Doing a joint honours in maths and physics or just physics?

  • #1
Hi,
I'm currently a freshman and I need to choose my program next year! My goal is to pursue physics and go to graduate school for theoretical physics (experimental is still an option). I firstly planned to do a joint honours in mathematics and physics which is offered by the Math department in my university, to have an advantage in terms if math and analytical knowledge over my peers in future. But after 1 semester of university, I realized that I'm not interested in "pure" math and I only like learning math when I can potentially use it for understanding physics! the pre-req courses that I took to enter this program (math&physics) are heavily theoretical and are not even required for physics honours. Is the math I'm doing unnecessary for physics and I'm taking the wrong path? I don't want to pursue mathematics in grad school and I'm sure of that. Many people (upper years) tell me that an honours in physics combined with a computer science minor is far better than math and physics honours, but they don't tell me a good reason why. Is getting a joint honour in mathematics unnecessary and a waste of energy? I'm really confused. I know there are some really experienced physicists here and that's why I'm posting this here. I would appreciate your help!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS
 

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  • #2
ZapperZ
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Have you talked to your advisor? <- ZapperZ's standard response to question like this.

Zz.
 
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  • #3
StatGuy2000
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Hi,
I'm currently a freshman and I need to choose my program next year! My goal is to pursue physics and go to graduate school for theoretical physics (experimental is still an option). I firstly planned to do a joint honours in mathematics and physics which is offered by the Math department in my university, to have an advantage in terms if math and analytical knowledge over my peers in future. But after 1 semester of university, I realized that I'm not interested in "pure" math and I only like learning math when I can potentially use it for understanding physics! the pre-req courses that I took to enter this program (math&physics) are heavily theoretical and are not even required for physics honours. Is the math I'm doing unnecessary for physics and I'm taking the wrong path? I don't want to pursue mathematics in grad school and I'm sure of that. Many people (upper years) tell me that an honours in physics combined with a computer science minor is far better than math and physics honours, but they don't tell me a good reason why. Is getting a joint honour in mathematics unnecessary and a waste of energy? I'm really confused. I know there are some really experienced physicists here and that's why I'm posting this here. I would appreciate your help!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS

To the OP:

From your posts on other threads, I know you are pursuing your studies at the University of Toronto (U of T for short, for those of you not from Canada), which was my alma mater, so I can provide my own insights.

The joint honours specialist program in mathematics and physics that you mention are designed for those students with a strong interest in both math and physics and who have a potential interest in pursuing further graduate studies in math, applied math (in particular those who intend on pursuing research in mathematical physics in the math department), or physics (with an emphasis on the theoretical side of various physics research area).

If however, you find that you have no real interest in pursuing further graduate studies in math, then in my own opinion, I would certainly agree that there is no need for you to continue the joint specialist program. I have seen no evidence to suggest that completing the joint specialist program will really give you any more advantage to pursuing graduate studies in physics than just completing a regular honours physics specialist or major program, and you could potentially use the opening available from taking certain math courses to take physics courses that may be of greater interest to you. Even the honours physics specialist will still require you to take many math courses, so you will not miss out on key math knowledge that you will need.

As for the advice about the physics honours with a minor in computer science, I would suspect that the reason why this is suggested is two-fold:
(a) computing skills are an important skill for physics research, and
(b) the minor in computer science will provide you with employable skills outside of academia, in case academia turns out to not be your thing (or if you are unable to secure employment in academia)

I should add that if you want more specific advice you can certainly bring your concerns to the associate chair for undergraduate studies in the Physics Department, or talk to other people who can advise you at U of T. Just my 2 cents.
 
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  • #4
Have you talked to your advisor? <- ZapperZ's standard response to question like this.

Zz.

I have an appointment in 4 days! So not yet!
 
  • #5
To the OP:

From your posts on other threads, I know you are pursuing your studies at the University of Toronto (U of T for short, for those of you not from Canada), which was my alma mater, so I can provide my own insights.

The joint honours specialist program in mathematics and physics that you mention are designed for those students with a strong interest in both math and physics and who have a potential interest in pursuing further graduate studies in math, applied math (in particular those who intend on pursuing research in mathematical physics in the math department), or physics (with an emphasis on the theoretical side of various physics research area).

If however, you find that you have no real interest in pursuing further graduate studies in math, then in my own opinion, I would certainly agree that there is no need for you to continue the joint specialist program. I have seen no evidence to suggest that completing the joint specialist program will really give you any more advantage to pursuing graduate studies in physics than just completing a regular honours physics specialist or major program, and you could potentially use the opening available from taking certain math courses to take physics courses that may be of greater interest to you. Even the honours physics specialist will still require you to take many math courses, so you will not miss out on key math knowledge that you will need.

As for the advice about the physics honours with a minor in computer science, I would suspect that the reason why this is suggested is two-fold:
(a) computing skills are an important skill for physics research, and
(b) the minor in computer science will provide you with employable skills outside of academia, in case academia turns out to not be your thing (or if you are unable to secure employment in academia)

I should add that if you want more specific advice you can certainly bring your concerns to the associate chair for undergraduate studies in the Physics Department, or talk to other people who can advise you at U of T. Just my 2 cents.

Thanks man it was really helpful.
Did you study maths and physics honours?
 
  • #6
StatGuy2000
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Thanks man it was really helpful.
Did you study maths and physics honours?

I had originally thought about pursuing the math and physics joint specialist, or the math and computer science joint specialist, but eventually settled for the math specialist alone with a major in statistics.

Unlike yourself, I realized during my undergraduate studies that my interest was more on the math side rather than the physics side.
 
  • #7
I had originally thought about pursuing the math and physics joint specialist, or the math and computer science joint specialist, but eventually settled for the math specialist alone with a major in statistics.

Unlike yourself, I realized during my undergraduate studies that my interest was more on the math side rather than the physics side.

Oh I see.
Do you know anybody else in this forum who can help me more specifically? Like somebody who majored in Physics from UofT?
Thanks man
 
  • #8
ZapperZ
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Oh I see.
Do you know anybody else in this forum who can help me more specifically? Like somebody who majored in Physics from UofT?
Thanks man

1. You should wait till AFTER you have your talk with your Advisor.

2. Considering that you are there and on campus, couldn't you ask around for the more senior students who may have gone through those courses/programs? I can't believe that there aren't any. Your Advisor may be able to refer you to another student for you to talk to.

3. If UoT has a physics club or something similar, this is a very good reason to join and socialize with your fellow students, if for the sole reason of establishing contacts and connections. This is part of growing up and getting yourself ready to join the real world of employment and career.

Zz.
 
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  • #9
jtbell
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A Google search for "university of toronto society of physics students" led me to this page:

https://www.ulife.utoronto.ca/organizations/view/id/1074

Unfortunately the link from there to the society's home page doesn't work, but the Google search also lists a Facebook page which may have replaced the traditional web site.
 
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  • #10
StatGuy2000
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The Physics Student Union (PHYSU -- the student society for physics students at the University of Toronto -- U of T for short) doesn't have a web page of its own, but there is a link that is available on the following link:

https://www.physics.utoronto.ca/people/web/group/PHYSU/

To the OP:

In addition to what I've posted here on this thread, my advice would be to follow @ZapperZ 's advice and speak to the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies (the key person you would speak to regarding undergraduate matters), as well as the members of the students in the PHYSU. The contact information for the Associate Chair can be found in the following link below.

https://www.physics.utoronto.ca/physics-at-uoft/contact/chairs-addresses/?searchterm=associate chair
 
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