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Courses General Relativity- an undergrad or grad course

  1. Dec 11, 2011 #1
    Hey there,

    In my university, General Relativity is listed among elective courses (along with an advanced quantum mechanics course). I'm curious to know whether general relativity is really an undergrad course or not. And what are the pros and cons if GR is taken in grad school?

    Thanks for reading the post.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2
    At my university they offer an "introduction to GR" in undergraduate. I cannot say from experience, but I think GR is actually taken in graduate school, due to the copious mathematical background required.
  4. Dec 11, 2011 #3


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    It obviously depends on which textbook the course is going to use. If it will use an undergraduate textbook (Hartle, Schutz) then it is obviously an undergraduate course. If not, then it's a graduate course.

    GR certainly can be taught at an undergraduate level. There is a lot that you can learn without delving too deep into differential geometry or any of the more difficult mathematical aspects of the theory. If in preparation for a graduate level course, an undergraduate course serves to give you a foundation in the ideas and concepts of GR, leaving you free to focus on the more advanced mathematics.

    Keep in mind that GR is not an especially ubiquitous branch of physics, certainly not like quantum mechanics. That is to say, most physicists do not ever need to use GR in their work. However, it seems irresponsible to call one's self a physicist and not at least have a working knowledge of one of the two fundamental pillars of modern physics.
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4
    So, will there be any problem if GR is taken at a graduate level? Will there be sufficient time to cover all the concepts bearing in mind that grad physics courses have quantum field theory and relativistic quantum mechanics?
  6. Dec 12, 2011 #5


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    I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean that the GR course is a graduate level course, and you're worried about prerequisites? Or Are you worried that if you take GR as a graduate student you won't have enough time due to other courses you must take? Please clarify.
  7. Dec 12, 2011 #6


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    I completed two courses of GR in undergrad (one from an cosmology background, one from mathematical physics), with the option of doing another course in it. The first two were quite enough for me.
  8. Dec 12, 2011 #7
    As a mechanical engineering undergrad, I took a course called "Modern Physics for Engineers" (required, not an elective). About a third of the class was GR. Don't ask me why MEs were required to take it, but I ate it up.

    I don't think there would be a problem waiting until grad school for a GR course.
  9. Dec 13, 2011 #8
    Ok...thanks a lot
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