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Interested in Physics, Chemistry and Biology

  1. Nov 18, 2013 #1
    I am currently experiencing a stressful thought process about what to do when I get to college.

    One of my interests is in chemistry. I like chemistry because I feel like it gives a power to make things you want and you can go in so man different directions with it. I especially like biochem because of the cool things that happen in cells and also environmental chemistry is interesting due to the ways you can help the environment and the idea of working outdoors.

    The biology interest is mainly just an interest in biochem rather than biology itself.

    Next, I am really into physics. I like physics because it is so broad and really seems to cover EVERYTHING! I like the use of math to describe everything because I also love math. I like the use of math to prove things and deriving equations and solving equations and using my analytical and problem solving skills to answer physics questions.

    The dilemma I'm having is I want to mix the chemistry, biochem and physics, but get the most out of each subject that I could. I also would like a career where I would use all three of these things, instead of do all these things in college to find a career where one or two of these disciplines are used, but not the third one.

    I thought of going into biochemistry and biophysics but I don't want to miss the pure chemistry and pure physics that wouldn't be covered. I feel like if I had to let one go though, it would be biochem and biophysics because I would rather have the full spectrum and concentrate things as I go into graduate school and so on, rather than start concentrated.

    What should I do? Double major in physics and chemistry? Major in one and minor in the other? Is chemistry too simple, because I feel like it would be? Does chemistry have the complicated, elaborate and complex math that I love?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2013 #2
    I also would rather stay away from medicine and health care, I can't deal with hospitals or blood.
  4. Nov 18, 2013 #3
    Biophysics is an option.
  5. Nov 18, 2013 #4
    But I feel like I would be limiting myself from all the other forms of physics
  6. Nov 18, 2013 #5
    Unless you want to stay a stem cell forever you need to specialize and have an expertise. At least, if you want a career you need to. Yes, no matter what sub field of physics or science you specialize in you will be limiting yourself from other forms of physics and science.
  7. Nov 18, 2013 #6


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    Have you looked into Materials Science?

    Any science degree you sit through is going to require the basic freshman physics series, as well math. Biophysics will still cover most undergrad physics if you go to a good school. These hybrid degrees usually take away from the flexibility of the electives in order to cover most of both majors.

    The best way to decide in your case is to look at what graduates with those undergrad degrees end up doing, grad school/employment wise. You need to find more direction in what you actually want to do, then study the approiate topic.

    Call schools and talk councilers, professors, anyone that will give you time of day about their programs.
  8. Nov 18, 2013 #7
    Unfortunately specialization is a necessary part of building a career. I would personally recommend materials science; I took a course on solid-state chemistry as part of a materials science program and the integration of physics and chemistry was actually surprisingly even and thorough, not to mention beautiful. I would talk to a professional if I were you, though: advisors, professors, actual industry workers, anybody with more experience than me, really.
  9. Nov 18, 2013 #8
    nobody will ever stop you from diving into math, bio, or phys on your own time. pick up some books and enjoy it on your own.
  10. Nov 18, 2013 #9
    OK, I think I have the most interest in chemistry, but how much math is needed in chemistry? And if I had to specialize I would go along the biochemistry path. but can I benefit people by doing biochemistry and not medicine? I'm more interested in environmental and using examples from cell functions for energy
  11. Nov 19, 2013 #10
    Medical physics sounds like it could be a fit, though I don't know how widely this course is available.

    I have a friend in Brazil in his final year of microbiology whose research project is to do with using bacteria to process oils and pollutants. His course however, does not include any serious math.

    As has been suggested, there's nothing stopping you from studying chemistry and picking up maths books in your spare time.
  12. Nov 19, 2013 #11
    But I don't want to learn it and not use it in my career. Sorry I know I'm being difficult
  13. Nov 19, 2013 #12
    I can understand your problem, but for most people, it is unlikely that we will end up in the exact job we imagined when starting a degree. There's a poll knocking around somewhere that illustrates this.

    My stepdad did a degree in EE and now he's a software engineer - Even so, when I get stuck on a physics problem whilst at home between semesters, he's always been able to help me.

    I think the reality of the situation is as long as you study a decent core subject, you're going to be learning material that has a very wide applicability. This allows you to pick a subject you're going to enjoy studying, and branch out into different fields as you specialise more.

    I suppose i'm lucky in the sense that I could not imagine studying anything except physics.

    Best of luck!
  14. Nov 19, 2013 #13


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    OK, I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, or else I wouldn't be sticking my nose into this. But I'm awfully curious.

    So, nst.john, have you ever heard of the phrase "paralysis by analysis"? It's when you over think of something that it caused you to either doubt in things or simply stopped you from doing anything.

    I'm asking this because, based on the history of your questions on here, you might be heading in that direction. Either that, of you think you've found yourself to be a kid in a candy store when you found The Physics Forums.

    In this thread, or in this incarnation, you're interested in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, and can't seem to choose one or the other. But you also wanted to do chemical engineering, or was it electrical engineering and working with your hands? Or maybe do everything, such as B.S in physics, Masters in EE, and then PhD in ... what... condensed matter? But oh, what day is this? I think I'll do a double major in physics and chemistry instead. But wait, there's more! A new day, a new major. How about if I want to ".... work with all types of technology from computers to warp drives to automobile engines ... "? Got your head spinning yet? But I'm not done yet, because a new day, and a new goal. This time, drop the biology. I now want to do physics, chemistry, and engineering!

    Now I, of all people, have been known to give advice to many students just starting out to explore as much of their options as possible. But I could never fathom an exploration of such a degree! At some point, this is no longer an exploration, but rather a game of picking out ice cream flavors to try at a Baskin and Robbins. And from the pattern of your question, it doesn't appear that, despite all the responses you've received, you're any closer to understanding what needs to be done or what you should pursue.

    So my question is, really, what exactly are you up to here? Are you as smart and intelligent as you think you are to be able to do "physics, chemistry, biology, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, etc...etc." at the same time or one after the other? Are you exceedingly wealthy to be able to afford to pay for all those multiple degrees?

    Because, you see, if you simply are unable to start narrowing down to something realistic, then I think you're just toying with us, and many of these things you're asking are simply just for the sake of asking, and nothing else.

    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
  15. Nov 19, 2013 #14
    I guess I'm just a confused guy
  16. Nov 19, 2013 #15
    In my own humble opinion, I'd stick with just pure chemical engineering. You can always go off and do molecular/bio engineering with a chem E background, but a straight chem E background can offer you more job stability and options in the future. Many careers in the biosciences or bio related fields often have terrible prospects, pay, and job stability. The single largest employer of chemists, biologists, biochemists, molecular biologists--pharma-- has gotten hammered and has been one of the worst industries in terms of layoffs and unemployment for a long time now (and isn't likely to recover anytime soon). Chem E allows you to work in materials, petrol, bioengineering, and even consulting (several of our chem E undergrads here went directly into consulting from undergrad and started well over $75k / year).
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
  17. Nov 19, 2013 #16


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    Excellent advice. Chem E is such a versatile degree and, like most engineering degrees, hiring managers understand what skills a Chem E has. The marketing has already been done for you!
  18. Nov 19, 2013 #17


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  19. Nov 21, 2013 #18


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    It's worth noting that a degree in a particular subject does not necessarily lock you into that career path. My advisor has a PhD in physics, yet she's a professor in the department of Chemistry and her research is primarily biological (or at least biophysical) in nature. At least in biology research, I know plenty of people with training in other fields who have come into the various paths of biological research and been very successful. Some even say that students with physical sciences backgrounds (chemistry, physics, math, engineering) have better training for some of the newer, more quantitative areas of biology research as the physical sciences curriculum gives students better groundings in quantitative analysis than the typical life sciences curriculum.
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