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Degree in Physics to PhD in Computer Science

  1. Feb 22, 2013 #1
    I've read various post on this matter here actually. However I'll do some rant on my story:

    I'm currently a masters student (quantum physics, with maybe 60-70% programming content). I always had an interest in how computer works but I did not got into the CS degree. Now, I am planning for my phd studies. I've engaged into astrophysics which requires very intensive programming - modelling solar systems. This should include a big chuck of numerical and computational stuffs (which I am familiar of).

    Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to some technopreneuer, which one of them are doing data analytics from social network. It involves big data analysis and I found it very interesting. In fact, I may not be able to imagine a future in astrophysics (what is the significance of my research?) but I can imagine a world where analysing big data can be useful for decision making.

    I understand that I sounds completely crazy now, but:

    0. I've imagine big data analysis to use AI or statistical method to process information. But beyond that I am yet to have any idea what I'm saying.

    1. Do I have a shot on continuing my PhD in CS? especially in big data analysis.

    2. If yes, where should I start? I might be able to get a GRE in CS to prove my competencies after self studying on most important subjects: database, Data structure, OS etc.

    Anyway, I'm comfortable with programming but I do not have background in CS. I'm mainly a C programmer with experience in Perl/Python/Matlab/PHP/SQL. I've took 600x in www.edx.org, and passed with 99%.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2013 #2
    Hm.. Anyone had any insight regarding my situation? I have looked around and it seems the field I'm interested in is coined "data scientist". Lucrative, booming, much like quant..
  4. Feb 23, 2013 #3
    Well... I have heard of many physicists getting jobs outside their major field, especially electronics or programming companies. I think that is very doable, since you have some experience in CS. Maybe you will have to take a couple of remedial courses.
  5. Feb 23, 2013 #4
    I got my phd in theoretical particle physics and currently work for a consulting firm doing "big data" type stuff.
  6. Feb 23, 2013 #5
    Ah. That's a relief to know there's some examples here in PF. To further my question, in your case it's PhD Physics -> "big data". Would you say your phd had been helpful in your career? I am currently considering phd. Would a phd in CS (eg AI/NLP/etc) be more helpful than physics phd?
  7. Feb 25, 2013 #6
    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my officemate while I was in a PhD program for CS was an undergraduate physics major. So yes, it is possible to get into graduate school for CS with a physics degree, as long as you have a sufficient background in CS as well.

    As a non-CS major, you will have to show that you know about computers. A good score in the GRE would be good, and hopefully even as a physics major, you took a few courses in computers. A demonstrated programming background would also be helpful... have you worked professionally as a C programmer, or have you just done things with C at school?
  8. Feb 25, 2013 #7
    Thanks for your encouraging response! Sadly, no I don't have professional C programming experience. I was a tutor back then, but that was just it. I'll work towards it.
  9. Feb 25, 2013 #8
    Unfortunately, I don't know how exactly my officemate got in, so I can't give you any additional advice. He was one of the best programmers I ever met though, so I'm sure he found some way to convey this to the admissions committee.

    Good luck!
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