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Hello from Canada

  1. Jun 12, 2015 #1
    Good day! I have always been interested in physics, but I was quite misguided in high school. There was no physics culture in my area and our high school teachers were chemistry majors. Although that is a great thing, I would have loved exposure to someone passionate in physics.

    I am currently a career electronics technician, and work with radar and ip based communications. I am 32 years old, but I would like to now pursue a degree in physics with the intention for graduate studies. I would love to make research of my own one day.

    My current interest in physics has been in strong and weak force behaviors, but I am constantly amazed by so many different aspects of physics. Everything is related to physics, so really physics is an infinite subject with infinite areas of study / interest.

    I hope to learn from here and hopefully get some good insight or advice on physics studies.

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  3. Jun 12, 2015 #2


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  4. Jun 12, 2015 #3


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    Welcome to the forum.

    What you suggest is certainly possible. And people have certainly made more radical transfers of occupation than this. I recall that when I was in grad school, one of my co-students was previously a technician in the same department. He worked on the experiments to be operated at CERN and DESY and places like this. So then he swatted up the theory and applied for the PhD program and was admitted. He did quite well.

    First suggestion is, don't burn bridges. Where you are right now seems to be an acceptable condition. So if you do leave to go to university to study physics, all good. But be sure to leave on good terms so that it might be possible to come back. That means adequate notice to your current employers, letting them make plans, etc. Hey, you never know. Maybe you can work part time for your current employer while you study, or some such. Or maybe they will hire you when you graduate.

    To start in physics there are a bunch of topics you will be studying pretty much no matter what area you eventually go into. Calculus for sure. There are several good first-year level calculus texts. Get one and swat it up. Basic mechanics such as collisions and friction and pulleys and levers and all that. Get a first year physics text and go through it and see if you are comfortable with the concepts.

    A university will very likely want you to take a bunch of other classes outside of physics to fill out breadth requirements. So probably they will want you to do at least one year of some other first year science class. And they will probably want you to do lots of math, maybe a computers class.

    From second year on you get steadily more specialized. If you want to do weak theory you will want to be hitting the math as much as you can. But also be reading texts on particle physics.

    Google up some schools you might want to study at. Find out where recent grads from those schools have gone after graduation and see which ones you might want to emulate. Find their admissions department and get your email working. Find out what their admissions requirements are. Find out if there are scholarships you can apply for, since many of them don't consider you unless you apply. Find out if there is any government assistance for your living expenses while you are studying.

    Having the technologist skills may be a big help. You can probably get reasonable employment during the terms you are not studying. And labs may be quite happy to have you working there.
  5. Jun 12, 2015 #4
    Thank you for your replies!

    I am in a lucky position where my work will actually continue paying me throughout my studies.. and get me working at a projects management level once I possess a degree. Of course I would have to sign a contract for working longer as repayment. It is something I have to apply for and get accepted for though. Only a select few get this opportunity - unless I do my own studies part-time on the side. I have been told that I would be an ideal candidate based on my career progression which increases my chances quite a bit - and that not many people apply since they are deeply rooted into their current careers. The only requirement for my company is that I complete two university courses before I apply. They will even reimburse me if I complete them successfully. I think I will follow your advice with taking calculus and physics classes, but I am not sure if they are a good idea to take as online courses. Maybe the math.
  6. Jun 12, 2015 #5


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    Re: on-line classes. Different people learn differently. Some people do very well with on-line material. Some people do better in class.

    Try a couple on-line courses to see how you like it. Maybe you pick up the material very easily. One thing about an on-line version is that you can usually replay a lesson as many times as you like. And you can do it at what ever time of day is best for you.

  7. Jun 12, 2015 #6
    I can see myself doing well on an online course. I was just looking at the ocw on MIT, not sure if open means "free" and/or if they are worth credits?
  8. Jun 12, 2015 #7


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    It's free if all you do is download the files and read them. But free also means you don't get anybody to mark your homework or tests. And you don't get any degree credit for it at a university. Though some times you can write an exam to get credit for some class requirements. People coming to University of Waterloo from Quebec often had classes in CEGEP. They could write an exam and get credit for several first year courses. The on-line material might get you a significant start on a BSc.


    For me the on-line material is primarily a way to learn a topic without having to go to a university to take the class.

    I have never looked in to getting a degree on line. I don't know what is available, nor how much it costs. I am frequently inundated by adverts on the radio for on-line versions of a certain MBA program. So there must be some on-line degrees.

    Physics is not really complete without some lab work. That is quite hard to accomplish on line. Some fond memories of doing certain labs. The labs involving liquid nitrogen for example. Or the lab involving the electron microscope. Or repeating the Fizeau measurement of the speed of light. There were some others that were fun.

    I recall a particular incident with the Fizeau measurement. I claimed that changing a particular distance would affect the result. The prof claimed not and took a mark off my report. I insisted. He refused. I demanded we go to the test equipment and find out what happened when we changed the distance in question. He laughed at my impudence. I asked for the phone number of the dean of science. He came to the lab and looked through the equipment. I changed the distance. The result changed by the amount I predicted. He was not happy but gave me back the mark.

    Also, a big part of university for me was the interaction with the other students. We would gather and argue over topics in the homework. And some of he homework was specifically assigned as group projects.
  9. Jun 12, 2015 #8
    That is awesome! Your teacher handled this in a funny way.. it must have felt great to really get your version confirmed through actual results. I guess that can serve a lesson to everyone when it comes to concepts and perspectives.. always be open and admit wrong when you are.. because in the end, being proved wrong is great news when it comes to the bigger picture.

    In a way this teacher is probably hoping this gets dusted under a carpet, but at the same time he will make sure that doesn't happen again. Maybe even listen a bit more. And of course you helped that teacher seal off some understanding on the subject.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2015
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