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Dual Doctorate in Mathematics and Physics

  1. Oct 4, 2013 #1
    How would one go about attaining a dual doctorate in math and physics? Would I be able to do both at the same time? Do people usually go for the doctorate after bachelors?

    What colleges allow such a program?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2013 #2
    It might have been done. I'm not sure. But I think you don't understand how PhDs work. It's different than "regular school". Classes aren't emphasized, research is. The thing is that a PhD is a giant project. You research one particular area very in depth.

    I'm taking graduate real analysis and there's some people in there that are getting PhDs in Electrical Engineering, Physics, etc. I know someone getting a PhD in math whose research is in engineering.

    So yes, maybe someone has done it, maybe it can be done. But that's really not the point of a PhD.
  4. Oct 4, 2013 #3


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    I don't know of any schools offering dual PhDs. That's not really done in the academic world, only on TV to make someone sound 'extra smart'. In real life, that would involve upwards of 15 years in grad school. Either go on in mathematical physics, or in a field of physics that uses a lot of math, or in applied math or statistics. But pick something and stick to it.
  5. Oct 4, 2013 #4


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    My opinion: getting two PhDs would not be viewed favorably in academia, and industry would not know what to think of it (which, in today's hiring climate, would basically make you unemployable).

    But this is probably moot, as I don't know of any school that would grant two PhDs (or a second PhD).

    There are dual degrees programs involving professional degrees, like a PhD+MD or JD+MD.
  6. Oct 4, 2013 #5


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    Kill two birds with one stone: get a PhD in Mathematical Physics.
  7. Oct 4, 2013 #6
    There are some people that have dual PhD's, how do they attain that?
  8. Oct 5, 2013 #7
    Just curious; do you need or have a use for two PhDs? The only time I have heard of any person having two PhDs is a fictional character in a television show.
  9. Oct 5, 2013 #8
    Having multiple doctorate titles is acutally not unheard of. One example where it is not uncommon is the medical field: The German medical doctorate is kind of a joke. Its work is usually done alongside the regular undergrad coursework (which doesn't mean the people are - German medical education contains a specialization phase that is pretty equivalent to a natual scientific doctorate program). I believe I met several researchers in the field who on top of the medical doctorate had a "real" PhD in some natural sciences. I think having two "joke PhDs" is also not completely uncommon for medical doctors specializing in multiple areas.

    Quick Google cross-checks also revealed a law professor with a PhD in law and one in sociology, a computational biology professor with a PhD in mathematics and one in computer science, a physics professor with a PhD in physics and one in education, ... . To relate back to this thread: All those people did their 2nd PhD after they did the first, not both at a time. Apparently because they switched into different fields.
  10. Oct 5, 2013 #9


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    Is there a rational reason why you are aiming for such a dual doctorate degree?

    I know of someone with a dual doctorate degree, but the second one was pursued several years after the first. And they are both in very different fields (engineering and economics). Doing it at the same time? That is talk only by those who have never gone through the rigors of a PhD program and thinking that it is nothing more than the same workload and similar curriculum as an undergraduate program. Nothing could be further from reality.

    Physics and mathematics are such a closely connected fields. Someone has mentioned about doing a Mathematical Physics PhD. However, beyond that, the way a PhD program is structured, at least here in the US, is that you actually tailor the program, to some extent, to what you want to do. This is true especially if you're doing a theoretical program, and can find an Advisor who will supervise your work. So you get to actually pursue a topic that you find interesting and worthwhile. Someone with an interest in physics and mathematics can tailor-make a topic that encompasses both under one PhD research work, rather than do the almost-impossible task of doing both at the same time (do you expect assistantships for both separately, or will you pay for your education on your own in full?).

    This is true in many programs. At the PhD level, the boundaries between various subject areas are often blurred, because now, we are tackling not idealized cases, but actually solving issues that are more complex, more realistic, or have direct relevance. Those things often crosses various disciplines. I've mentioned already in other threads how in Accelerator Physics, one often does both physics and engineering. In Condensed matter physics, one often does physics, chemistry, and engineering.

    It really would help if the OP provides a clearer description on where he/she is and where he/she intend to pursue such a thing. Otherwise, this becomes a meaningless "Is it possible to...?" type of question, which doesn't offer that much relevance in a real world.

  11. Oct 5, 2013 #10
    Would you get a PhD in math and physics if you researched in mathematical physics?
    And I am currently in Princeton, studying math and physics and plan to become a mathematician and physicist and able to be well versed enough in both areas to work in any area. I think I'll either apply to Harvard or MIT or some other world-renowned institution for my graduate study. Similar to how Terence Tao works in many areas of mathematics at once.
    It's also mainly because I took many upper level classes in both areas already and have a wide interest in all such areas.
    By the way, what does it take to be a top mathematician/physicist anyways?
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  12. Oct 5, 2013 #11

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    You're not listening to what people are telling you. If you don't do that, you won't get one doctorate, much less a collection. Makes it hard even to get a BS. There is no good reason to get two PhDs in closely allied fields.

    By the way, what happened to Cornell?
  13. Oct 5, 2013 #12

    See the thing is that you don't do research in "mathematical physics". You do research in a very very specific niche area of mathematical physics. You get very in depth in one tiny little corner of something. What area of mathematical physics? Differential equations? Analysis? Which area of analysis? Real or complex? What area of real analysis? Functional? Harmonic? Fourier? Which ideas in functional analysis? Operator theory? Hilbert Spaces? Banach Spaces? What in Operator theory do you want to study? Spectral theory? Applied to what? Molecular structure? Acoustics? This is just the beginning. But to answer your question, you would get a PhD in one or the other.

    "By the way, what does it take to be a top mathematician/physicist anyways?"

    It sounds like you're interested in the idea of being something rather than being the thing itself. Why do you want to be "top"? Why not just learn all you can and hope that you can contribute something back some day? Being a physicist or mathematician is not glamorous. I study these things because I enjoy them, not because I want to be a "genius" or I don't know what. Do I fantasize about proving the Riemann Hypothesis? Or creating the TOE? Of course. But realistically I'm just a person that has an interest in what I'm interested in, wanting to create a good life for myself and hoping I can give something back. Even if you do manage to prove the RH or something, it's not like you're a celebrity or...I don't even know what you'd be after. If you want to make some huge contribution, it should be because of an honest passion, not because of ego.
  14. Oct 5, 2013 #13


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    We have a member with a PhD in Computer Science and Physics, 2 years apart, quite recently. So yes, dual PhD is possible.
  15. Oct 5, 2013 #14


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    Using the original question, ALMOST the same idea: Do an internet search on someone named, W. Edwards Deming.
  16. Oct 5, 2013 #15


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    One of my former teachers had a 4-year PhD degree in mathematics and a 4-year PhD in physics. It's possible, it's very difficult and as a job you have one option: doing research in mathematical physics (maybe supplemented by teaching physics or mathematics, or both in a university).
  17. Oct 5, 2013 #16
    Why would you possibly want two PhDs?
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