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Double majoring with physics?

  1. Mar 22, 2015 #1
    Hi, I am a senior this year and will be starting college next year. I am definitely going to major in physics, but at the school I plan to go to (McGill University) there is a program for a B.S. in both physics and chemistry, and also physics and math. Their website says these are programs designed for a career in theoretical physics, and I am considering either one.

    I have never been all that interested in chemistry, but upon looking at the courses they seemed pretty intriguing. They was physical chem 1 and 2, statistical thermodynamics, spectroscopy, organic and inorganic chemistry, advanced quantum mechanics, and polymer chemistry. For the math major, I would take several courses in analysis and algebra, a course in differential geometry, as well as math courses normally in the physics curriculum.

    What I'd like to know is how the chemistry courses would compare to similar courses in physics. Would I learn things in these that could be valuable because of there more real-world approach? To what extent could a background in chemistry help with materials science or condensed-matter physics? Also, to what extent could more abstract mathematics help in a career in physics? I would appreciate input from anyone with some experience in these fields.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    As I recall, chemistry has some slightly different ways of explaining entropy that to me seemed at odds with the way I learned it from Statistical Thermodynamics. I can't remember the exact difference but I do remember getting confused and stuck with the physics version which made more sense. I remember it had something to do with Gibbs Free Energy, Entropy and Enthalpy...
  4. Mar 23, 2015 #3
    Should I consider a double major in physics and an engineering field?
  5. Mar 23, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    The best reasons to double major are for backup plans. As an example, any major + Computer Science could be a backup plan. It would strengthen your resume for computer related jobs in your primary major field.

    One thing to be aware of is the problem of how a company might view your degree. For some BME people, they would hear that a given company wants either a Biologist or a Mechanical Engineer and with your degree you are half this and half that. However as it becomes more popular then that sentiment goes away.

    For theoretical physics it seems that Physics + Math is a good mix of majors as you would need more applied math for theory than for experiment.

    The Physics + Chemistry major seems geared more for theoretical Chemistry than for Physics but others here will have a better understanding than me.
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