Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Courses Grad course for undergrad

  1. Dec 20, 2007 #1
    I am curious:

    I will have option to take grad courses as an undergrad; the ones I would like: Mathematical Physics, Advanced E&M. I will also have the ability to take a grad math course: nonlinear partial differential equations.

    Keeping in mind lab experience, how good would this look if I apply to a good grad school in physics?
    (Assume a GPA in the 3.5+ zone and I do well in those grad courses)
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 20, 2007 #2
    is that a serious question? of course it'll look good.
  4. Dec 20, 2007 #3


    User Avatar

    Not necessarily. I've met a few professors who look down upon such practices, stating that you have enough time in graduate school to take graduate classes.

    I'd ask around your department to see what they say.
  5. Dec 20, 2007 #4
    Unless you're going to get an A in that course, it's not going to look good.

    It's better to get an A in an undergrad course than a C in a grad course because it's going to end up on your transcript at the end.
  6. Dec 21, 2007 #5


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Actually I think it'll depend on whether it'll be stated on the transcript whether you took the grad course as an undergrad or grad student. If it doesn't, and if you don't think you can score reasonably well (above average for a grad student taking the same class), then you're better off waiting till grad school.
  7. Dec 21, 2007 #6
    The question is, how many other courses will you take? I took a grad course in dynamics along with 3 other undergrad courses. It was a LOT of work!

    If you want to 'look good' for grad school, have work experience in your area you want to go into and have a 4.0 Gpa.
  8. Dec 21, 2007 #7
    Perhaps this was just the program I went through, but by junior year we all took grad classes.

    Some (~25%) of them were labeled as undergrad, but were the same class, although perhaps (I actually doubt it) we were graded less harshly. (I think it was more harshly).

    In any event, the classes for my concentration (Astronomy) were so small that they had to be grad level-- ie, they couldn't offer it both ways. There were only three people in my stellar astrophysics class, for instance.

    Now, bear in mind, I didn't take a Jackson E&M class-- I took the Griffiths version; although at my school, it was still a grad level course, by the numbering scheme. YMMV. At my school, there was no choice in the matter.
  9. Dec 21, 2007 #8
    Grad level courses generally means an E&M class with Jackson, or mechanics with Goldstein, etc. Griffiths is an undergraduate level textbook.
  10. Dec 21, 2007 #9
    Yes, I know, but my point is that no one else would by looking at my transcript. Thus taking graduate level courses as an undergraduate is somewhat dependent on the course structure at your particular institution.

    Also, while the E&M courses were undergraduate level, others most certainly were not. I expect this is more or less typical across the board.
  11. Dec 22, 2007 #10
    My friend, whatever you do, don't take graduate level advanced E&M. I just got done with that course this semester, and yes, I used Jackson. Somehow I pulled off an A, but graduate E&M is basically just the physicists' way of beating up first year grad students. My advisor more or less prohibited me from taking the second semester, pointing out that he's never had to use that material in his research. Jackson's problems are utterly worthless. I can't forsee a situation where you'd ever have to do an image charges problem with infinite line charges, or where you'd have to deal with a sphere that's held at two different potentials in different regions. And then there's the fact that each Jackson problem takes somewhere on the order of four hours to complete, and that's if you look up the solutions online and work with others! I suppose that Jackson E&M has a certain character-building value. But in terms of plain old physics knowledge, it did pretty much nothing for me.

    So here's what I would suggest: take all undergrad courses and do very well. This looks far better to grad schools. But, if for whatever reason you feel like you must take a graduate level physics course, do not under any circumstances take advanced E&M!
  12. Dec 23, 2007 #11
    Haha, I had exactly the same experience arunma. This is my third day of recovery! I also pulled off an A and feel like I learned nothing. Taking a grad particle physics course next semester instead of E+M II. Hopefully it will be a better experience.
  13. Dec 23, 2007 #12
    What do you know? I'm also taking a particle physics course next semester! It'll be great to not have any Jackson problems to do for a change.

    I do have to admit though, only after having a semester of torture (=Jackson) do I feel like a real grad student.
  14. Dec 23, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    If you have exhausted your undergraduate course offerings, go for the graduate courses... if you can fit them in and if you feel you can devote the appropriate time to them. Even if you don't get an A in it, I think it'll show that you are motivated to challenge yourself. [Note that if you are going straight into graduate school... the transcript under review doesn't include your last semester... although they expect that you don't stray too far from what you've presented.]

    If you are afraid of the grades you might get, why not ask the professor if you can sit in on the course? Of course, try not to burden the professor and intrude on the other students.... Don't turn in problems to be graded... and don't ask too many questions that interfere with the real students in the course. You get a preview of the material to come.. and you keep doing more and more physics. (If it is Jackson's text, you can prepare for when you'd have to take the course for real.)

    As an UG, I took graduate EM and GR in my senior year. Unfortunately (but maybe that should read fortunately), grad-EM wasn't from Jackson's text... we used Ohanian's text. GR was from Landau's text. In grad school, I took these courses again... using different textbooks (Jackson and Wald) and, of course, different professors.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook