Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

If one wanted to become a theoretical Physcist

  1. Aug 17, 2005 #1
    There is so much mathematics in theoretical physics these days such as string theory that it may be hard to distinguish mathematicians from theoretical physcist, although this lack of distinction applied to Newton and others as well.

    My question is would you recommand an (average level intelligent) future theoretical physcist to do a Phd in pure mathematics (related to physics such as topology) and go back to physics once the mathematics has been mastered. Or do a Phd in physics and pick up the higher level mathematics such as Topology, abstract algebra etc

    Considering that this person is not a genius than I presume that the former (Phd in math) is a better choice since it is much harder to learn higher level mathematics by one self compared with picking up a physics text book without any fear of the mathematics in it and ready to absorb all the physics inside. But I could be wrong. Any suggestions.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2005 #2
    Check out this site from Nobel laureate Gerardus t'Hooft

  4. Aug 17, 2005 #3
    Most of the theoretical physicists at my university are actually in the maths department. But it depends on what you want to do with it that matters
  5. Aug 17, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    In my opinion,...

    wherever you go should be strong and active (especially regarding seminars) in both mathematics and physics.

    (Depending of where you study, it seems "theoretical physics" is done in either "physics" departments, as one would expect, or in "applied mathematics" departments, like http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/ )

    if your real goal is physics, I'd choose a physics path supplemented by mathematics. I would suggest the reverse if you had a very specific problem in mind and felt that a math path would teach you what you really needed to know for that specific problem.

    If you are interested in string theory, Amanda Peet's page may be helpful
    http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~peet/home/straightdope.html [Broken] .
    There's also Warren Siegel's entertaining pages
    http://insti.physics.sunysb.edu/~siegel/curriculum.html .
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook