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Courses Courses to take

  1. Jul 21, 2009 #1
    I'm starting CMU in about a month and I ultimately want to get a PhD and do research. My dream is to work on theoretical physics and I wanted to know what you guys think about what classes I should make sure I take while I am an undergraduate.
    I don't know if I am smart enough to work on theoretical physics but I would much rather the problem be that I just couldn't handle the material than getting there and seeing I missed too much along the way and just don't have the necessary backing.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2009 #2


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    Homework Helper

    Become a physics major and they'll tell you what courses to take.

    But just so you know what's coming: you're probably going to have introductory-level courses in mechanics and electromagnetism, then more advanced classes in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics/thermodynamics, and electromagnetism (again). And after that you'll probably have a choice of some more specialized classes in things like particle physics, general relativity, quantum computing, plasma physics, etc. but by that time you'll have at least an idea of what looks interesting, so don't worry about that yet.

    Oh, and there are also math courses: vector calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and complex analysis are pretty typical. But again, they'll tell you what the requirements for a physics major are.
  4. Jul 21, 2009 #3
    Alright but what about things like field theory in math. I could potentially see that being useful but my friends who are already there as physics majors haven't considered the course and no one has advised them to take it
  5. Jul 21, 2009 #4
    Field theory? As in, modern algebra? Algebra has its uses, but an algebra class from a math perspective isn't very worthwhile. You'll learn sufficient algebra in graduate level physics classes, and it will be from a physicist's perspective, which is what you care about.
  6. Jul 21, 2009 #5


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    Or if you mean field theory as in quantum field theory (QED, QCD, etc.), most students don't get to that until graduate school.
  7. Jul 22, 2009 #6
    Why do you think algebraic field theory might be useful?
  8. Jul 22, 2009 #7
    You should definitely have a strong background in mathematics, especially pure math. Take some courses on lie groups, complex analysis, PDE, and topology especially.
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