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Evalute My Potential Physics Degree

  1. Dec 3, 2008 #1
    As per a previous post I am considering switching my major from CS to Physics with a CS minor.

    Once I graduate I would like to have the chance to go onto a Ph.d. in the field. My school doesn't offer a hold lot of options for various higher level courses but there is the curriculum I would likely be taking to get done with a BS in a resonable time.

    Please let me know how this stacks up in terms of being prepared for a Ph.D. Also, if there are some major classes I am missing would a school allow me to take them as part of my graduate studies if my grades in these are sufficiently good.

    As far as I can tell the biggest issue is the math. My school doesn't seem to offer PDEs more than once a decade apparently, and vector calc is offered once in awhile but I might not be able to catch it during my time left. Anyways please let me know what your input is.


    Fundamental Physics I
    Fundamental Physics II
    Into To Contemporary Physics
    Physics Lab I
    E&M I
    Intermediate Lab
    E&M II
    Atomics and Quantum
    Statistical Physics
    Research in Physics I
    Research in Physics II


    CALC I
    Linear Algebra
    Vector Calc (maybe if offered a semester I could take it)

    Also, I would graduate with a minor in CS if that counts for anything.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2008 #2


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    What you may want to do is check out some potential graduate programs and make sure that your major is an acceptable prerequisite program (this often requires an email to the graduate advisor in the department).

    In general, you are allowed to take undergrad classes as a grad student to fill in areas that you haven't previously covered.
  4. Dec 4, 2008 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    This is typical of what physics departments expect of incoming first-years. A class on more advanced analysis - for example, one often called "complex numbers" - would be a good addition and will make your first year go more smoothly.
  5. Dec 4, 2008 #4
    I'd like it better if there were two semesters of both Mechanics and Quantum. Having separate classes for Statistical Mechanics and Thermo is probably good.

    With regards to limited upper-level courses... maybe taking some additional courses in chemistry would be good, although I'm biased from a condensed matter point of view... it depends on what you want to research.

    Perhaps you could take PDE as an independent study (or just find a good text and learn it on your own), and I second the Complex Analysis idea (this is the course I took as independent study because it wasn't offered).

    Most importantly though:
    You'll want to enhance your undergraduate experience with research (through your own institution or others)... this is what is most appealing to graduate selections committees.
  6. Dec 4, 2008 #5
    Out of:

    Complex Analysis
    Vector Calculus

    Which would your prioritize someone interested in Astrophysics
  7. Dec 5, 2008 #6
    Hey, don't worry about that

    the summer session of UC-Berkeley will offer complex analysis and vector calculus next year and you may take them in the summer.

    http://summer.berkeley.edu/mainsite/courses.html [Broken]

    For PDE i think you probably need to take an so called independent study..
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Dec 5, 2008 #7


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    I'm surprised they'd let you graduate without a course in vector calc. You'll get demolished in E&M if you haven't taken that.
  9. Dec 5, 2008 #8
    I'm guessing you mean Graduate E&M? as I have two E&M classes needed for my degree.
  10. Dec 5, 2008 #9


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    No, undergrad E&M. Vector calc should be a prereq for any course on E&M.
  11. Dec 5, 2008 #10
    I don't know then, that is strange. Would you recommend I take it off campus during the summer or something?
  12. Dec 5, 2008 #11


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    That, or that you enroll in a real university.
  13. Dec 5, 2008 #12
    That's sort of arrogant...I do go to a real university
  14. Dec 5, 2008 #13


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    Then you're missing two courses in quantum, one in mechanics, some in solid-state, ideally another lab course, a course or two in math methods in physics (going over complex analysis, special functions, PDEs, Fourier analysis, etc.), a second course in linear algebra

    That's a full year's worth of courses which should be mandatory, and are in any self-respecting physics program (and I don't mean in top-10 programs; I mean every state university will have those as mandatory)
  15. Dec 5, 2008 #14


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    Vector calculus is usually part of the regular calculus sequence. At most schools it's part of Calc III.
  16. Dec 5, 2008 #15


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    It is also Calc III at my school, however he mentioned having both Calc3 and Vector Calc, so I assume Calc III does not include it (which is possible, since some universities have calculus as a 4-course sequence)
  17. Dec 6, 2008 #16
    tmc, I go to a state university, that is what the program is, I'm not sure why there is a discrepancy between what you imagine a program should be like and what mine is, listed as a normal BS in Physics?

    further more there isn't too much I can do about it, I am unable to transfer out, is the program truly deficient?

    There are of course a few more courses I could take like Solid-State

    Fundamentals of Physics I & II obviously cover classical mechanics, the Mechanics course listed is a more advanced courses, is that not sufficient?
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2008
  18. Dec 6, 2008 #17


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    Re vector calculus and E&M... if your university expects you to take vector calculus before taking E&M (whether it's in a separate course or part of Calc III), they should list that course as a prerequisite. Do they? That's what prerequisites are for.

    If they don't list a specific course as a prerequisite (or as a prerequisite of a prerequisite, etc.), then you can probably figure they'll cover the necessary mathematics as part of the course. If you're not certain, ask someone in the department, as opposed to people out on the internet. We don't have any idea what university you're at, so we can't even look up the course descriptions on line to see for ourselves!
  19. Dec 6, 2008 #18
    thanks for a reasonable response as opposed to other guy who was just going to dismiss my school as awful lol......calc III is a prereq so i guess they cover it in there....not sure why there is another class called vector calc, must be more advanced
  20. Dec 6, 2008 #19


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    Your curriculum has barely more than half the number of physics and math classes that my school (which is at best an average state school) does. Many juniors would have taken more classes than someone with a BS from wherever you are.

    You're missing a number of core courses such as mechanics, quantum and special functions, not to mention all the upper-year electives that other physics majors have to take such as solid-state physics, continuous media, optics, GR, etc.

    Sorry I'm not sugarcoating it, but you should face it and deal with it by either taking extra courses or getting a library card.
  21. Dec 6, 2008 #20
    tmc, I appreciate the feedback you are providing, which is what I had hoped to get out of this thread but you just came off as a bit abrasive ... here is the complete listing of the courses offered at my school in physics.

    "[URL [Broken]

    I will probably try to take all available since it probably is limited compared to a physics department at a larger school with more focus on sciences. I just hope it they department wouldn't preclude me from doing graduate studies.

    The main thing that disappoints me is the lack of any real astronomy courses, but I don't mind learning that stuff on my own or whatever needs to be done to prepare for grad school.

    Maybe I could try to take some of the graduate courses offered at my school to compensate? Which ones would you recommend?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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