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Did I make a mistake in choosing physics over math?

  1. Apr 2, 2009 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I've been accepted to a graduate school that is good in gravitation, which is what I want to do. Here is the thing: lately I've been wondering if I should've become a mathematician instead of a physicist. I was a dual math/physics major for my undergrad. work, and loved the math side - mostly geometry, algebra, topology, etc. I did research in general relativity as an undergrad. and loved it, but my research was on the mathy side of things (finding isometry groups, classifying things, etc.).

    Now the grad program I'm heading to is good in gravity, but I think leans more toward the astrophysics approach - specifically a lot of data analysis, modeling binary coalescence, etc. The problem is I don't know what that really entails. Will there be any math in this stuff? I love my upper division physics courses, esp. quantum, but I can't imagine my life doing some kind of research without utilizing any pretty math (manifolds, groups, etc.). Have I made a huge mistake in choosing physics over math? What kind of math is typically employed for the average theoretical astrophysicist? How "mathy" can one make this stuff?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2009 #2
    I had a very good friend who came from a math background, she did very similar undergraduate research as you have done. She did her PhD in Numerical Relativity/GR. Her word is extremely "mathy."

    I really do not think you will be wanting for mathematics while working in GR or Theoretical Astrophysics.
  4. Apr 3, 2009 #3
    I don't think "numerical" would qualify as mathy here. What kind of stuff did she do specifically?
  5. Apr 3, 2009 #4
    I'm not a graduate student, but from those I've spoken to....you probably won't be wishing you had more math with GR.

    I'm an applied math major, astrophysics minor that is hoping to follow a similar route as you into a physics graduate program. As I get closer to the application process, I'm really wondering if I should go the math route? I enjoy math more than physics, but....all the math I enjoy "playing" with involves theoretical physics.
    (If that is confusing...I want to do mathematics at the graduate level...but everything I seem to enjoy in mathematics ends up being something that is applied to cosmology, GR, etc.)
    I doubt you'll remember this thread (or that I'll remember it), but as you get into the swing of things, I'd really be interested to hear your take on how "mathy" your program has been.

    Good luck!
  6. Apr 3, 2009 #5
    It would be hard for you to determine the validity of that statement since you are not the one who originally used the term "mathy" which I don't believe has a clear definition.

    Either way, she did some work on black hole thermodynmics, quantum gravity, and neutron equations of state constrained from gravitational wave astronomy. The latter work on neutron equations of state was mainly done using numerical simulations of neutron star inspirals which is why I included the numerical statement.

    Either way, the best thing for quasar to do is to have a look around on the Arxiv at recent papers the faculty at the institution (s)he will be attending have published and decide if there is enough elegant math to satisfy him.
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