How much chemistry do I need to know as a theoretical physicist?

  • #1
AW3Rgo0l
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How much chemistry do I need to know as a theoretical physicist in order for this knowledge to be sufficient for research in any field of theoretical physics? It is also interesting to know how difficult the transition from theoretical to experimental physics is? Do experimental physics require deeper knowledge of chemistry? Now I'm in school and I'm very worried about how much time I will need to devote to chemistry, since I don't really like it
 
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  • #2
It depends on what kind of physics you are going to tackle. "Theoretical physics" is vast. Popular physics tries to sell the idea that theoretical physics is only hyper fundamental stuff like particle physics, cosmology and string theory. However you can also make theory for any kind of physical system including quantum chemistry and condensed matter physics, which require much a bit of knowledge of chemistry.

All that said, it is not necessary, you can do a full career in physics without taking a course in chemistry. When you need to know chemistry to understand a process in a galaxy or the conduction of carbon, you can just learn what you need for that particular problem. As physicists know quantum mechanics, many topics that require "chemistry" are done under a physical perspective and not really a chemical one. The same for experimental physicists, sometimes the chemistry is only part of the tools and not necessarily important for what you are studying.

Lastly, I would recommend to find ways to learn more about chemistry in a way that is comfortable to you (for example, if you do not want to learn stoichiometry you do not have to). Even if it is not necessary, knowing a bit of chemistry can be very helpful in understanding a larger range of physical processes and can make you like physics even more :wink:
 
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