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Direction about future

  1. Feb 19, 2016 #1
    I am finishing high school this year and i want to be a theoretical physicist. My academic result in mathematics is not good throughout last 5 years. But physics is my dream. I want to overcome every obstacles. I think i am not bad at mathematics but the reason behind my bad result was lack of concentration. I am going to take double major. Can any one clarify what is the differences between high school math and college math. I also want to know if i work hard and concentrate then is it possible to publish research paper in junior year? My interests are space-time, string theory and m-theory. Please someone help......
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2016 #2

    It is all about hard work and dedication and it's never too late to start! For myself the math was a necessary evil, but after having gone through it I started finding itself a very interesting subject.

    The main difference between high school and college math would be the emphasis on definitions and theorems. It is much more about understanding the math rather than applying some function or solving some equation.

    Where I am from (Sweden) research projects are more common during the first year of a master's degree rather than in the last year of a bachelor, but hey, it has more to do with your knowledge in the subject and finding a suitable supervisor who can guide you through it rather than anything else.

    Good luck!
  4. Feb 19, 2016 #3
    I want to do the research by myself! I need pen and papers only, for theoretical physics! Yes, I am becoming over confident but this is not my hallucination. What do you say about this?
  5. Feb 19, 2016 #4


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    If your grades in math for the past five years aren't good, whatever that means, you won't do well in college physics classes, all of which heavily use math. It's possible to make up for those deficiencies, but it will take a lot of work.
  6. Feb 19, 2016 #5


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    If you're serious about physics you have to be serious about mathematics. If lack of concentration has been your problem through high school, you need to figure out a way to fix this as you enter university. Often, it's not just a case willpower. You need to look at your study habits, environment, and particular challenges and develop a realistic plan to enable you to excel.

    In high school you are taught by professional teachers. In some cases you can get really good ones. In others you can get people who have barely taken any more advanced math than what they are teaching. In university you are taught by people who have a much deeper understanding of the material, but haven't had as much emphasis on development of teaching skills. They treat you like an adult and you have a lot more responsibility for learning the material on your own. You also have a peer-bottleneck. In high school the math is taught more-or-less for a general population. In university it's taught at a level for people who are going to go on in academic careers. And of course, there is a lot more material and a lot more depth to it.

    It's possible to get involved in research in your junior year. Publishing a paper is highly unlikely.

    I think you have an unrealistic idea of what's involved in research. Even highly advanced undergraduates don't have the background to conduct publishable independent research. You might find the occasional example, but this is not the norm and not even within a couple standard deviations of the mean. You should explore ideas that interest you, of course. But if you're serious about learning research skills, you'll do a lot better if you can find an experienced mentor.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 19, 2016
  7. Feb 19, 2016 #6

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    Also, even professional theorists seldom work alone. A quick check of the arXiv shows that 75-80% of the theory papers are multi-author, and a good fraction of the remainder are proceedings.
  8. Feb 20, 2016 #7


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    Most string theorists don't start research until second year of grad school (I have friends doing string theory/quantum gravity type stuff). I'm talking about even the very top grad students. Many advisors won't talk to you much about research until you have at least taken QFT if not a string theory course.

    This doesn't mean you can't do research or publish as an undergrad. I used to do computational work in a theory group and published a paper. It's very unlikely you will in string theory, but undergrads can definitely do serious research.

    Also, a lot of high school students are interested in string theory, etc. because it has been played up in popular science. String theory, or theory research is a lot different than what you see in the media.

    Additiinally, not as many people are doing pure string theory these days. Instead they are using techniques from string theory or the string theory framework to study other problems which may apply to the real world. For example , there are a lot of people coming from pure string theory backgrounds study solid state systems. A professor I know of (haven't talked to personally yet) wrote such a paper which was about a certain solid state phenomena in which he applied M theory.
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