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Graduate study, fun?

  1. Jun 29, 2004 #1
    Hello all, I am wanting to major in physics, and plan on going to graduate school. I am only in my freshman year, and taking basic classes but the math classes are very fun. Are the graduate level classes for the maths and physics fun?
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  3. Jun 29, 2004 #2


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    Honestly, I hate to tell you this.... but every physics graduate student I've ever known absolutely hated graduate school. Two that I know personally described it as the worst seven years of their lives. Certainly the work load and competition can be draining.

    - Warren
  4. Jun 29, 2004 #3
    Don't listen to him, he must be down...every physics graduate I ever knew said it was the best, best, best part of their whole lives. Everything forever is compared to the excitement they had as poverty-stricken, overworked, overwrought, tormented grad students...I was just the sidekick, but I had a great time, too, really a fun time, when the poor things have fun, they really have fun, although some of their games were stupid, IMHO...they could be coaxed into actual fun things, though...the multinational aspect of grad schools is especially fun...dumb games from all over!!!

    But Krazie, aren't you the kiddo who is getting help with very basic algebra? Hon, I must tell you, if you have any trouble with math at that level, physics might not be good for you to pursue...many feel it is the "golden cup" of academics, but there are many ways to achieve a thoughtful, intellectual life if mathematics is not your calling...
  5. Jun 29, 2004 #4


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    grad school, only from what ive heard so far from many people, is very hard and long, pays small wages, a lot of material to cover, lots of math (differential equations, partial differential equations, linear algebra, topology/rings/abstract algebra, multivariable calculus (analysis), vector analysis, surface/line/volume integrals... and many more things)

    if you start having strugle in linear algebra and multivariable calc in undergrad level, you should really ask yourself a few questions.. are you ready to put more effort? are you confident you really like this stuff to devote more time to understand it? if you still try your best and do all the work and still cant grasp some aspects, then perhaps you missed out on a lot of course work before or simply math isnt for you (which is perfectly fine and happens in life).

    in that case you may consider related fields of study like chemistry or chemical engineering. latter uses a lot of differential equations and linear algebra among other things, but it is somewhat easier than grad physics.

    once you get out of grad school, it is probable you wont find a job right off the bat. heck even after a post-doc you may still be iffy about getting a faculty position to teach physics (oh and if you have a problem trying to teach someone some basic physics - you should definately not go into the field).

    many smart people will tell you - the only way to really learn something is try to teach it. you can still do and learn a lot of science-related things in other fields (computer science for example) or any engineering
  6. Jun 29, 2004 #5
    Yeah I am the kid having trouble with basic algebra, but I am just starting out. I am really enjoying the material actually.
  7. Jun 29, 2004 #6


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    I've noticed that the people who struggle the most with physics and math actually seem to enjoy it the most. I think of it in similar terms to scaling a large mountain -- the harder the climb, the more beautiful the view seems from the top.

    I know I personally have struggled quite a bit to get where I am in math and physics -- and I'm probably not beyond first year graduate material. My trials and tribulations have certainly not made me like math and physics less.

    - Warren
  8. Jun 30, 2004 #7
    I've never known any physics PhD candidates who had any trouble with math. I knew some grads who had trouble, but they got the Master's booby prize and left the programs. I know one of my ex's immediately would reject anyone having any trouble (as reflected in grades and GRE scores) as a possible research associate (slave)...on the up side, there is very little coursework in physics grad school. They are usually done with it w/in two years, then they are free to work on their dissertation projects.

    Well, not to slam high schools, but it could be that your bit of math trouble has nothing to do with your abilities, but is the result of going through the mill and receiving poor instruction way back, which set you on a rocky path. From looking at your questions on the other boards, I think you are lacking an understanding of the very basic rules (like the distributive property), and that is easily remedied. I urge you to seek a tutor who understands how to quickly teach the basic rules -- someone who will be familiar with the concept of math as a language, because I think you are strong in languages. Knowing the rules, you will then do well. Just my 2 cents. You can also go to a bookstore (not a college one) and get a book that addresses obtaining the basics. I just hate to see someone stopped due to an easily remedied problem...
  9. Jun 30, 2004 #8
    Chroot, I worry about you. Don't want to see you struggle and struggle and then have a disappointment that crushes your spirit. They can be so mean in grad school...

    edit, was leaving out verbs for some reason
  10. Jul 6, 2004 #9
    Most of what you describe should really have been covered in any half-decent undergraduate program. On the graduate level, get ready for differential geometry, topology and weirder things still...

    Anyway, if it makes you feel better, I absolutely sucked at math in High School, I alway barely made the 50% mark. I was good in physics though, and very stubborn, so I decided to try physics anyway. Keep in mind that over here, your first year in physics has about 80% math courses in it.

    Then when I got to university, I started to love the mathematics. I remember the physics part of my first year as extremely boring, it was the math that got me through. And now, I'm finishing my undergraduate studies in both math and physics. Next year I'll be starting my master's course in physics (yippie :biggrin: )

    Moral of the story, try and do your best right now, but you still have a long way to go before you have to worry about grad school.
  11. Jul 6, 2004 #10


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    yes i meant all that math as a preparation that is usually covered in undergrad study.
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