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Here's the things I love, now what should I study to pursue it

  1. Apr 14, 2012 #1
    I'm a chemistry major with an emphasis on the biochem side of things. I'm currently finishing up Calc 3 and the basic electricity and magnetism portion of my physics curriculum, and quite frankly, physics is just about the coolest thing ever.

    I still love chemistry. But physics delves into the actual heart of the matter. If I want to understand what's really, truly going on, I need the physics. I need the math. I love science because of its explanatory ability. I'm not content to say "This happens" and leave it at that. I want to know why. And physics, more than any other field, has the ability to answer that. Still, I love chemistry, and I'm interested in the intersection of the two fields. Not to get too sci-fi, but creating an interface between organic synapses and electronic circuitry is what I want to do.

    So, am I in the right field? Is it better to be a physicist with a knowledge of chemistry, or a chemist who knows a lot of math and physics? Or does it matter?

    Thanks for reading, and any advice or opinions on the matter.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2012 #2


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    Hey RubberBandit and welcome to the forums.

    One thing I want to say about your post is that often the 'why' is not only subjective in terms of what it specifically means to answer 'why' but also that in many cases people don't really know 'why' or at least the 'full' interpretation of why.

    To understand where I am coming from imagine a kid having a conversation with their kid where the kids wants to understand what 'things are made of' (which is a big part of what physics is trying to answer).

    To cut a long story short the kid ends up asking 'what are quarks made of' and the parent ends up freezing and ends up saying 'I don't know, this is as far as we have got'. Also the kid might then ask 'why is it made of quarks and not jelly?' The parent might laugh at something like that and consider the question rather child-like, but this is very important in the why because in order to give a good argument of why something should be like it is, you also need to give a reason why it should not be something complementary. To do this means that you are giving some more justification of the 'why' by saying that if it was any other way, then so and so would occur and because of this, an argument is presented for the particular 'why' case being argued over another possible case.

    Also realize that as a consequence of the above, it makes more sense to try and look at things in a non-isolated context. One way of doing this is to be aware of the different thoughts in other areas including chemistry, biology, economics, computer science and computation in particular, mathematics (including statistics, logic, applied and pure mathematics) and any kind of field of study that studies complex systems (pretty much all of science in its own ways).

    The reason I suggest this is because if you look at things in isolation, you can't put what you see in a relative context and if this is the case, then if you are trying to understand 'why', you will not be able to really justify it in the way you would otherwise do by comparing it to other situations and arguing why those would not work as well. It's almost like trying to tell a fish what water is in the case where there is no relativity involved.

    Now in terms of more specific and practical advice if you want to create some kind of brain-computer interface stuff my recommendation would be some kind of electrical engineering with a later focus on those particular areas. The thing is though, you are bound at some point, going to be forced to do interdisciplinary kind of investigations and this is going to most likely involve many different things which I think is good if you want to take a real stab in answering a why question no matter how big or small.

    In terms of physics and for the 'why', it is important that you not only become aware of the foundational mathematics you will need for physics and engineering along with the foundational science results for engineering, but also to study some kind of computational science in your own time.

    The reason is that in the words of John Archibald Wheeler, physics has transitioned (for this author) from a viewpoint of matter to a viewpoint of information. People that study computation not only have to understand computation, they also have to understand information as well. By having this extra perspective you are adding an extra set of lens to your growing pair of sunglasses to see the world in a different way than you would have if you didn't have those extra set of lens.

    Anyway I hope all goes well for you in the future, and I wish you the best of luck.
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