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Schools Florida: university options

  1. Feb 14, 2010 #1

    I'm a Florida resident and I intend to major in physics at a FL university starting next fall. So far I've been accepted to USF and UCF. I was surprisingly rejected from UF this past Friday. I think I was a great candidate but I understand that UF had a huge applicant pool so there certainly were better suited applicants. I will find out in March if I've been accepted to FSU.

    From my research it seems that FSU is the best choice for physics out of FSU, USF, and UCF. I'd like to hear someone's experiences with these schools' physics departments. I searched here and only found a few UF threads, and even those were sparse.

    Are there any other Florida schools I should consider for physics? There are still quite a few still accepting new applications. I know that a visit is the best way to find out about a university, and I plan to do that very soon. I just don't see the harm in asking here.

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2010 #2
    i'm a student at fsu. i transferred in from cc college and i'm finishing up this semester dual physics math with an overall gpa of 3.74. i've never gotten less than a B in a physics class so i have some credibility.

    the physics department is terrible. i've had so many problems with it over the passed 3 years it's scary.

    i can pretty much go through each semester and tell you the problems i had:

    first semester: modern physics, optics, intermediate lab

    modern physics was a giant lecture hall class that didn't teach me absolutely anything but was easy enough. optics was taught by a fresh hire who didn't care about teaching, only his research, and read directly from powerpoints (which weren't even written by him). he didn't have office hours because he works at the magnet lab. intermediate lab was terrible - nothing worked (still doesn't). apparently the school gives about 1000$ every 2 semesters to the lab director to update equipment (this was told to me by the associate department chair).

    second semester: intermediate mechanics, thermodynamics/stat-mech

    stat mech was boring but the professor was actually decent and used a good book (shroeder). this year though he's been replaced by some monotone guy who's pushing his own book and apparently stares at the back wall to give the impression that he's addressing the entire class. my friend tells me the class is terrible. intermediate mechanics was taught out of marion and thornton and consisted at first of the most trivial problems (finding vectors orthogonal to planes etc.) and then transitioned to memorizing all the solutions to the damped harmonic oscillator (the final exam required their use and the professor told me personally that he wrote the exam expecting us to have the memorized, instead of us deriving them)

    third semester: intermediate electricity and magnetism, computational astrophysics, and particle and nuclear physics, quantum 1.

    e&m was taught by the guy who wrote the powerpoint slides for optics. also young guy not yet tenured. read directly from the slides which were copied directly from the book. i never went. there were graduate students auditing the class to prepare for the qualifiers and when the final exam came around he saw fit to distribute copies of old exams to them but not to the general class and instructed us to hunt them down. he refused to simply post them online. i studied those and he arbitrarily gave me an A because i "did so much better than everyone else". computational astro was a graduate class taught in another department. completely incomprehensible to me. the other 3 students in the class were the professor's major graduate students. at the end he asked me what grade i wanted. i didn't want to be greedy so i asked an A- ... and received it. quantum 1 was the first class i was truly excited about. what a let down. taught out of griffiths like everywhere else in the world but the professor was terrible. he would often pause to pose the most mundane questions to the audience in the most ambiguous terms and then when i answered incorrectly, i was the only one to answer ever, he would respond with jedi wisdom or something. would never tell you why things were true only would vaguely allude to ostensibly related things. the final exam consisted of recalling the solutions, the wavefunctions, to the hydrogen atom.

    side note: i wanted to skip undergrad quantum and take grad quantum and the person in charge of such things literally yelled at me. when i tried to go around him he called me into his office and threatened me, told me he had been "ripping people's heads off" that day for humoring me. i went to associate dean of the college but nothing really changed. he still tells students they're too dumb to be physics majors.

    fourth semester: quantum 2, "advanced particle dynamics"

    quantum 2 was worse than quantum 1 because it's the applications part of the book. "advanced dynamics" is this class they teach here that is supposed to be an amalgam of 3rd semester mechanics and 3rd semester e&m, instead of having separate classes for each. it was terrible. the professor tried to teach it pseudo-moore method (where he would assign a problem and we would work it in class, instead of him teaching anything). what it turned into was him running around and basically telling people how to take derivatives.

    fifth semester: honors project.

    in this department you can either take advanced lab or do an honors thesis. since everything in the undergrad lab is broken i opted for the honors thesis. i'm now calculating decay cross sections in QCD or something like that. i have no clue what i'm really doing but the kicker is that i will probably pass the thesis defense.

    the professors here are equal parts antisocial, smelly, rude, human. i've had emails go unanswered, been yelled at (as already mentioned), been gossiped about (by professors!), etc. the students are dumb, like really dumb. last year only 1 student got over a 600 on his physics gre. in the advanced dynamics class, a senior level class, there were kids who couldn't take derivatives or integrals of polynomials and didn't know what a taylor series was (in case you don't know these are things that everyone should know after freshman year like the backs of their hands)

    don't go here. it literally killed my desire to study physics.

    one thing i will admit is that the school has a particle accelerator and the national high field magnet lab is very close. it didn't avail me much because i wanted to do theoretical work but if you're interested in experiment i guess that's useful. but i still suggest you don't go here. having access to fancy toys will do nothing for you if you're not taught the physics.

    on the other hand the math and computer science departments are good.

    you can pm me if you have more questions
  4. Feb 14, 2010 #3
    Thank you ice109. PM sent.
  5. Feb 15, 2010 #4
    wow I'd assumed fsu's physics department was pretty good, shoot, I've read good things about uf I think they're ranked in the top 50 physics schools, I personally go to fiu in miami, most people here actually tend to go here because its convenient more than anything (alot have ambitions to transfer after a few semesters) but my alot of my physics major friends like it here because the professors are good and the undergrad/grads tend to be a fairly tight nit group as opposed to other schools where I've heard it can get pretty cuthroat, the school's administration overall is actually quite terrible though most of the money either goes to the football team or straight to the new medical school which takes funding from other departments like physics, math, engineering etch; I've only taken up to modern physics (ee major) so take what I say with a grain of salt
  6. Feb 15, 2010 #5
    I too was very surprised. Ice109 has been nice enough to PM back and forth with me, but I'm still wondering if his case is just an isolated incident or if FSU really is that bad. I guess I'll have to check it out myself (still welcoming discussion though).
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2010
  7. Feb 17, 2010 #6
    contact the department and ask them how many of their undergrads go on to grad school for physics and where - that's the true measure of the school. like i said in my class only 1 guy scored about a 600 on his pgre
  8. Feb 19, 2010 #7
    I just transferred to USF from a CC as a physics major and have had a wonderful experience thus far. I'm taking Modern Physics right now, the professor is great, only 15 people in the class or so. I think that's because most people take the class in the Fall due to a course sequence the dept. suggests. The undergrad advisor has replied to all of my questions within a day or so, even on the weekends. There are tons of undergrad research opportunities and the Society of Physics Students club on campus is very active (but to be honest I've yet to attend a meeting :-( ). Please feel free to PM to me to chat more about USF.

    If you are deciding between USF and UCF (which I did as well) be aware that UCF is not well known as a research university and it's physics dept seems to be just a supplement to the larger colleges, like Engineering. At USF it's relatively small as well, but it's a good kind of small. I'm not too familiar with FSU, and I'm not sure what your plans are after your undergraduate degree, but in the "real world" a degree from FSU sounds more prestigious than USF, I'll give it that much. In academia, if you plan to work within it or go for a grad. degree, the name of the school doesn't matter because the professors and graduate advisors know which schools are good and which schools are not, even if they have a popular name.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  9. Feb 20, 2010 #8
    You might want to take a look at Florida Atlantic University. I have no idea what their undergraduate program is like, but they are a pretty big name in computational astrophysics.
  10. Feb 24, 2010 #9
    I am currently in my second year at USF for Physics and I have to agree with tatiana, it is a pleasant experience so far. I originally got a BA in marketing from here, which was a horrible experience, but the Physics department has been a true delight. All of my professors have understood the material very well, and are always open to questions, both dumb & intriguing. The course work is decently challenging but it is not filled with busy work, it is based more on concepts than memorization drills. I have had only one professor, Chem I, who taught simillar to the professors that ice109 experienced, but there are plenty to choose from so don't worry. They aren't a large research University but they are building a new Physics building as we speak and their research funding is beginning to increase, so there is hope. I attend the department colloquium every week and the faculty as well as students seem to be pretty close which is promising. As a side note, I am also taking astro classes and the professor made mention of a possible astrophysics BSc in the near future. They will be offering some upper level astrophysics courses next year, so if this is interesting to you, this may be a selling point.

    I have limited experience, and have some what repeated tatiana's remarks, but I figured I would give another +1 for USF. My number one gripe about USF is the campus is huge and parking can be daunting. Good luck!

  11. Feb 24, 2010 #10
    That sounds exactly like the kind of environment I'm looking for...thanks for the input. I actually live only a few minutes away from USF, in north/new Tampa, so I'll be sure to visit soon. Thanks again!
  12. Feb 25, 2010 #11
    Since you live only a few minutes away, you should come to the http://physics.usf.edu/news/colloquiumpdfs/2010-02-26_Finkbeiner.pdf" [Broken] on Friday. This one's gonna be packed, I'm sure.

    Agent M, will you be there?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  13. Feb 26, 2010 #12
    Yes I will definitely be attending. This week they have some one from harvard-smithsonian astrophysics talking about dark matter findings with WMAP & COBE. As Tatiana said this one will be more packed than usual due to the subject. I hope the OP can make it.

  14. Feb 26, 2010 #13
    On the topic of USF, I am accepted to do my graduate degree in applied physics there so I would like to gather more information.

    It is great to hear that they are building new building. How big is the department and how many graduate students are there at this time? Also, what do you mean by their research funding is increasing? Which field is it that is getting more funding or is it overall?

    Tatiana or Agent: We have heard you recommending USF for undergraduate degree but I am wondering if you have a feeling on the general consensus of the graduate students? Do they like it there?

    I apologize for bombarding my first post with so many questions. I do agree with agm2010 that information on these schools are sparse so I will appreciate any information given. Any USF graduate student reading this?

    Thank you!
  15. Feb 28, 2010 #14
    Nobody cares about poor ol' UNF. I feel alone up here
  16. Feb 28, 2010 #15
    szill: I don't know much about the grad students or the program, except there is a visiting professor that teaches a graduate math methods class who is in the classroom right before mine that is over 90, sharp as a whip, and plays ping pong like you've never seen. The grad students in there all revere and adore him. http://physics.usf.edu/faculty/" [Broken] is a link to the faculty and grad student directory. I'm not sure if it encompasses all the grad students. You can view the CV's of the professors and even see what classes they are teaching if that helps. Ismail Sakmar is the ping-pong player.

    ChunkySalsa (my favorite type): Tell us about UNF! :) I was going to transfer there but Tampa was closer to Orlando, my home base.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  17. Feb 28, 2010 #16
    Its small and very cheap. I think it was named like top ten of best value.

    Haven't really been here that long to tell you specifics about programs. As far as I can tell the other schools are much better for that. I kinda wish I went to UCF but UNF was a much easier option since its local.

    Im an EE major and the engineering college is quite new, which is both a very good thing and a bad thing. Its growing fast though, new buildings are sprouting up everywhere.
  18. Jul 31, 2011 #17
    OP Follow-up--

    I've been at Florida State for a year and a half and have had very different experiences from ice109. Advising, professors, opportunities, etc. have been great. If there are any freshmen or prospective applicants wondering about FSU I can answer some questions.
  19. Jul 31, 2011 #18
    I was debating about transferring there next year from UCF. I am sure that I will come up with some questions for you if thats okay!
  20. Aug 1, 2011 #19
    No problem...I'll be waiting!
  21. Aug 2, 2011 #20
    I'm a UF engineering major, so I'm more familiar with each school's engineering department (not so much science/physics). But my (biased) opinion would be
    UF > UCF > USF > FSU
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