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Physics Guidance for post graduation in physics

  1. Jun 25, 2011 #1
    I am a aerospace engineer with a passion for physics. I am planning to apply for grad schools for a MS or phd in either theoretical physics or astrophysics, but the universities doesn't seem to be happy with the fact that my graduation degree was a engineering one. I talked to few admission cells and they said that my application will be considered but their tone didn't look really positive.
    So are there any good universities that take people from background other than physics for higher education in it????
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  3. Jun 25, 2011 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Is the problem that they "don't like your background" or is the problem that you are not prepared for graduate work? How many physics classes have you taken, and how does that compare to physics majors at your school?

    Schools do accept non-physics majors, but then they are faced with the problem of what to do with then for a year or two while they catch up.
  4. Jun 25, 2011 #3
    Their prob seems that my background wont be helpful for my research in Physics. The classes that i took were not pure physics, it was totally applied physics such as fluid mechanics, aerodynamics etc, which compared to any physics major would be like like doing only 25% or less of what they do, so they believe it would be hard for me to catch up. I did asked them about the extra classes that can be taken up along with the course but they didnt replied to that one.
    Which are the universities that offer admission to non physics majors??
  5. Jun 26, 2011 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Any of them, provided that they are convinced that the application is strong enough in other areas to make up for the lack of preparation.

    You can't catch up with extra classes. You have 1-2 years worth of work to do, and a graduate student's schedule is such that they can't go off taking another 3 or 4 classes a term. Furthermore, you can't take grad-level classes until you've taken the undergraduate versions. So what has to happen is that you would be admitted, but spend your first year catching up, and start graduate classes the following year.

    Departments don't like to do this. It costs them more money, or equivalently, fewer students that they can ultimately accept. If they accept you, they have to reject someone else who has better preparation. So this tends to happen only for really exceptional students.
  6. Jun 26, 2011 #5


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    A good score on the physics GRE can help demonstrate that you are in fact prepared for physics graduate work. Did you take the physics GRE?
  7. Jun 26, 2011 #6
    no i am planing to take it this year have already applied for it.....lets see where it goes...
  8. Jun 26, 2011 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    Right, but let's be realistic about GRE scores. The OP says "compared to any physics major would be like like doing only 25% or less of what they do" This is not a recipe for a high score.
  9. Jun 26, 2011 #8
    So you're saying its really hard to into grad school unless you have physics major in your undergrds?
    This was one of the response that i got from a university admission cell:
    "The general response though from general Physics admissions point of view would be that in any event we consider all applications seriously. But you need to understand that you will be competing with people who have done quite a lot of theoretical undergraduate work in Physics already."
    What is it that they are trying to say, I mean they are not saying no directly, so is it worth applying to the university?

    Also what if you finish a graduation course here in India and then apply for the same course outside, is that possible?
  10. Jul 1, 2011 #9
    Your situation is an interesting one.

    If you are absolutely interested in pure physics in graduate school, you may need a year or two of catching like others discussed.

    Another option is a phD in an engineering field. Graduate school in engineering is usually much more theoretical than undergraduate. This may give you the choices you are after.
  11. Jul 1, 2011 #10
    i have a very similar problem,
    i have a burning desire in me to study Physics or end up researching in it.But my dillemma is as such i was thinking of Taking Economics in the undergrad
    i have a few questions,
    if i take up Economics as my undergrad study,can i study physics after it?
    can i give the gre with Physics as a subject or is there some way through which i can study physics at the best science universities in the world?
  12. Jul 1, 2011 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    MosesKoul, read the above messages. Everything true for engineering is more true for economics.
  13. Jul 1, 2011 #12
    Vanadium 50.
    Im still a bit confused on that matter.
    If you can lay it out for me a bit more clearly itll be greatly appreciated.
  14. Jul 1, 2011 #13
    And what are the scientific/mathematical/technical fields i can venture into after my economics undergrad?
  15. Jul 1, 2011 #14


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    If you want to study and do research in physics at the postgraduate level, especially at one of the "best science universities in the world", you should probably major in physics in undergrad. To get into grad school you generally need to have taken the upper-division core physics classes - classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism and statistical mechanics/thermodynamics. If you're taking a different major, I don't know how one would manage to take all of these classes without doing a double major.

    It's probably a lot easier to do a physics major with an econ minor if you want to do some econ. I'm not an expert, but I suspect it's easier to go from physics to econ than econ to physics. The reason is that the tools used to study econ problems are likely just a subset of the tools used to study physics problems.
  16. Jul 1, 2011 #15
    My situation is slightly tricky in that regard,
    i prepared for the IIT engineering entrance exam in which you need to study all the aforementioned topics as they are the syllabus.
    and all these topics are taught collectively in the 11th and 12th grade.
    i Totally agree to the fact that its easier to shift from Physics to econ and not the other way round.
    But i have studied all these topics and im quite thorough in all of them.

    but what are my prospects of studying physics after Econ in the undergrad?

    if not,
    can you suggest me some technical prospects like mathematical modelling or Any field thats very scientific in its approach after im through with my econ ?
  17. Jul 1, 2011 #16
    Same as that of a newly-minted high school graduate, I would assume. Possibly slightly worse due to not doing Physics during the time spent in undergrad.
  18. Jul 1, 2011 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    Studying physics in high school does not qualify you to study it at the postgraduate level.

    If you want to study physics, study physics. Not economics.
  19. Jul 1, 2011 #18
    Conversely if you want to study economics, you should consider studying physics. The thing about physics is that you will be doing enough "hard math problems" so it means it relatively easy to learn economics on your own. The converse tends not to be true.
  20. Jul 2, 2011 #19
    okay economics a bit difficult but what about my situation, i had some under grad physics background.
  21. Jul 2, 2011 #20
    Point Taken.
    But is there a possibility of taking up Physics later on in life?
    can i enroll for higher physics courses since Physics for me is purely a passion ,not a means to earn a living.
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