How important is chemistry in physics?

  • Thread starter vhbelvadi
  • Start date

Is it advisable to take chemistry also?

  • Yes, definitely

    Votes: 5 29.4%
  • Not really

    Votes: 12 70.6%

  • Total voters
    17
  • Poll closed .
  • #1
67
1
I really need your opinions on this, quick!
I want to complete my PhD in Astrophysics and enter into research in the field. I still have a long way to go (my undergrad classes only start after two months!) but I want to be prepared.
Frankly, I have absolutely no interest in chemistry, and I want to get rid of it as soon as possible and dedicate my entire time to study physics and mathematics.
My dilemma is whether I should take chemistry as one of my subjects in undergrad. Considering where I want to go, would a Bachelor's degree with chemistry really play an important role in my future career in physics. Would anybody be bothered by that/demand for it at any point.
In short, will I be making a bad decision to omit it at this level? (I'm still not interested in it!)
Thanks a lot in advance for the speedy responses!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
380
1
From my perspective no it isn't really that important. A lot of what is taught in Chemistry that applied to Physics you'll end up learning in quantum anyway. In my first year I took the year long introductory Chemistry course and the only time I've seen any of that material come up in my Honors Physics degree (mind you I just finished my second year) was in my intro to quantum class where we discussed orbital shapes, quantum numbers, and bonding. But we basically went into the same depth in that physics class as we did in chemistry the year before.

I can see there potentially being useful bits of information from intro chemistry as you reach thermodynamics but nothing you can't just pick up right away during your thermo class.

Now considering a full major or specialization in Chemistry is just going to hinder your progression in Physics and Math. I can see there POTENTIALLY being some aspect that might pertain to your Astrophysics dreams (i.e. molecule structure, IR spectroscopy, etc.) if you choose to analyze the structure of asteroids, planets, or stars. But in that respect you're going to learn all you need to know in your astro classes anyway.

Having the Chemistry knowledge might give you a slight upper hand, but really I don't think it's all that necessary. There is no school that will require a Chemistry background for studying Astrophysics, so in the end I'd say 90% of it is going to be useless knowledge and I would advise against it.

Devote your time to Astrophysics and understanding the math and fundamental Physical processes. Any future knowledge you might need can easily be picked up along the way whether through self-study or seminars or w/e.
 
  • #3
67
1
@Clever-Name thanks-a-million!
People had been bombarding me with these questions so much lately that I'd begun to lose footing!
So I suppose I can as well drop Chemistry without any fear right away.
But I was wondering if it would help someone preferring to go into nuclear physics, or really put in a lot of time towards research/thinking(!) in areas like string theory.
 
  • #4
380
1
String theory absolutely not. Honestly you're better off getting a degree in Math with a little Physics if you want to do String Theory research.

Someone going into Nuclear Physics MIGHT benefit a little from some Chemistry background but I can't see it being that much. In chemistry you learn about interactions between functional groups, bonding mechanisms, special properties of certain organic/inorganic molecules and polymers. Nuclear Physicists probe the foundations of the atom, you wont see much of that in a Chemistry program.
 
  • #5
67
1
Honestly, @Clever-Name, thanks a lot for your patient replies.
I owe you one!
 
  • #6
2,571
1
My school made me take organic and physical chem, it was the most useless course in my study. Seriously, even English was more useful lol
 
  • #7
1,045
2
You had to take O-chem for Physics? I thought the general requirement was Gen Chem I/II.
 
  • #8
67
1
Seriously, even English was more useful lol
On a serious note, I think good language does help you put your ideas across!
the general requirement was Gen Chem I/II.
Remind me, what exactly does that cover?!
 
  • #9
144
1
double chem/physics here....

considering your interests in astrophysics, no. there are some semi useful topics (clever name mentioned a few) but you can learn them later in your astro program. or ask to take some physical chem labs.
 
  • #10
67
1
@flemmyd Thank you!
The general idea seems to be, anything useful chem can teach you , you will anyway learn in your physics course later on.
 
  • #11
1,045
2
Remind me, what exactly does that cover?!

All the basic stuff, stoichometry, atomic theory, electrochemistry, basic thermodynamics, ionic equilibria, lab procedure, scientific measurement and dimensional analysis.
 
  • #12
67
1
Right, so basically you wouldn't need too much of mainstream chem that comes after High School?
 
  • #13
2,571
1
All the basic stuff, stoichometry, atomic theory, electrochemistry, basic thermodynamics, ionic equilibria, lab procedure, scientific measurement and dimensional analysis.

Yeah I had that, and we also had organic chemistry and it wasn't easy organic chemistry either. It was like Sn2 reactions and nuclephile and stuff.
 
  • #14
67
1
I concur, that's boring.
 
  • #15
144
1
The general idea seems to be, anything useful chem can teach you , you will anyway learn in your physics course later on.

Well, I'm interested in spectroscopy and materials, so a chem/physics double makes sense for me. I don't exactly do work in astro, so im not 100%. it seems field dependent.

And something I've noticed: physics people tend to have a really poor understanding of molecules (for example, they'll understand H2 or CO2, but will start getting confused when you throw XeF4 their way). however, it doesnt seem like molecules that come up in astrophysics are super complicated (unlike organic molecules here on earth), so you don't need to understand it at any deep level.
Also, a good understanding of organic chemistry seems to give you a kind of idiot-savant understanding of quantum mechanics. You'll be able to say how the various orbitals and electrons interact and the conformation of the molecule, but you won't be able to put a number or wave function on anything....
 
  • #16
294
1
Anytime people start talking about molecules more complicated than water my eyes glaze over. It's probably not ideal but I'm also not particularly motivated to remedy it.

I took basic chemistry in undergrad and I don't think I learned anything that I didn't already know from AP chem in high school. I took p-chem and it was just extremely watered down QM. I took a materials chemistry course as a grad student and it seemed to be teaching things on an extremely shaky foundation. Molecular orbital theory was particularly bad.

Probably just had bad experiences, but what can I say? Three strikes. Chemistry is pretty much awful.
 
  • #17
67
1
Three strikes. Chemistry is pretty much awful.

Again, I concur!
 

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