Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Does anyone know somebody who

  1. Mar 11, 2007 #1
    Does anybody know somebody who has a Ph.d in Pure Mathematics and a separate Ph.d in Theoretical Physics? If so, can I ask who this is and where they're at?

    edit: grammar
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2007 #2
    developped an e-commerce company
  4. Mar 11, 2007 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    He's working on Ph.D in Chemistry. He decided he needed a job, so he's doing Chemistry now.
  5. Mar 11, 2007 #4
    jesus, 3 PhDs?
  6. Mar 11, 2007 #5


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I'm kidding of course.

    Who in their right mind would do a Ph.D in Theoretical Physics and Pure Mathematics?

    Let's say Hawking has a Ph.D in Theoretical Physics. He certainly knows a lot of mathematics, but he doesn't need a Ph.D to show that he does. It's already clear, so why bother getting another Ph.D?
  7. Mar 11, 2007 #6
    A few years ago my mum met some old french guy with 6 PhD's!
  8. Mar 11, 2007 #7


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    And she believed him?
  9. Mar 11, 2007 #8
    I understand Hawking is great. And he knows his math better than most physicists can dream. But is he researching math? I'll check archives, but I thought he only used the math, not researching the math for the sake of math. If so I'd love to see a paper. :smile:

    I'm not seeking anyone who was after this for recognition or clout. It's a straight forward question, does anyone know someone who has a strong passion for both, and got degrees in both so that they could do research in both?

    It seems logical that there should be. But now a days, with this arrogant divide between math and physics, stupidly hating each other, it seems extremely difficult, almost impossible, now a days to truly have a deep understand of both to the point where you actively do research in both.

    Maybe I have my history wrong, but lets consider, Newton, or Gauss, or Fourier. Weren't all these people at the top of both fields in their day? Is there anyone, today, that has risen to the ph.d level in both?

    B/c, I've been considering trying for both. I want my math ph.d before a physics ph.d, simply b/c I don't like experiments and I do love proofs. But I love the physics theories deeply, and I am very interested in the cutting edge material. I was thinking of getting my masters in physics simultaneously with my pure math ph.d, and then maybe going on to get a ph.d in theoretical physics there after. I was just curious if anyone has done this before I might?

    PS. I was going to call you on the 3rd ph.d, but someone beat me to it. :smile:
  10. Mar 11, 2007 #9
    and i'm assuming he was an 80 year old millionare who couldn't hold down a job
  11. Mar 11, 2007 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member


  12. Mar 11, 2007 #11


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I have no idea where you got this because it's not like that at all. Maybe for ignorant undergraduates, but that's it.

    My mathematics professors at school are involved in Physics as well. A lot of problems come from Physics, and so on.

    You got it all wrong there. I'm sure it's quite common that people publish research in both Physics and Mathematics. To do so does not require a Ph.D in both.
  13. Mar 11, 2007 #12
    Unfortunately I do see a lot of contempt. Whether anyone wants to admit to it outside a closed office or not, is moot. I think it's childish and I wish I didn't see this as often as I do. Be it from the young 20 yr olds or the veteran professors, I hear often that one side doesn't have much love for the other.

    But alas, people for some reason like to cheer on sports too, and somehow they hold contempt for other fans and teams sometimes. It baffles my mind. :confused:


    Fair enough. I'm not a child, 30, and I'm not wet behind the ears, 6 yr military vet, w/ 4 yrs stationed in Japan. But that don't mean anything...

    Can you please give me some names of professors who do both? Besides Brian Greene. I looked him up at Columbia. It appears he is one of many TPs who have a joint professorship, but it doesn't appear he goes after the purests of mathematics. I have only found 1 pure mathematician who has a dual professorship, and I'm going to forget his name, but he's at MIT.

    Mostly, I'm looking for mathematicians who are so apt at physics, that they contribute heavily to physics, but without loosing sight of their love of mathematics.

    Seeing how I can't find many examples, it's lead me to believe I should do both Ph.d's.

    How crazy, or near impossible does it seem to do both nearly at the same time?

    I believe it's within the human's abilities. There are MudPhuds who prove that in their world something similar is possible.

    But maybe you're right, maybe it's not necessary. Do you think a masters level is enough on the physics half to be able to do research at the cutting edge of theoretical physics?
  14. Mar 12, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It is completely untrue that physicists and mathematicians hate each other. There may be some good-natured ribbing going on regarding the relevance and efficiency of various approaches towards a particular problem, but that's true even among physicists (and presumably among mathematicians as well).

    The reason that most people don't do research in two fields is that it is too hard to keep up with so much. The historical figures you mention lived in times when the amount of scientific knowledge was a miniscule fraction of what it is today. It is extremely difficult even to keep up with everything in a very small subfield of physics. Attempting to do that in two unrelated subfields is not practical in most cases.

    The people you are looking for are usually called mathematical physicists. The best example is probably Ed Witten at IAS. He is a physicist who has made major contributions to mathematics. Then there are people like Sergiu Klainermann at Princeton who are mathematicians studying problems inspired by physics. I could go on for a long time. Neither Brian Greene nor Stephen Hawking fit in this category, by the way.

    Also, none of these people have dual Ph.D.'s. I've never heard of anyone doing that. There's absolutely no reason to do so. Having a Ph.D. isn't necessary or sufficient for doing research in any field. You learn what you need or want to as you go.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2007
  15. Mar 12, 2007 #14
    Yes she did, and there was no reason to disbelieve him I suppose. We weren't there so how can we know if he was for real or not? It would be fairly obvious to tell if he was a dud.

    Or maybe he just loved studying...
  16. Mar 12, 2007 #15
    Stingray, thanks for the post.

    Actually, I am really aware of what you speak of. I never heard of the guy from Princeton, but I looked him up - I really like his work. I started to read his philosophical paper on PDE's, but I decided I would reply real quick.

    But a few notes. Ed Witten is well known at my school, he's done a few seminars with us, and Mathematical Physics is one of our biggest areas; Topology/ Geometry and Dynamics may be bigger.

    So, Mr. Witten, while he has lead to deep insights in mathematics, is not a mathematician I am told, by quite a few mathematicians. Shame he doesn't do both, since he has that piercing mind.

    And, the Princeton guy appears to be the same, he does the rigour behind physics (which is awesome) but does not do theoretical physics.

    Here is a guy you may know, Albert Schwarz, http://www.math.ucdavis.edu/research/profiles/schwarz
    His work has turned out, it appears to be the closest I can find of a mathematician doing both.

    I understand the argument of time, I do, and I don't think it applies to everyone. I know professors who have 3 and 4 areas of research. I was just wondering had anyone split those between mathematics and physics.

    I agree with just learning what you need to. But most people need the path to a ph.d b/c 1) helps get a job 2) it's probably quicker to learn all that material in school vice self-teaching. But, I guess both of those are questionable too.

    Please drop more names if you have the time. I'd love to look them up and see what they're doing.
  17. Mar 12, 2007 #16
    John Baez at UC-Riverside

    He actually posts on this website from time to time in the Strings section.

    Why is it a shame that Witten is not a "mathematician" if he has made significant contribution to the research of mathematics? Does the label matter?

    Baez is a mathematician who works in quantum gravity and in mathematics. Check him out.
  18. Mar 12, 2007 #17
    Thanks. Yup, Professor Baez is definitely heading in my future direction. Awesome.

    No, don't get me wrong, it's not a shame Witten does not research mathematics. I was just jesting it was a pitty for us mathematicians that he does not do mathematics fulltime, b/c he could probably best a lot of us. Ya know, 1 team jealous of another team's star player, just a joke really.

    Thanks for the Beaz link. You really made my day with him being in Cali. I'm absolutely tired of the weather in the east. I intend to apply to most of the schools in Cali, so that I can almost guarantee I'm not staying in the east. Thanks.

    No you're right, the lable does not matter. Just the ability to do both for me is all I want.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2007
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook