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Help Deciding future of physics education.

  1. Aug 4, 2012 #1
    I have been interested in majoring in physics since high school however, i have kinda had a crappy go of university thus far. I was treated like crap by my school and had 2 math/physics teachers depress me so bad that i basically gave up on the school. left after my first semester and went to a liberal arts school in canada cause my girlfriend was there. Then i got tossed on a roller coaster and somehow ended up in Laos for my entire sophomore year. Laos was good cause i got my head screwed on straight, but I missed enrollment to change schools and im stuck going to my Canadian liberal arts school this year, which is fine, but I am basically limited to only a few basic science classes.

    Dont get me wrong, Iv gotten straight A's and my passion for learning is real and thats been the biggest issue. I cant put up with crappy school systems that just dont actually teach you anything. The system and getting a degree isnt enough for me I want a real physics education.

    So my question to the fine audience that reads this post is simple, what should I do? I will continue with my physics education even if i have to take a few extra years.

    Are you aware of any small passionate undergraduate physics programs that will take a junior in? Smaller the better.

    Thanks a lot for your help!
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2012 #2
    No matter what school you go to, you will always get good teachers and bad teachers. This is why it is important to learn the skill of self-studying.

    You have to spend a year now at your liberal arts university?? Why not pick up a few books and work through them??
  4. Aug 4, 2012 #3
    Oh i intend to. there will be lots of studying during this next year of university. But self studying really doesn't get you very far according to the "system" which is where I am asking for guidance. Is anyone aware of a good super small university that has a good physics program? and what could the potential issues be with joining a physics program in my 3rd year?
  5. Aug 5, 2012 #4
    This is going to be a bad situation. The point of getting a degree is certification and not teaching, and much of what you learn in order to get a degree is to become a cog in a bureaucratic system.

    If you don't want a degree and you don't want to play the "career game" then its relative easy. Find some big state university (UT Austin) is a nice place, and become a slacker.

    If you want a degree, then you have to get with the program.

    Do you want a degree or not? The purpose of the degree is to have a piece of paper that you can turn into money and prizes. If you want a degree then you have to learn to put on the suit and the leash and learn to follow deadlines and obey.
  6. Aug 5, 2012 #5
    It actually does. The better you are at self-studying, then less you have to be spoon feed, and the more choices you have.
  7. Aug 6, 2012 #6
    Your comments are unhelpful and frankly I feel sorry for the way you see the world.

    Honestly the piece of paper means nothing to me, I have lived under the stars on the ground for over a year and a half of my life and in bamboo huts another 7 months on top of that. I really dont care to be rich or to live the "american dream". All I want is the best education and to be able to discuss the universe with leading experts. However, to even be able to meet with anyone in your field you have to have the degrees.

    My question was simple or so I thought, are you aware of any small physics programs and do you see any unforeseen issues with transferring schools as a junior? That question remains to be answered by anyone...

    I am clearly "playing the game" with the degrees. Im simply looking for a school whos goal is is to educate. Which, as you have so clearly pointed out, is not in 95% of schools agendas....

    For the record I am not looking to be "fed" my education. I have never met someone who reads as much as I do. But, I do enjoy talking to professors, being able to ask them difficult questions, and to be worthy of their time...
  8. Aug 6, 2012 #7
    If the piece of paper means nothing to you then you are better off not getting a degree at all, and you are probably better off not going into physics. Not getting a degree considerably increases your options. I know people that are perfectly happy being slackers. They work odd jobs, make up just enough money to pay for tuition and end up being professional students.

    You actually don't have to have degrees. The problem is that you do have to have money.

    No. It is in the agendas of the most schools. The issue is that education involves teaching people to operate within a bureaucratic social organization. Science is one of those organizations. I'm trying to be helpful because I'm telling you what a "real physics education" involves, because I'm not sure that you would like it.

    There's a lot to be said for the romance of looking at the skies, however "real physics" is about being in committee meetings so that you can get grants to fund a telescope that is looking for a particular signal in the space. I think it's cool, but I'm not sure that you would like it.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2012
  9. Aug 6, 2012 #8
    The basic issue here is do you want to want people play professional football or do you want to play professional football yourself. You don't have to decide immediately, but it makes a big difference. If you just want to watch people play professional physics, then there really is no reason why you need to get a physics degree. There are lots of ways of doing it.

    If you want to actually play professional football/physics, then you have to go through the standard program. You are going to have to go through the standard GRE, letter of recommendation, yadda, yadda and jump through the necessary hoops. The problem is that a lot of the hoops might seem unnecessary, and they are if you think of physics as "pure learning" but it isn't. Physics is part of the academic-industrial-military complex, and if you have problems with that, then it's not going to work out. There's a lot of grunt work in physics.

    What I'm trying to tell you is that I don't know if what you want really exists.

    Having said that the standard resource for undergraduate programs is Petersen's Guides, which should be available in most bookstores, once you have that then you can look at various websites. The undergraduate physics curriculum tends to be rather standard.

    The other issue is how basic is basic? If your current school offers calculus and intro classical mechanics/EM, you need to take them. If you haven't taken those, then you will have to restart everything as a freshman.

    I may sound harsh, but I mean well. The issue is that before you change your entire life around, then you have to be sure that you aren't going to change your life around and then figure out that this wasn't what you wanted. What worries me is that you end up in intro physics looking over a test in which someone is trying to calculate the component of forces, and you find it endlessly boring and not "real physics" when in fact it is.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2012
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