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Does Geophysics major require a lot of Math?

  1. Jan 15, 2010 #1

    I'm a high school senior who has strong a interest in Math(taking DE in my senior year). After doing some research on the Geophysical engineering program at the local university: Colorado School of Mines, I think that geophysics is a very interesting because it involves a lot of travels and it is the hybrid of many sciences.

    However, what I wonder is whether geophysics is the "black sheep" among the sciences. So do you think that the curriculum of geophysics is as demanding as sciences like Physics and Astronomy? Does it involve a lot of advanced math? I just want to feel challenged in my college years.

    thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2010 #2
    Yes. At my university, the uppermost required math courses are Engineering Math, Introduction to Partial Differential Equations, and Introduction to Complex Analysis. I'm a bit surprised by the Complex Analysis course.
  4. Jan 16, 2010 #3

    D H

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    A lot of oil has been found using Fourier analysis techniques. Without that complex analysis course, the Fourier analyses you most likely will do will just be cookbook math.
  5. Jan 16, 2010 #4
    I see. I figured there would be a practical use for it. I'm a Physics BS and I remember that Introduction to Complex Analysis is a prerequisite for one of the graduate Physics MS courses.
  6. Jan 16, 2010 #5
    So geophysics has as much math as physics and astronomy?
  7. Jan 16, 2010 #6

    D H

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    Does it really matter?
  8. Jan 16, 2010 #7
    As I have stated, I'm choosing a major for college and geophysics appears to be a good fit for me. I just want to make sure I will do a lot of math in geophysics as math is my favorite subject and I want to be challenged in my college years.

    In addition, I also want to see if quantitative and programming skills geophysics majors have are comparable to those of the physics and astronomy majors so that employers from non-traditional fields like finances and banking view geophysics majors the same as those "noble science" majors like physics and astronomy.

    Thank you for your insights!
  9. Jan 17, 2010 #8
    Do you like using math only as a tool, or are you interested in why it works?

    Sure, a physics undergrad will take an analysis, algebra, or topology course here and there, but it's not their priority. You'll spend way more time with E&M, thermodynamics, mechanics, etc. And, once you take a few upper level courses in the math and physics departments, you'll notice how different a physicist and a mathematician approach math.

    It all boils down to how you answer the question I posed.
  10. Jan 17, 2010 #9
    I'm talking about geophysics here. I'm interested in developing computational techniques and problem solving (like doing number theory problems or working on proofs.)
  11. Jan 17, 2010 #10
    Sounds like you want to be a math major.
  12. Jan 17, 2010 #11
    Yeah I used to consider Math as a major. However, math is not in my plan anymore as I realize I'm not as good as a lot of people( I immigrated from an Asian country, so I have seen so many math beasts in my life), and a BS in Math wont help me get a job making enough money to feed my family. My old parents wont last that long to see me complete my PhD in math.

    So, well, responsibility is above interest in my case. But I'm trying to find the balance by finding the applied science, engineering field that employs the most math.
    Geophysics appears to be a good fit for me since I like to travel.
    The purpose of this thread is just to make sure that geophysics majors will do a lot of math.
  13. Jan 17, 2010 #12
    Yup, you need to major in PURE math then. Number theory is absolutely useless to any type of physics. Same with proofs. Physics majors usually aren't too keen on the rigorous proofs in upper-level math classes.
  14. Jan 17, 2010 #13
    I know that I sound like a pure math major. But as I said above, a major in Math is not in my plan anymore because it's not a realistic option. I just want to find a science/engineering major that does not just simply apply the existent equations and laws, but also gives me an opportunity the develop new computational techniques and use creativity to solve problems.
  15. Jan 17, 2010 #14
    OK, you referenced number theory and proofs specifically, and that is why I mentioned pure math. In regards to those, there is NO other major that will get into proofs or number theory other than math majors.

    Engineering and science is all about solving problems, so you'll see that in whatever sub-discipline you decide to go in.

    Developing new computational techniques? Sounds like you might like numerical analysis. That's part of what applied math majors study.
  16. Jan 17, 2010 #15
    I would bet that if math is what you want to do, you can find enough math in geophysics to occupy you for the rest of your life. But if you have specific requirements like I only want to do purely mathematical proofs in topics in topology, well then you may have some decisions to make.
  17. Jan 18, 2010 #16
    If you're really good at math then there is a place for you in geophysics, and if you're simply OK at maths there is a place for you in geophysics too.

    My advice to you if you want to go down the mathematical route would be to do an undergrad in maths or physics and then apply to do geophysics for a PhD. That route is open to you because when you get to PhD level there are a lot of projects that involve algorithm development in geophysics and if you're really good at maths you will probably be favoured over a geophysicist with minimal mathematical knowledge, but you need to make sure that you take some courses in geology, rock, and fluid mechanics as an undergrad and probably some seismology as well.

    Seismology is where the money is at the moment. Cutting edge stuff is full waveform tomography, and reverse time migration. There is certainly a lot of maths and physics behind that stuff.

    Although if you really want to make money you should get into the interpretation of the seismic image. To do that you would really want to do a lot of geology, so thath would be the less mathematical route.
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