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Interest in CS & Math

  1. Jul 8, 2009 #1
    I'm an incoming freshman at RIT, starting this fall. I was accepted into the CS program and had planned on double majoring in CS and Math. I've been extremely interested in CS for many years now and have great experience with web and systems programming, computer maintenance, networking and so on. My interest in math started a few years back and I flew through Trig, Calc 1 and Calc 2 (taken at UPB). Over the summer, I'm going through multivariable on my own with plans to take Calc 4 (multivar) and Discrete math 1 at RIT this fall.

    I've recently came across a problem. I've lost my interest in CS. I've tried to do some writing in familiar languages (C++, Java, PHP) and even in new ones (ASM, Lisp) to no avail. I've tried reading books on different elements of CS that I'm not familiar with, but nothing I do reignites that spark. My interest in math has dwindled some, but I can still pick up my Calc book occasionally and work out of it for awhile.

    My question to you is: what should I do? Are there other subjects I should look into? Also, does RIT sound like a good school for me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2009 #2
    Wow, you seem to have the same problem as me except you found your cancer early. I'm a computational physics bs and now I'm getting a phd in physics but doing geoinformatics. And you say What?!?!?... I want out so bad. I say sometimes that if I could do it over again, I would double major math and cs... maybe just minor in cs. I had a love affair with cs at one time, but then I talked to a cs guy who really made me realize what a broad spectrum the cs major really entails, i.e., from IT maintenance to algorithms. Sort of the same thing goes with math I guess. If I were you, and I would give myself the same advice years ago, I would look toward applied math. They (the applied mathematicians) seem to have a satisfying balance between application and high-end sophistication which may satiate your cs and math needs. But that's just me. But then again, some good old fashioned science may be what you're looking for. One of the problems when committing to a field is that you really don't know what that field offers or even what you are looking for, at least that's what I've experienced. I wish that I would have searched for more insight on forums like these or through any other media for that matter. Alternatively, get that PhD, it's a license to do whatever you want regardless of what it's in assuming you're qualified.
  4. Jul 8, 2009 #3
    I'm definitely planning on getting a PhD, but that's awhile off right now. Thanks for the advice though.
  5. Jul 8, 2009 #4
    I started out as a biochemistry major when I first entered college. I liked chemistry a lot in high school, and I thought that doing a research in bio/medical-related science would be cool (You know, I had that "I'm going to cure cancer or AIDS!" type of attitude). But once I started taking math at college (calculus, linear algebra, elementary analysis, etc.), I started to find that I was more interested in learning math than biochemistry. It wasn't that I disliked my chemistry class, but I just thought that I wanted to study more math than biochemistry. Soon, I officially switched my major to math.

    In my sophomore year, I took an introduction to computer science course (Basic Java), and it made me think I wish I had taken it earlier in my college career. As a result, I added CS as a minor (because I don't know much about this subject yet, I felt it would be too early for me to declare CS major).

    My advise: Take classes in the subjects that you're interested. If I were you, I would keep CS major for now to see if you still enjoy that subject, and take math alongside to see which you prefer more. You can always change your option later, and since you're a freshman, you actually have quite a bit of time to make that change. Both CS and math are broad field, so you won't really know what you're really interested for a while, but it is always good to sample out a few classes before you make up your mind.

    One thing you should know: Whether you're going to pure or applied math, you're less likely to get a degree in math without taking a course that involves writing proofs. I know an ex-math major who changed her major because she was not well-prepared to write proofs in her abstract algebra class (which was a course she needed to take in order to become a math teacher). Writing proofs is quite different from finding derivatives and integrals in calculus, so if you're interested in math, I recommend you to be exposed to proofs as early as possible. Your discrete math might does that job (usually, discrete math starts out with set, logic, division algorithms, combinatorics, and etc), and if not, your school should have some kind if "introduction to proof writing" course.

    Good luck!
  6. Jul 8, 2009 #5
    That's interesting, I'm kinda of the opposite mind. I also have a BSc in computational physics and i'm currently doing my masters but I'm wishing I had to do less CS. I've spent like the last month writing a parallel algorithm and bug hunting and worrying about how computer X allocates memory and such and I just REALLY want to get back to the physics and am starting to view this kinda stuff more an more as a chore. To each there own of course, it's just interesting to see someone in the same boat heading the other way.
  7. Jul 9, 2009 #6
    As PieceOfPi mentioned, to switch to math you would start in a proof based class, so I would look into whether you like theoretical math (which is what mathematics really is) or not. If you like calculus and programming, maybe switch to electrical/computer engineering. It seems to have the best mix of programming, calculus based math, physics, and engineering out there.
  8. Jul 9, 2009 #7
    Sounds like you might need a change for a while. You sound jaded. As it's summer drop all those CS and Maths books for a couple of months and do *anything* else. Stress non-mental things like hiking, swimming, tennis, anything that just 'takes your fancy'. If you must read a book I recommend Don Quixote in Grossman's excellent translation, or Feynman's autobiographies. He has a chapter where he talks about being jaded after the Manhattan project. The book he read 'to get away for a while' was Arabian Nights. He also had bongos and .. er.. other distractions to keep from becoming a dull boy. Come September your CS and Math courses should look more appealing. If not, you have bigger problems and should post here again...
  9. Jul 9, 2009 #8
    This is by far the best advice I have received. I'll definitely try dropping the CS & Math books for awhile (it just makes me feel as if I'm wasting the time though) and try other activities. As for reading, I'm about halfway through Crime and Punishment with War and Peace lined up, but I think I might switch out W&P for the books you mentioned - they sound much more appealing atm. Thank you for the advice, I greatly appreciate it.
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