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Done with Physics

  1. Feb 13, 2008 #1
    I'm really angsty right now because I've decided recently that I don't want to do Physics anymore as my degree. I can't imagine what sort of job I'd get if I got a BS in Physics, and although my intent was always to get a Masters, I don't even know if I'm interested in Physics anymore. I loved it in high school-- I love it conceptually-- but I loathe labs, I hate HATE HATE anything hands on with little fiddly calipers and stupid old computers and inclined planes that fall over every two seconds.

    Now I don't know what to do and I'm really worried. I have an A+ in the course right now, but this year has been enough to show me I have no talent whatsoever in Physics. I'm interested in Computer Science but I fear that I will not be too good at that either... and will I end up in the same position at the end of four years of study, unable to find a job? (If I like it enough I would try for a Masters in anything though.)

    My other option would be to get a double major in English and Film. I'm pretty good at those classes...
    but they're not so interesting as Physics and Calculus and the like. And my academic advisor has already told me that I don't have enough time to major in English and still do some of the classes in Physics that interest me. (I've already fulfilled my Science requirement for a Humanities degree... and Humanities for a Science degree.... :S)

    I'm starting to think I can't do anything. Maybe I should drop out of university all together and become some sort of travelling acrobat. But I'm so good at acrobatics, either.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2008 #2


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    Woah woah calm down. You scored an A+ in a physics course and you think you're not good at doing anything? Doesn't make sense to me. Why are you considering a field that is completely unrelated to physics such as english and film?
  4. Feb 13, 2008 #3
    I only scored an A+ because the exam was ridiculously easy and I have a very nice lab partner who takes over whenever I lose my rag because I can't measure a cylinder eighty-five times... :P

    Well, I am considering English mostly because I'm quite good at it... but it's even less promising career-wise than pure physics... Film, however, I really do like. I would be interested in doing editing and computer-related stuff in that field (graphics and the like.) But that's not so much a degree... I was thinking Computer Science would help with it, though...

    Every couple of weeks I have a freak attack about what I am going to do. :( I think everyone goes through this though! (Except for my father. Straight into medical school and happy as a clam. >.<)
  5. Feb 13, 2008 #4


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    What about computer engineering? Sounds like a compromise to me. You get to study the physics you love, which is directly related to computers. And you wouldn't have to worry that much about finding a job with it.
  6. Feb 13, 2008 #5


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    How far have you progressed in college (assuming that you are a college student)?
    How far have you progressed with your Mathematics courses, and how strong is your mathematical development?
    How good are you right now at computer programming?

    If you are not progressing well and you have been a student for maybe 3(?) years, then maybe consider vocational training. Have you possibly misjudged yourself and have strong talent in some subject which you have not spent enough time developing? You stated being talented with English and Film. Art? Language(foreign, English as Second Language, interpreting, translating)?, Journalism? Finance? Other sciences, maybe Biology or Microbiology (somewhat less mathematically intensive)?
  7. Feb 13, 2008 #6
    Remember too that in Physics you get out of the lab aspects pretty quickly. Just make sure you go for theoretical if you love the math. Perhaps consider going all the way and getting a PhD. There are so many fields you can do, and many with computers.
    There's always a lot of simulation work to be done, whether it be material science 3D modeling, Atomic Physics, simulations of particle collisions, Lattice QCD, etc.
    I'm a huge fan of computers/programming as well as physics and am slowly working my way into Lattice QCD/Gauge Theory.
    Maybe what you should do is surf the internet, looking at universities around the world and what current research in physics is going on. Maybe that'll re-spark your interest. Theres a whole universe beyond simple newtonian mechanics and basic E and M, and it only gets better.
  8. Feb 13, 2008 #7
    Comp Sci you work very little with physics.
    Of course you take the basic, mechanics, e&m, and maybe quantum but thats about it.

    If you go into Comp Eng some more physics might be involved because you take EE as well.

    There are no labs in Comp Sci which is nice! Actually there is...Digital Design, but depending what your branch off into, you could also take like VLSI design that would be lab based as well.
    Of course you'll have programming projects but I just do that at home which is nice! just blast the music and drink coffee in the comfort of your home.
    I remember the 4 hour physics labs, blah

    I really hated labs in physics as well
  9. Feb 13, 2008 #8
    I agree with K.J.Healey. I've been through those physics labs that you're referring to and gosh were they boring. Rolling a cylinder down an incline, swinging a pendulum and bouncing a ball against a wall get old real quick. The good news is that's only temporary! It is just part of the way most physics programs are structured...you have to understand the boring classical stuff before you can advance. Try to make it through the boredom of physics I and II (which I am assuming you're referring to) and you'll find out that things will be much different in the following years. The physics and the math will suddenly become very challenging and very thought-provoking (don't mean to scare you but I assume you like to be challenged).

    The labs in upper level physics are very interesting too. You get to do more exciting stuff, depending on the program you're attending. I am attending a small public school in Minnesota and we got to do some cool stuff. Most departments also encourage student projects and research and they will provide the toys to do that...all you have to do is be creative and have fun.

    I also had a similar impression back when I was in physics I and II, but that changed quickly.

    Another thing I HIGHLY recommend is to pursue phyiscs topics outside your curriculum. Just go to the library or to a local bookstore like Barnes and Noble (if you live in the US) and look in the physics section. You're bound to find some very interesting books that were written with the layman in mind but with your math and general physics background you will appreciate them more, and before you know it, you will develop an obsession and you'd wanna know more, read more advanced books, and learn more about physics.

    Just don't let the simplicity of basic physics discourage you. There is a LOT more to this discipline than rolling balls and swinging pendulums. Good luck.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2008
  10. Feb 13, 2008 #9
    Dear latitude - reading your post is like reading a letter from myself at age 20. I don't think my marks were as high as yours but I had the same misgivings about my aptitude for physics and I also flirted with English lit.

    It sounds as though you only hate *lab courses* - not experimental physics. It's a well-known fact that most undergraduate lab courses are rather miserable. However, real physics is much more civilized. If at all possible, try to get a summer research job. I had a wonderful research job for 8 months (I did a co-op term beginning halfway through my second year of university) and that experience was really what persuaded me that I could do research.

    My advice to you is to be patient with yourself and don't limit your pursuits to what you think will make you employable. You can do English AND physics AND accomplish some acrobatics on the side! My undergrad took five years instead of four but I got through an honours B.Sc in physics and finished one course short of a double major in English. Although I disdained the arty farty stuff at the time, I really value my English coursework now. It is sustaining to have characters and stories and professorial wisdom to return to.

    You probably have lots of reading to do right now, but I'd like to recommend a book - "Galatea 2.2" by Richard Powers. I don't think it's his best book, but I think it might be just what you need.
  11. Feb 13, 2008 #10


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    I have to agree here. Experimental work in physics is really a great field with many opportunities and interesting and engaging careers. Lab courses do not do real experimental research justice, not in the least. Try to get an internship in research and then make a decision on whether working in a lab is for you or not, because the laboratory you work in a lab course is in no way like a real research lab. Physics experimental research is more than measuring cylinders 85 times and inclining planes!:smile:
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