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How hard is a Physics major at a top 35 Uni?

  1. Nov 15, 2008 #1
    Hey folks, I am thinking about maybe trying to do a physics major. However, I don't want it to be too hard and lower my already low gpa. How hard is the math and courses like upper division Moldern Physics, Mathematical Physics,Dynamics,Thermal Stat, E&M and QM? Also how hard are the require math like, Lin Algebra, Differential Eqns,Analysis.I am currently a chemistry major and am taking PChem, which is pretty hard. Are those other classes much harder? I like math and am pretty good at it (was on specialize science high school math team and did very well on standardized tests) but ever since I took Calc II with some crazy grad student teaching have been somewhat afraid, as I got a C+ and couldn't understand anything he taught.(I used to get A+/As, 800 SAT I/II and 4/5 APs on all my math classes). However I took 1st year physics for my Chem major and although I didnt do very well (lack of studying), I found the material very interesting. Therefore, I would like to know how difficult a physics major is going to be. The way the grading works in my Physics department is based on a curve, median grade usually B-. I don't want to be in a class with 10-20 kids who are all smarter than me. Also, are the upper level courses as interesting as the freshman year course,or is it just a bunch of crazy technical stuff that is dry. The reason I find physics interesting is because of all the bizarre concepts such as relativity, time travel + implications with philosophy. Finally, I took 2 semesters of General Physics (that's what chem majors/pre meds take)but my school has a 3 semester sequence for physics majors. Is it required to take this sequence because I would not want to do this since I will have to graduate later, as I will already need to graduate in 5 years without having to take this sequence. My future plans are to probably go to grad, law or med school, although I am undecided.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2008 #2
    If anything, it's the freshman year courses that are boring and dry. However, a Physics major is one of the hardest science degrees to go after. It's very mathematically intensive and pretty damn non-trivial, but you actually feel like you're doing legitimate science and not just reading things from a book.

    Be prepared to sacrifice your social life, however. Physics comes first.
  4. Nov 15, 2008 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Your upper level courses will probably not go into philosophical issues at all, or at best just touch on them lightly. You'll pretty much have to study those things on the side. The emphasis in class is on learning how to do (calculate) things with relativity, E&M, QM, etc. You'll need to be (or become) comfortable with vector calculus (Calc III at most U.S. schools) and differential equations.
  5. Nov 15, 2008 #4
    Yes. You'll find a lot of physics, even quantum mechanics, is pretty mundane. It's amazing what you can do with it, but it's not the mystical subject people think it is. That's actually math. :)

    So if you're going into physics just because you like those bizarre concepts, brace yourself for a surprise when you're in 1st year and calculating how far a ball will travel, 2nd year calculating the efficiency of an engine, 3rd year doing quantum mechanics, but learning about the energy levels of the hydrogen atom and its light spectrum, and 4th year learning about why metals conduct and insulators do not.

    There's more to it, but none of it gets into this seemingly magical area of time travel or teleportation. Probably the most bizarre concepts you'll learn will come in a particle physics class. But, even that is fairly mundane by today's standards, since most of this stuff was known some 30 years ago.

    So, in conclusion, if you love learning how things (devices, the universe, nature), then you'll love physics. If you don't, then you won't like it.
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