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Electives in grad school?

  1. Jun 6, 2013 #1

    set

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    "Electives" in grad school?

    Hello PF,

    I am an undergrad student majoring in one of the STEM field. I have a strong interest in particle physics, but I am not really interested in any other discipline of physics. For this reason, I don't think going to grad school in physics is not a realistic option. But I still want to take particle physics courses as electives

    I have seen some professors' profiles where some of their research interest is related, but not quite exact. (like physics & differential geometry or finance & analysis) - well, I don't think they are good examples for my point, but... hope you get my point

    So I was wondering, while in grad school, if I could take undergrad prerequisites courses for particle physics, (intermedieate mechanics, quantum physics, mathematical physics), particle physics courses themselves.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2013 #2
    You could always audit a particle physics course, if it's just knowledge you seek.

    I'm curious why you only find specifically particle physics interesting?
     
  4. Jun 6, 2013 #3
    I believe it is common practice for graduates to take advanced undergrad courses to catch up on material. I know several schools require it if you've had a shaky introduction.
     
  5. Jun 6, 2013 #4

    Choppy

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    Generally it's acceptable to take a senior undergrad course or two in your field of study. For example, if you ended up accepted as a plasma physics student, but hadn't had the opportunity to take a senior undergrad plasma physics course, you would be allowed and even encouraged to take one as a graduate student.

    What you're talking about seems more along the lines of picking up a second undergraduate degree while you're a graduate student. While perhaps not impossible, you have to remember that you're going to need time to focus on your field. Most people find the required graduate coursework pretty strenuous, so adding three or more senior undergrad courses on top of that, plus carrying a TA load, is not realistic in most circumstances.
     
  6. Jun 7, 2013 #5

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    I am not sure if I could remain preserverant, but I am kinda hoping to work on and perhaps write my dissertation of particle physics.

    Our advisor told me that, if I took two quantum mechanics, two electromagnetism, and one introductory particle physics course and do well in them, I could get a conditional offer to work on particle physics and pick up thermal physics and statistical mechanics in my first year of grad school.

    Is this the absolute minimum? Or can I postpone elctromagnetism until grad school, since it isn't a prerequiste for particle physics, where as qunatum mechanics is? I will probably be prepared on the math side though.
     
  7. Jun 8, 2013 #6

    verty

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    Particle physicists work with superconducting magnets though; my guess is this is pretty important. And it is a good application of the math you'll need to learn and know.
     
  8. Jun 8, 2013 #7

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    I am including 2 courses in ODE, 2 courses in PDE, applications of real and complex analysis, and possibly caculus of variations in my plan. I hope that will be enough?
     
  9. Jun 8, 2013 #8

    Mute

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    Ok, this double-negative is confusing, so let's be clear here: Are you interested in particle physics, but you don't want to go to grad school for physics, you want to take particle physics courses? Or are you wanting to go to grad school for physics, but you don't have the required background?

    From your second post in this thread, it sounds like the second option.

    If that's the case, then as has been mentioned, departments often let you pick up a few upper-level classes that you may be missing to fill in the gaps, but they are not going to let you basically take the classes for half a physics undergraduate degree while you are in grad school. You should be trying to take those while you are still an undergrad.

    This is especially so, because while you do not need an undergraduate physics degree to get into physics grad school, you do need sufficient background in physics before they will let you in. This means you will need to be able to do well on the Physics GRE, which you take before applying to grad schools.

    Electromagnetism is important for particle physics. Quantum electrodynamics was the first field theory of particle physics, and you definitely need to know something about E&M for that. You at very least have to take one E&M course (especially since it will appear on the GRE).

    Again, if you're not getting your bachelor's degree in physics, you can still get into Physics grad school, but you will need to be able to show the admission committee that you have sufficient background and that you will be able to do well in grad school, so I would not try to cut courses from what your advisor suggests you take, at least not without adding another physics course to replace it in that list.
     
  10. Jun 8, 2013 #9

    verty

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    I'm not in the position to say whether this is enough or not. It certainly looks good, especially with the calculus of variations, but you need E&M or I suspect a grad school is going to think "Hmm, he/she looks like a math graduate that decided not to do math, now wants to to physics. How long will this fad last?"
     
  11. Jun 8, 2013 #10

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    Sorry for the confusion. When was writing this post, I kinda meant the former, but I am still giving some seirous though to myself, and I honestly don't know whether I want go grad school for physics or just do some particle physics related research while studying other subject.

    But thanks for the advice. I'll add two semesters of E&M to my plan.
     
  12. Jun 15, 2013 #11

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    Hello,

    I have been reading posts about the math required for graduate level partice physics. Group Theory (particulary Lie Groups) is frequently mentioned, of which I have been reading on my own and think I will be okay with it, but is Real Analysis really necessary?

    Also, what level of math is required if I want to do "experimental" particle physics?
     
  13. Jun 15, 2013 #12

    QuantumCurt

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    I've been looking into the undergrad courses that would be required/incredible beneficial for particle physics in grad school lately, because that's what my intended plan is at this point. Particle physics involves many areas of physics, and without having a pretty solid foundation in undergrad physics, you would have a lot of catching up to do.

    Many schools offer PhD minors. Stanford, for instance has a a PhD minor in physics. Something like that would be something to consider.

    Why are you only interested in particle physics? Particle physics involves virtually every aspect of conventional physics, from classical mechanics, E&M, quantum mechanics, thermal and statistical physics...and a whole lot of math.
     
  14. Jun 30, 2013 #13

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    If I go grad school for math, specialize in representation theory, how much of fundamental physics (mechanics, electromagnetics, quantum physics, thermal physics) do I need to know to do research or write a dissertation in applications of representation theory in particle physics? I am curious because I saw a professor who had a phd in math and did his postdoc in mathematical physics
     
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