible physics department. Therefore I've listed a BS in Electrical Engineering as my first preference on the application.

Now, I dream of getting a Ph D. in Theoretical Physics (ideally from an Ivy league) . Assuming I get admitted to NUST, I don't think the course curriculum for Electrical Engineering will cover everything I need to get a good score in the GRE Physics subject test and to get started learning graduate-level Physics. Therefore, I would really appreciate it if anyone could look over the course curriculum I linked and tell me:

  • The Elective Courses I should take that would help me later on in graduate-level Physics.
  • The additional study I'll need to do in order to cover things possibly not included in the Core and Elective courses listed in the Course Curriculum.

I look forward to your advice. All the best. :)

P.S The availabe Elective Courses are listed at the end of the webpage I linked.
 
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  • #2
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Can you dual major?

What makes the physics dept. so bad for an undergraduate? Lacking research opportunities is not good, but otherwise the courses probably use similar texts to other universities. You are of course free to study as rigorously as you want, regardless of how rigorous your assignments are.
 
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  • #3
interhacker
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Thank you for helping me. :)

Can you dual major?
No, sadly I don't think the university allows double majors.

What makes the physics dept. so bad for an undergraduate? Lacking research opportunities is not good, but otherwise the courses probably use similar texts to other universities. You are of course free to study as rigorously as you want, regardless of how rigorous your assignments are.
The School of Natural Sciences, where Physics majors go to, is probably the worst school in the university. I don't know any graduate who managed to get into a decent Ph D. programme anywhere. Plus in my country getting a BS in Engineering is one of the few ways of avoiding unemployment and bankruptcy. So (in my parents' words) I definitely need to get at least a BS in Engineering before I can try out 'riskier' career-paths like Physics.

Will doing the Engineering BS make my chances of getting a Ph D. in Physics impossibly low? What courses should I take to improve my odds?
 
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  • #4
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From what I can tell you're going to definitely need elective courses in upper-level undergraduate Classical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics (and possibly upper-level statistical physics and Electricity & Magnetism, depending on what is covered in your curriculum). The math curriculum looks pretty standard for what is needed in physics (as far as I can tell from course names.)

One problem you might have is that you want to do theory and are aiming for top schools in the US. If you wanted to cross over into experimental physics, EE seems like a good background. However, for theory it's really much better to have a much stronger physics/mathematics background. The competition for theoretical physics PhDs at the ivies is also very stiff and you'd be much better off starting the right way with a physics degree. Is there any way for you to apply to schools outside your country?
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50
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If the physics instruction is poor, it will be every bit as poor for an EE major as a physics major, right? I don't see how majoring in EE will better prepare you for a physics degree.

My advice is the same as Pakistani physicists have done for decades. Get out at your first opportunity.
 
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  • #6
Physics_UG
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I would major in EE and take some physics classes on the side (classical mechanics, E&M, statistical physics, and QM are the main ones).

when I say classical mech and E&M I mean the upper level ones.
 
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  • #7
interhacker
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One problem you might have is that you want to do theory and are aiming for top schools in the US. If you wanted to cross over into experimental physics, EE seems like a good background. However, for theory it's really much better to have a much stronger physics/mathematics background. The competition for theoretical physics PhDs at the ivies is also very stiff and you'd be much better off starting the right way with a physics degree.
I see. Will doing an MS in either Physics or (Applied) Mathematics raise my chances of getting into a Theoretical Physics Ph D. programme? I know grad schools in the US usually don't require an MS for applying to a Ph D. programme as the duration of their Ph D. programmes is about 2 years longer than say, universities in the UK. But I don't really mind spending an extra two years for my MS if it raises my chances and gives me the necessary mathematics/physics skills I need for Theoretical Physics.
 
  • #8
interhacker
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If the physics instruction is poor, it will be every bit as poor for an EE major as a physics major, right? I don't see how majoring in EE will better prepare you for a physics degree.
Well, yes. But the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has its own department of Basic Sciences for teaching some of the math and physics courses it offers. The faculty there isn't ideal either, but it is slightly better than that at the School of Natural Sciences where physics majors go.

My advice is the same as Pakistani physicists have done for decades. Get out at your first opportunity.
You're right. But it was very difficult to get admitted to and afford foreign universities for a BS. Getting into grad school abroad is easier and most Pakistani physicists do that.
 
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  • #9
interhacker
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when I say classical mech and E&M I mean the upper level ones.
Classical Mechanics at the level of Goldstein, for example?
 
  • #10
jtbell
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No, Goldstein is graduate-school level. Try something like Marion or Symon instead.
 
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