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Studying Im studying a degree in Physics, now I hate it. Advice please

  1. Dec 30, 2009 #1
    So I enrolled on a BSc Physics degree 2 years ago. It been fine and interesting...but now I think I have made the wrong decision.

    Now doing my first Quantum Mechanics module and Statistical Physics module...and I am finding this really hard to get my head around. When I come to study and revise for my exams, normalising a wave function I'm just thinking...whats the point of this. I hate it. I don't want to do this kind of stuff.

    I find physics very interesting but damn, now I'm moving onto the more modern stuff...it's hard, I feel demotivated and generally don't like it. I got 10% in a Quantum test a few weeks ago. Always confused and don't really understand much. I have an exam in 14 days! While I do try and study a lot, I'm doing something I don't really enjoy anymore. I want to do well, but every time I get a bad grade I don't really care about it.

    So I am just wondering if this is common or am I really screwed. Anyone else got this? Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2009 #2
    You may or may not 'use' everything you are taught, but knowing it is better than not knowing it.

    (that almost sounds like a saying out of a fortune cookie)
  4. Dec 30, 2009 #3


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    Think of the future, where do you see yourself in 10, 20, 50 years? Do you really want to live in a world where you are an accountant and completely clueless? Physics is not hard, its just hard to explain it to you. Perhaps you should take courses that would provide the background for the subject, and try taking the classes again next year. You dont have to finish a BSc in 3-4 years
  5. Dec 30, 2009 #4
    Is it too late to switch to an engineering field? If you liked the more classical physics, perhaps mechanical engineering would be a good match.
  6. Dec 30, 2009 #5

    Chi Meson

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    I agree with this assessment. I too hit the wall hard with quantum. I found the concepts fascinating, but the classes never taught the concepts. I looked over my notebooks a few years ago (I graduated in '88) and all I saw were integrals, matrices, and other operations I longer recognize. I did not have the persistence at the time that was required to get through the math, and so I waded through those classes with a 20 or 30% average (and that was, of course a "C").

    In retrospect, I might have enjoyed engineering more, since that is (primarily) the application of classical mechanics and themodynamics, something I enjoy thoroughly.

    You might consider transferring to a different school; sometimes this facilitates the process where backtracking/retaking classes might be necessary.

    It is not worth suffering through something if you don't enjoy it. One of my former students began college as a physics major, but graduated with a BBA and is now finishing a PhD in Business, knocking his classmates out of the way.

    Just remember, even making it as far as Quantum means you have more capabilities than most. Take advantage of the upcoming semester or term to take a class in something that calls out to your interest.

    I'll be 45 next week. You would NOT BELIEVE how much time you have.

    Enjoy college, dammit!
  7. Dec 30, 2009 #6
    I started doing a biochemistry degree 2 years ago and I absolutely hated it. So, I switched to a physics degree. I never want to work in a biology/microbiology lab ever again. The work is tedious and menial, and most medical breakthroughs are a product of hard work rather than ingenuity. Just talking about it pisses me off.

    If you don't like physics because you're not doing well, then that doesn't mean you don't like physics. But, if you just hate it then do something you like. It's your life. Do what you want. If it takes you 20 years to get your undergrad, then that's how long it will take.
  8. Dec 30, 2009 #7


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    Welcome to PF!

    Hi jamesa00789! Welcome to PF! :smile:
    Do you find QM too mathematical, or not mathematical (or not rigorous) enough?
  9. Dec 30, 2009 #8
    Some people get into physics due to flawed perception about the field.
  10. Dec 30, 2009 #9
    Take the words right out of my mouth. Big difference between not liking it and not doing well at it. If you don't like it, life is too short, but if you are not good at it, study harder, ask question here.

    I switched from Bio-Chem to electronic AFTER I got the 4 year degree!!!!
  11. Dec 30, 2009 #10
    Ouch that sucks lol.
  12. Dec 30, 2009 #11
    You can look at it suck, but also can look at it is the journey to find my calling!!! I spent close to 30 years in a successful enough career and now that I am not working, I still have the passion studying everyday on the subject.

    People said playing cross word puzzle to keep the mind fresh, how can that compare to Electromagnetics, PDE and antenna design??

    Only thing I wish is I should have study more math before. Thats why I have been answering a lot of post here and pretty much repeat this over and over again. If you don't know what you want in your career, study math, more math. PDE, real analysis, complex analysis, probability etc. You won't regret this.

    People ask whether I use much math in my career of designing all different kinds of circuits, the answer is not really......BUT, BUT, without the foundation of math, you will have a hard time reading and understanding the upper division books and articles published. Math is the language, all the proof, theory are written in calculus, ODE and PDE etc. I got tripped so many times because of that I decided for once study the math!!!! I got A's and all, but math has never been my calling but it is the necessary evil. You can take this to the bank!!!
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2009
  13. Dec 30, 2009 #12
    I agree. I've done more math than physics, and my math background has always made physics easier.
  14. Dec 31, 2009 #13
    That's the way I'm playing it with my Physics BS right now. For my physics courses, I will already have under my belt the prerequisite or requisite math courses for the physics courses, e.g. I just finished an ODE course which is a requisite for the Modern Physics I class I'm taking in the Spring. I will always recommend doing this to anyone.
  15. Dec 31, 2009 #14
    PDE also!!! All the wave equation, Poisson's equation etc. Wish I had study PDE before Physical Chem those days, it was hard, I got the first in the class by a mile, but I honestly don't understand it. Now My PDE book have something on "Strodenger"( spelling ??) equation!!!!

    I am bitting the bullet studying PDE, you see me asking question on Bessel functions lately?!!!!!o:)

    Take it from me, PDE!!!! My problem is with my age, seems it goes in one side and a lot leak out from the other side!!!! I gone through the derivation of the formulas and few days later when I looked at it again, a lot of time looked forign to me!!!!!....My own notes!!!!
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  16. Dec 31, 2009 #15
    Re: Welcome to PF!

    I found QM not mathematically rigorous enough, which is quite annoying.
  17. Dec 31, 2009 #16
    Thanks for your replies.

    I do find the subject interesting. I like to get my mind into problems and like to think about things even about every day life and there is no better subject to get your mind thinking than physics.

    Yes QM is very mathematical but, maths is my stronger side so this is not the problem. Relating the numbers and letters on a piece of paper to the real physical situation is my real problem. I have always got through just plugging numbers into equations and coming out with the right answer but not totally understanding the physics beind these equations.

    This is probably why I am finding modern physics so hard. And therefore demotivating.

    I don't want a career in physics, I'm just doing it because its interesting, something that proves I am an intelligent thinker which will appeal to employers.
  18. Dec 31, 2009 #17


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    Hi jamesa00789!

    If you're normally good at the maths, why are you getting only 10% on the test?

    Are these mostly equation questions on the test, or are they more in the "explain the two-slit experiment" genre?

    Anyway, since you seem to be stuck with the next exam, why not show us some questions from the test, and explain why you found them so baffling, and see if anyone here has any tips. :smile:
  19. Dec 31, 2009 #18
    The most important thing is if you like it, it's worth your while. Ask question here like what I am doing. Learning is a life time thing!!!
  20. Jan 1, 2010 #19
    Hi jamesa00789. In my opinion, the problem boils down to whether you like more "classical" physics.

    When I was in high school, I began to stop reading and doing anything about physics, thus failed every exams very badly, when I didn't understand electromagnetism. The turning point was when I had to calculate the work done by moving a point charge into a collection of other point charges fixed in space with some geometry. I thought like why would I want to do that? Why should these charges float around in space in the first place?

    After that I had concentrated on biology, up until my third year in a university when I realized that I couldn't do any work on my own! I'm always theoretically-inclined and everything was alright before the third year, where there're still organic chemistry. But in the third year, when every classes are obviously memorization of facts (and like half of them I already knew e.g. molecular genetics). I realized that I want to be able to think on my own, make precise mathematical model and predict experiments etc. Biology became incredibly hard when I want to really understand it! Given that science in my country is unhealthy, I drop from the university and come to US, majoring in physics and maths. And the most amazing thing is that since then I've never run out of motivation (because there was no reason to presume that I woudn't be bored of physics and maths in the same way that I was with biology.)

    Seeing that you want to think, you can always find motivation (e.g. books, literatures, researches etc). It doesn't matter if you can find it before or after the exam. Even better, the meaning of the wave function is still a lively debate today! It's certainly not as silly as my puzzlement over ideal point charges.

    But it's possible that you like more "classical" theories. But because I like to think about nature specifically, I like modern theories.

    "I am not happy with all the analysis that go with just classical theory, because nature is not classical, dammit" Feynman

    Actually, my little molecular biochemistry background made me wanted to go straight to quantum, statistical mechanics and information theory. I tried to read several quantum theory books, but the first serious book that clicked is Dirac's The Principles of Quantum Mechanics. The reasoning in the book is a bit outdated. But it has a peculiar characteristic that even though it's a difficult book, it's the first textbook on quantum theory so Dirac couldn't assume any familiarity to the subject from the readers.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2010
  21. Jan 1, 2010 #20
    OP sounds like me. i enjoyed physics until i took quantum mechanics, and then from there i started regretting doing the physics major, and wished i had just done applied math or mechanical engineering. it wasn't that the math in QM was too hard, its the physics concepts involved that i disliked. My guess is that completing the BS in physics and then getting a MS or phD in mechanical engineering is the best option for me and OP
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