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Do graduate students learn the math as they go?

  1. Jul 27, 2011 #1
    I was looking at the course structure of a MSc (physics) program and all the subjects that are required are all physics - no math. Some of the topics are general relativity, particle physics, physical cosmology and quantum mechanics - would the mathematics required for such topics be beyond undergraduate level math? Or is the math generally taught concurrently within the class?

    And for a PhD student, are most of the mathematics they need undergraduate level mathematics? Do they generally take classes or is it all just research?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2011 #2
    The math will be taught concurrently with the graduate course and it will also be beyond undergrad understanding. You may be required to self-study some math as well. But keep in mind, at that level of physics it's pretty much all abstract mathematics.
  4. Jul 28, 2011 #3
    The answer to your second question depends on where you are in the world. But wherever you are, at some stage of a physics research degree you are going to come across problems that need maths you haven't seen before to solve. One of the skills you need to learn is the ability to pick this up yourself as you need it.
  5. Jul 30, 2011 #4


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    Yeah - I've figured that I actually learn things MUCH faster if I learn them as I go. It's some sort of motivational thing - I don't have any aesthetic appreciation for the "beauty of math", so math is really only motivating if it motivates something.
  6. Jul 31, 2011 #5


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    Agreed. One of the most important skills learned in grad school, regardless of the field, is the ability to become an independent learner and teach oneself whatever one needs to do their work.
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