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I'm about to declare my major (am I making the right decision?)

  1. Nov 20, 2010 #1
    This is not so much so expecting an answer (it's a long post) as spilling my thoughts. PF has been feeling like family to me, since I've gotten everything from high school decisions, relationship advice, homework help etc., to what sort of pens I should buy from here. Nonetheless, some advice will be nice.

    So, I initially planned just to major in physics. I came to study in USA because it has probably the largest physics community. My aim was to clear the graduate classes in real analysis, algebra, complex analysis, topology and PDEs next year before turning around to focus on physics.

    As such, I've been taking mostly mathematics courses this far. I took classical mechanics (upper class), fluid mechanics, group theory, differential geometry, differential forms, and 3 silly requirements for my first semester. I have the following courses in my schedule for next semester:
    - Complex variables with applications,
    - Calculus of variations
    - Graph theory
    - Partial differential equations
    - Nonlinear dynamics (fractals and PDEs)
    - Quantum chemistry
    - Current research topics in physics
    - Graduate quantum mechanics

    But now I realize that I've been enjoying mathematics more. :confused: Or rather, I haven't been doing much physics because of my decision to stock up on mathematics first, so I can't really tell.

    To be honest, I think I'm just as bad at both physics and mathematics. Like the average person, I struggle with my homework. I don't see myself as an aspiring physicist or mathematician, and it seems like the good ones are all set on taking up these fields even before they start college. I just enjoy seeing problems, real-life puzzles and noticing, hey, I've seen something like this before, I think I can solve it. And it just so happens that mathematics and physics are the most ubiquitous problem solving tools. I sometimes get the feeling of, "That's 'slick'," (Morin, Classical Mechanics), or "This is an 'ugly formula'," (Artin, Algebra), which is nice. But I don't get orgasmic pleasure out of it OK. There are things in physics and mathematics which I find boring, too. It's just that I dislike mostly every other subject. So now, my choices are:

    1. DECLARE PHYSICS AND MATHEMATICS, MINOR IN EEE. Go into quantum computing, which has been my dream since middle school. Then I'll stock up on more electrical engineering and computer science courses. What I don't like about the simplest (greediest) choice at this point is that it is time-consuming. It's full of requirements, including classes in statistics, discrete mathematics etc. which I dislike... It also strikes me that I'll have to specialize in graduate school anyway, so being greedy comes across as rather redundant to me.

    2. DECLARE MATHEMATICS. Taking whichever I've done more courses in sounds like an option. What I cannot imagine is actually doing generals some day down the road. And the mathematics conferences seem more lively than physics conferences, lol.

    3. DECLARE PHYSICS. Stick to plan.

    4. DECLARE PHYSICS. As a pre-med student. I don't like this choice, but recently my research has applications to medical science, and I like the field. The other thing I like here is that I feel I can contribute somehow without being talented in physics or mathematics. But I think I'd rather be a physicist with opportunities to work in medical science (say, biofluidics, and there's a lot of stuff in the frontier of medicine involving QM/EM) than a medical researcher per se.

    Lastly, I know there are only so few jobs in quantum computing, medicine, physics, math etc. - if all else fails, I hope I could work as an aerodynamicist for Ferrari or something. Or even work at Starbucks. No teaching. I have bad patience at teaching, and teaching always makes me feel stupid. Teaching kids who are younger and brighter than me by the day is creepy.

    I say, go with (1). What do you think I should major in?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2010 #2


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    I believe you should pick what you like best and what you dream of. If your dreams are in quantum computing, then go for it! And don't worry that there is no much work in these fields, someone with a physics and math degree will always get a job, no matter what!

    If you like mathematics and physics so much, then why give it up? It will probably be not that easy to major in both, but if you love what you do, then I'd say go for it!
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