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I can get my B.S. in Physics in 2 years w/ this Schedule...

  1. Aug 20, 2015 #1
    I transferred into my school's physics program with all my core curriculum done, so I only have to take physics and math courses to finish my degree at this point. The physics program at my school is pretty small so pretty much all courses are only offered in either the fall or spring, and there is only one section. They recommend that you finish the upper division coursework in 3 years, but I have figured that this way I can complete it in two.

    S1: Fall 2015
    Modern Physics 1 / Lab
    Radiation Detection and Measurement
    Multivariable Calculus
    Differential Equations

    S2: Spring 2015
    Modern Physics 2 / Lab
    Methods in Theoretical Physics
    Independent Study
    Senior Lab

    S3: Fall 2016
    Intermediate Classical Mechanics 1
    Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism 1
    Quantum Mechanics 1
    Widely Applied Physics

    S4: Spring 2016
    Intermediate Classical Mechanics 2
    Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism 2
    Quantum Mechanics 2
    Physics Elective

    I am most worried about semester 1 because apparently thermo and radiation detection both involve some QM knowledge, which I do not have.

    I am secondarily worried about semesters 3 and 4 because my physics major friends recommend against taking the "big 3" (E&M, QM, Classical) at the same time.

    That being said, I am trying to move on to grad school ASAP, and I have no other classes to take. Do you guys have any advice? Thank you all so much in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2015 #2


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    Welcome to the forum art.

    Four classes at once does not seem excessive. But you should be talking to the guidance or admissions people at the school you are planning on attending. What do they say about your proposed course load?

    The same general comment on what you need for the classes. Yes thermo can be taught on a quantum mechanical basis. But it does not need to be. And it can be taught with the most basic of knowledge of QM, pretty much that there are energy levels and that particles can move between them. So talk to the school and see what the requirements are for these classes.
  4. Aug 20, 2015 #3
    Thanks for your reply DEvans.

    I was looking at the Thermo book and it has a reference chapter on QM in case you don't have the background. However, the prerequisites are only Physics 1 and 2. With some hard work, I think I should be fine.

    Thanks again for your kind words.
  5. Aug 20, 2015 #4


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    I never enjoyed moving quickly in school. I've done fast, and I've done slow. Slow is better. I'm sure you'll be able to do the homework and pass your exams, but will you really understand any of it on a deep and fundamental level? Just like your friends said, I would be terribly overwhelmed doing QM, EM, and mechanics all at once.

    When you're doing EM, do you want to have the time to delve into the vector calculus which shows that the EM field carries momentum? Or do you want to be forced to set that aside so that you can finish your QM and mechanics homework?

    When you're doing mechanics, do you want to have the time to learn why the Euler-Lagrange equations work for non-cartesian coordinates? Or do you want to be forced to set that aside so that you can finish your QM and EM homework?

    When you're doing QM, do you want to have the time to learn why the Schrodinger equation has to involve complex numbers? Or do you want to be forced to take that as a given so that you can finish your EM and mechanics homework?

    The unfortunate thing about university physics programs is that none of the important stuff is ever tested, because the foundations of complicated mathematical ideas are difficult to fit into the plug-and-chug model that most courses follow. For example, you'll never see an exam or homework question that asks: "Prove that the EM field carries energy." I don't mean to say that course work isn't useful, but it's only useful up to a point. If you want to learn anything deep and real then you have to set aside time outside of class to do it on your own. Taking too many classes prevents you from having time to do that.
  6. Aug 20, 2015 #5
    I think the sequence of the courses could be a lot better with mechanics I and II taken first. in S1 and S2 move senior lab and radiation detection to S3 and S4. I think the fall of your senior year is going to be horrendous if you get homework like I expect you to get in CM, QM and E/M with the possibility of taking the PGRE too.
  7. Aug 20, 2015 #6
    Why are you avoiding doing it in three years? If you do it in 3, you would have more time to do research.
  8. Aug 20, 2015 #7
    To add to this, you could take grad school courses and have a minor on top of it.
  9. Aug 20, 2015 #8
    pmr - Man, you make some valid points and I do take them to heart.

    gleem - That's a great suggestion. The only problem is that in order to take CM 1, I need multivariable calc as a prereq. Maybe if I speak with the professor he'll allow me to take them concurrently. IDK. That would be ideal though.

    dish - I'm 24 years old. It took me a while to figure out my path, and I finally have a goal/direction -- I'm trying to move forward at full throttle. I love what I'm doing and I have never been so excited for the school year to start! Still, I can't wait to get out of school and get my career started. I'd much rather get my bachelor's done by 26 rather than 27, but then again, in the larger scheme of things, what's one year?

    photon - I suppose I could take some grad school courses. And I have some programming courses under my belt, so maybe a computer science minor could be useful.

    Man, a lot to think about. I'll be speaking with an academic advisor and some of my professors next week. Thank you all so much for your input. A lot of good insight here.
  10. Aug 21, 2015 #9
    Nothing about your schedule seems un-manageable (provided this is all you were doing); but If you want to get your career started quicker, than it'd actually be more beneficial for you to free up some, take a little longer to graduate, and free time by doing less coursework so you can get research experience under your belt. Every physics major and their mothers take more or less the same coursework; it's the out of the class room stuff and what that produces (ie projects, code, papers, and the skills you acquire in doing them) that will make you stand out both to grad schools and to industry. I graduated at 27, I got my first 'real' job at 28; you will find that your age plays an insignificant factor.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  11. Aug 21, 2015 #10
    What clope said. When you get to graduate school, you will find that many students are even older than you, many are in their 30's. This is normal, no need to rush through it.
  12. Aug 21, 2015 #11
    I really, really recommend doing it in 3 years.

    While plenty of students are capable of completing degrees quicker than normal, there's several very good reasons not to. Firstly, do you want to understand the material or do you want to pass the course? The meat of the physics courses are the third and fourth year courses, and you want an extremely solid understanding of them moving forward to graduate studies. Secondly, are you enjoying what you're learning? If you're enjoying what it is you're learning (and you should if you want to get into graduate school for it), then why is there the urge to rush through? Enjoy your time learning the wonders of physics and do not rush. :)
  13. Aug 22, 2015 #12


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    I second what Kilgour22 said.

    Incidentally, I'm 26 myself, so I'm in the same boat when it comes to doing a later-in-life undergrad degree in physics.
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