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Did I make a big mistake?

  1. Mar 14, 2012 #1

    I have been changing my major many times over and am trying to figure out what I should do. I started out as a biology major, then went to business, back to biology, then to engineering, and now I'm thinking back to biology. I took the physics for bio majors and did fairly good, and I was good at calculus II as well and studied a lot and got a 4.0 GPA last semester, so I thought I would take a hack at physics for physics/engineer majors, and I am finding myself bored and never wanting to study the material, and everyday I think about going back to biology.

    The thing that scares me though is this whole money thing, I know I shouldn't worry about money or whatever, but it's always creeping there in the back of my mind, knowing that engineers make good money, and I never saw myself interested in medicine.

    In physics class, I am so damn bored everyday, I can't even open my book up to study, I just simply don't care about masses on atwood machines and things sliding down inclined planes. However, I also think that I am perceiving myself as dumb because I didn't take the calculus based physics. Even in math, I'm doing calculus III and finding it boring as well, although I am still doing good in the course, I just don't care about the material at all. I am also extremely burned out because I studied last semester for so many hours.

    What I wonder is, do engineer majors/physics majors REALLY love atwood machines, sliding blocks down planes, and tension in strings? These things are so absolutely dry, and everyday I wish I was studying animals, but I am worried that I am dumb because I can't appreciate the above mentioned topics in physics.

    Secondly, I haven't even given biology a chance, but I am thinking that molecular biology and the very small is boring to me, I would rather study animal behavior, etc. Same goes with chemistry, I just don't find it fun to study electron transfers and other things, I like the macroscopic world much better than the microscopic.

    I went into this physics class thinking everyone would be smart and I would be amongst intelligent peers, but I'm seeing now that they are more like every other class and is nothing special, I just had some self fulfilling prophecy to be amongst smartness.

    To sum things up, am I dumb for being a biology major and not finding math/physics/chemistry intriguing? I can do the topics decently and get A's, but I hate it the whole way through. Should I drop this physics class and just say enough is enough and forget about my perceptions of having to fulfill what makes me think I'm smart enough and just go with biology?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2012 #2
    Atwood machines and inclined planes are boring because it just clever manipulation of variables for the sole purpose of rudimentary calculation. Personally, it gets much more interesting when your trying to discover how nature REALLY works at the fundamental level-- the closer you get to this the more satisfying. The Most important thing in physics I is not to absolutely love it, but to have a deep appreciation of its power. Your more likely to find beauty in other avenues, such as electric fields, maxwell's equations, etc. The most important thing, however, is to be extremely curious of how things really work and to like to problem solve. If you have this burning curiosity and would like to solve some of the problems today, then your sure to make a great physicist--given enough determination and hard-work ethics.
  4. Mar 14, 2012 #3
    Well, in your first physics class, you are learning how to do physics and the material you learn is important for future classes. You'll see forces, energy, momentum, and all that other stuff you saw in first semester physics in future courses.

    To answer your question: go with what you want to do. You say you like biology, so stick with that. Stop worrying about learning things just to look/feel smart.
  5. Mar 15, 2012 #4
    1) It's not dumb to worry about money, it is dumb to not worry about money. The whole function of your official college degree is to be a signal in the job market (otherwise we'd all just be auditing classes for $25 a pop and reading on our own). So make sure you know what the job market looks like in your fields of interest and take that into consideration. Figure out realistically what kind of salary range you'll be OK with. Some people are happy living very frugally, some people plan on having large families, some people want to retire early etc. Also, if you are trying to get a job in Biology with just a B.S., for example, you might need some sort of lab or field research / internship to be a competitive job applicant.

    2) No, not all physics students enjoy classical mechanics.

    3) Going into physics to prove that you are smart or to see if you can do it is a bad move. There are lots of smart people in all fields.

    I guess that addressed some of your questions.
  6. Mar 15, 2012 #5


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    It seems like your real problem is that you like the idea of "doing science", but you don't actually like doing it.

    It that is the case, you need to do some hard thinking (and possibly get some professional help) to sort out what you really want to do with your life.
  7. Mar 15, 2012 #6
    My answer to that is a NO. Atwood machines drove me crazy (although I did do well in the class). Granted, I'm an engineer. If I was a physics major, my answer would obviously be different.

    I seriously doubt that this is the case AlephZero. Woopydalan, I'm assuming your in your first or second year of college. You're dealing with mostly introductory classes. Physics for engineers/scientists is a pre-req for a TON of engineering classes.

    I guess my 2 cents for you, is choose one path, and give it at least 3 semesters before making a decision. Or find a major that can give you both: Biomedical engineering, biochemical engineering, etc.

    Unfortunately for most people, there are going to be classes in your major that you're going to absolutely despise. For me, that was Organic Chemistry and Physics II (E&M). It happens.
  8. Mar 15, 2012 #7
    No, basic mechanics is very boring, and I often question teaching it first. Quantum mechanics and relativity tends to be the things that excite in undergraduate physics. Although, as a physicist, you grow to hate these sorts of books I'd recommend reading something like "Elegant Universe" or "Hidden Reality" by Brian Greene or any number of similar books by the likes of Lisa Randall, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, etc. Just pick one up and read through it and if that material doesn't excite your curiosity then you probably won't enjoy continuing in physics, and if it does...
  9. Mar 15, 2012 #8
    This is a silly question, nobody is dumb for liking one subject over another.

    Nobody can tell you what to do but you will eventually have to buckle down and make a decision unless you are rich and want to attend school for 25 years in which you can ignore this statement.

    In any case, I agree with AlephZero, it appears the OP at the very least needs to grow up a little.
  10. Mar 15, 2012 #9


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    I think most engineers or physicists don't "love" elementary mechanics any more than most mathematicians "love" elementary arithmetic.

    But if you can't see anything beyond the "dry" facts of the baby steps that you have to take at the start of learning any subject, either you are being taught badly, or you should probably be doing something else IMO.
  11. Mar 17, 2012 #10
    Another thing, right now I'm taking Physics I, Chem I, and calc III, and an art class while working and I am feeling honestly burned out. I have no desire to study for any of my classes and I can only work for about 10 minutes before wanting to do something else. Last semester I had a similar courseload and I studied probably 20-30 hours a week for the entire semester, and the satisfaction from getting all A's lasted about 5 minutes after a couple hundred hours of work spread over a semester, and I ended up just tired. A 4.0 GPA wasn't worth the effort to me. If I keep up this way of studying there's no way I can make it through a technical science or engineering degree, I need a break, but theres never time for a break =/
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
  12. Mar 17, 2012 #11
    I'm an engineering undergrad, and I'm currently in physics 1, and it's insanely boring. I am though extremely excited to get into the more advanced classes. I'm also in calculus 2 and bored to death with it.

    It's apparent you want to do something in biology, so go for what you're more interested in. It sounds like you just need a nice little vacation. Do what you need to maintain a good GPA for the rest of the semester and enjoy your summer off.
  13. Mar 17, 2012 #12
    haha that won't be happening, need to take chemistry II during the summer so I can get into organic chemistry next semester, but I will get a month break between spring ending and summer beginning, which will be largely spent doing mindless activities.

    Something that worries me about biology is that the main thing I'm interested in is Zoology, and it seems that the biology curriculum has way too much emphasis on molecular biology, and I would hate memorizing pathways and naming cells just as much as what I'm doing right now, and the fact that memorizing doesn't develop me to think any better whereas atleast physics does.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
  14. Mar 18, 2012 #13
    Hi everyone. First off i have to say that i am not in university yet and that i don't understand how it is to switch majors and so on but i think that i may understand root(s) of your problem. It seems to me that you have a set of problems that are conflicting with each other. First off it seems to me that you like many things at the same time. You like biology, then business, then physics, math... Then you want to be among smart peers only to realize that they are exactly like other students. Third you are worried about money and how much money are you going to make as an engineer. And on top of that is that you don't understand or you don't want to understand that to do anything really good requires hard work and dedication. So when you mix all of these things you get your situation.

    Now i am going to give you an example for my own life. Since i watched Apprentice by Donald Trump i knew i wanted to be in business i just didn't know what kind of business. So back in 2008 or 2009 i bought Investing for Dummies to see what investing is. I found it not so exciting and small part of the book that i have read i didn't understood so i said that it doesn't interests me and that i should forget about it and i did until i ran into FOREX trading. It seemed it promised quick riches so i bought Currency trading for Dummies. After starting a book i found it boring and i decided that FOREX is not really for me too so i skipped to online businesses. Stuff like blogging, affiliate marketing and info products. Thant went on for couple of months until i saw some dude making bunch of money on FX markets. I again decided to try it only to realize that it doesn’t "really" interests me and i decided to "commit" to internet marketing. That went on for about six months until i read Too Big to Fail. That book was a blast and it totally interested me into Finance (Investing and FX markets). Ironically six months before i decided that finance doesn't interest me. So then i read Stock Investing for Dummies and found it interesting also i read about FX markets and found it interesting. Then i came to idea about blogging about markets and thus make money of some ads. But new found interest was not big of a motivator for me to start following the markets every day let alone blog about it every day. So fast forward couple of months into 2011 i decided to start a blog and "investing" in it about 200€. That was a failed investment because of my grad plans and my laziness and saying to me that it really doesn't interest me. Then in summer of last year i had a huge realization about myself. That reason for me tagging everything, as soon as it becomes more difficult, as something that doesn't interests me is not because it doesn't really interests me but because i am not able to commit to something for a very long time. And as soon as something gets difficult i quit and make all sorts of excuses for my quitting. To fast forward couple of months right now i am running a blog plus i am waking up at six o'clock every day to trade my FX demo account(this means that it isn't real money) because i want to move on to trading with real money soon. And maybe the most important thing is that i am having fun doing something that i labeled many times before as something boring to me. I know it's not the same thing or on the same level of importance like your problem but it does share some similarities.

    When i first read your post i immediately remembered my own experience. You are obviously switching majors often and it seems to me that you are simply not ready to commit to one major and work on it with focus and intensity for a very long time (not an easy thing to do). But you should realize that success in any field comes from daily hard work and dedication to one filed for many years and i am sure that many members of PF can back me up about this point.

    AlphaZero said that you might like idea of doing science, but that you actually don’t like doing it. This might be true. But someone could say that i like idea of trading, but that i don't like actually trading. Obviously that isn't true in my case and it might not be true in your too.

    If you wanted to do physics only because you want to feel smart about yourself i think you should forget about it. I think that one does physics because he finds it interesting and beautiful rather than doing it because he feels smart doing it.

    To sum up my views on your problem:

    1) You are not willing to commit to any field and this will get you nowhere. Choose one field and stick to it.

    2) When you label things as boring this might be an excuse from hard work. And i think that when you realize this you can get over that problem.

    3) To develop interest for something it takes time. Also i don't think you can force this process.

    4) Realize want you want to do in your life. Do you want to be a physicist, biologist or something else?

    Also if you want, go to some good therapist and explain him your problems i am sure he can help you out.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  15. Mar 18, 2012 #14
    You've been scammed. One thing about currency trading is that dummies shouldn't do it. The only way of consistently making money with forex trading is to make money off the spread. I buy currency at X, and then immediately sell at X+epsilon. The problem is that epsilon is *tiny* so that you need a ton of capital (i.e. millions of dollars) to make any money at it.

    If you are doing forex through a broker, they are making the money, and you are being scammed. The other thing that you can do is to carry trade, but that involves putting your money in some forex, and then forgetting about it for a year.

    There's also cutting your losses when something isn't working.
  16. Mar 18, 2012 #15
    The problem with that is that once you actually do the mechanics of black holes, you'll find that the problem solving techniques of classical mechanics. If you can't stand doing stuff on inclined planes and pulleys, then you probably won't have much fun solving problems wiht quantum mechanics and space-time.

    Personally, I find this sort of stuff cool, when you start being able to solve problems and build machines that you otherwise wouldn't be able to build. There are some teachers that can kill the excitement out of any subject, but that's why it's useful to do outside reading. For example, I saw this cool documentary on the worlds biggest building on the Discovery Channel and that's all classical mechanics. Then there is mythbusters. Classical mechanics gets more interesting once you start building trebuchets.

    One trick that I had for dull classes was to use my imagination to make the class less dull. You have a silly problem about pulleys, and then you imagine a scene from James Bond (or Johnny English) in which you have to calculate the exact force to put on the pulley or else SPECTRE will rule the world.....

    So maybe a 4.0 GPA isn't worth it. Personally, I get easily distracted, so I spent a lot of time wandering the library and reading random books that looked interesting. It meant that I ended up with a 3.5 GPA rather than 4.0 since I was reading/writing poetry and science fiction, going to art museums, and reading history, when I could have been trying to get that extra ten points on the final. But even though I didn't get into my top choices of graduate schools, it still worked out well for me.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  17. Mar 18, 2012 #16
    If by basic mechanics you mean lower division mechanics one, Id say it was largely boring but I found somethings awesome. The relationship between angular velocity and momentum was really cool to me.
  18. Jan 22, 2013 #17
    The real beauty of a first mechanics course, is not in the problems or any of the results . It is the ability to predict the behavior of a system in a quantitative way starting from a very very small set of assumptions (laws). Even more amazing is that those few assumptions can be used to describe a very wide range of apparently very different systems. A classical mechanics class is usually the first time you can see that . All physics courses that follow are about finding different or better assumptions in order to describe a wider range a systems and phenomena.
  19. Jan 22, 2013 #18


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    If you find it boring then you are using the wrong textbook. A book like morin will take the usual atwood's machines and inclined planes and tensions in strings but place it in a much more complicated setting where you actually have to think. In conclusion: get a better textbook.
  20. Jan 24, 2013 #19
    I have to say, when I took my first physics class, my mind was blown. I'm not sure it was any more exciting than the average physics class. However, it was the first time I really tried to understand math. Before that, I just understood what made sense right away (which, maybe was not insignificant, since I was a bright kid, but still pitiful and almost embarrassing in retrospect) and took the rest on faith. The other thing was that math and theory could predict the results of experiments, real things that happened out there in the world. Lots of physicists have similar fond memories of their first physics class. I'm not sure that I STILL find that stuff exciting. It's old news to me now, so I might have to build trebuchets. Well, that, and ponder the conceptual foundations, along the lines of Spivak's new book on elementary mechanics, some portion of which, I think you can find online.
  21. Jan 25, 2013 #20
    Bull, I do physics for both of those reasons. That does not imply my interest in physics is insincere.
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