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How important is a minor?

  1. Jan 11, 2015 #1
    I'm currently specializing in Physics and am also looking to possibly complete a minor in Microbiology. I have completed a lot of courses in the latter field so far, and only need 4 more to to get the minor (I'm only in 2nd year).

    With that being said, the problem is that I will essentially be using all my remaining electives on these courses to complete a minor when I want to supplement my Physics module with more Math courses (and possibly other fields I'm interested). The Physics program has multivariable calculus, ODE & PDE, and linear algebra I, but lacks other important ones like complex variables, numerical analysis, linear algebra II, continuum mechanics, statistics.

    Without trying to ramble on much longer, my main questions are:

    How important are the latter courses named in providing a student with a solid mathematical background? Are there any others in particular that a student should take?

    How important is the formal distinction of minor, especially when it's in a completely different field than your main program (i.e. Physics vs Microbiology)? My main reason for wanting the minor is simply because I'd like to do work in Mathematical Biology possibly in the future, and having some core courses would at least indicate I have some background to future research groups/supervisors. I am also interested in the content itself anyways and don't mind taking the courses, but could really otherwise care less about the minor title.

    Any advice would great!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    It sounds like you are interested in graduate school. Talk to people who look like the scientist you would want to be, to see which courses they think would be more useful to you. I would say that having an official "minor" is less important than having whatever content knowledge would be useful. I don't think that having fulfilled a particular university's requirements for a minor is as important as having the knowledge and experience that would be useful to you in your future research career.
     
  4. Jan 11, 2015 #3
    I would agree that the minor is probably not necessary if you are interested in mathematical biology or even biophysics. I had similar aspirations to minor in biology as a physics major interested in biophysics but changed my mind after speaking with a biophysicist at my university. She told me that she never took a biology course as an undergrad or even as a graduate student. It is pretty easy to pick up the biology stuff on the fly... If you need to know something specific about proteins for example, just look it up in a biology book.

    I don't think you necessarily need to take a bunch of biology courses, but if you are interested then go for it. My advice would be to put important math/physics courses above your biology courses when it comes to scheduling. If you are interested in grad school, research experience will be the most important thing. Try to get involved in mathematical biology research at your school and look around for summer REU's. With an REU or two under your belt, you will be golden no matter how many biology courses you've taken.
     
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