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Courses Introductory Chemistry Requirement for Physics Majors: Why is it Mandatory?

StatGuy2000

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Chemistry is applied physics. So is solid state physics, nuclear physics, astronomy, electronics, cosmology, accelerator physics... where exactly do you propose we stop teaching about applications of physics? Should we just teach first year students about the standard model and expect them to work their way up?
I'm not sure if chemistry majors will agree with your sentiment above (although I agree that a major component of chemistry is applied physics).

That being said, the curious thing is that not all physics degree programs in different universities in different countries require chemistry. For example, consider the Physics Specialist degree program at the University of Toronto (my alma mater).


If you click on the tab for Physics Specialist, the students are not required to take any chemistry courses at all.

However, in other universities, physics students are required to take introductory chemistry. I'm curious as to why the difference.
 
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@StatGuy2000 does U of T have POST requirements to declare a Physics major or is it direct admit in year 1? Many schools in Ontario at least have gone a bit more towards the U.S. model of having more of a general 1st year. When I attended university eons ago you were admitted directly to your major starting in first year. More often now schools are admitting to a faculty (e.g. Sciences or Arts & Sciences) but not to a specific major. The first year is built more loosely to allow some exploration before declaring a major. As a result they may require courses across a broad range of disciplines to meet the 2nd year prerequisites for a variety of majors. Many schools have also introduced breadth requirements which were never required when I attended.

My son will be pursuing a Physics undergrad at McMaster and they have 1st year gateway programs that fulfill the prerequisites for a range of potential majors. He will be doing Chemical and Physical Sciences which encompasses the necessary courses for Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Sciences majors. It's also possible to transfer from other gateway programs if you take the requisite courses as electives. As a result since the gateway serves multiple potential majors there is some overlap in required courses. Physics majors are required to take 2 Physics and 1 Chem course while Chem students take 2 Chem and 1 Physics. If you are undecided which direction to go you will take both Physics and both Chem courses. It provides more flexibility in choosing a major for those who are undecided. In comparison Waterloo admits directly to the major but they still require 2 semesters of Chemistry with Lab for their Physics majors and vice versa for their Chemistry majors. It makes it easier to switch if you change your mind.
 

symbolipoint

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Your discussion resembles the way pre-medical/pre-dental/pre-veterinary/pre-optometry major objective students are treated for those programs. Many, a great MANY of the required courses are the same; truely a great idea, so that students learn a bit more broadly, just in case they need some insight later, or just in case they change major field to something different or similar related.
 

StatGuy2000

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@StatGuy2000 does U of T have POST requirements to declare a Physics major or is it direct admit in year 1? Many schools in Ontario at least have gone a bit more towards the U.S. model of having more of a general 1st year. When I attended university eons ago you were admitted directly to your major starting in first year. More often now schools are admitting to a faculty (e.g. Sciences or Arts & Sciences) but not to a specific major. The first year is built more loosely to allow some exploration before declaring a major. As a result they may require courses across a broad range of disciplines to meet the 2nd year prerequisites for a variety of majors. Many schools have also introduced breadth requirements which were never required when I attended.

My son will be pursuing a Physics undergrad at McMaster and they have 1st year gateway programs that fulfill the prerequisites for a range of potential majors. He will be doing Chemical and Physical Sciences which encompasses the necessary courses for Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Sciences majors. It's also possible to transfer from other gateway programs if you take the requisite courses as electives. As a result since the gateway serves multiple potential majors there is some overlap in required courses. Physics majors are required to take 2 Physics and 1 Chem course while Chem students take 2 Chem and 1 Physics. If you are undecided which direction to go you will take both Physics and both Chem courses. It provides more flexibility in choosing a major for those who are undecided. In comparison Waterloo admits directly to the major but they still require 2 semesters of Chemistry with Lab for their Physics majors and vice versa for their Chemistry majors. It makes it easier to switch if you change your mind.
During the time I was a student at U of T (during the '90s), high school graduates who intend on pursuing a science program apply and are admitted into the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, where all students complete their 1st year with courses of their choosing. After the first year, the students then register to a specific Specialist and Major field, and are admitted on the 2nd year. From what I've read, the system in place now at U of T is still the same. So in the case of Physics programs (offered in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences[1]), students will complete first year intro physics course, register in POST and be admitted as a Physics specialist or Major in the 2nd year.

There are some programs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (e.g. Computer Science) that are limited enrollment, in which case whether the student can specialize or major in that program will depend on the grade of the required first year course. I don't believe any of the Physics programs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have that requirement.

Sorry for the long post, but hope this was helpful.

Aside:

[1] I wanted to also note that U of T also offers an Engineering Physics option within the Engineering Science program, offered in the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Engineering. In that case, students are admitted upon first year and complete a common 2 year curriculum. Students then specialize in a given option starting in the 3rd year.

 

Dr. Courtney

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Physics is first and foremost a science that requires thinking.

If all we teach you is how others think about Physics, you will do nothing original.

But if you have a rich reservoir of knowledge of other disciplines, you stand a much better chance of finding analogues and patters that are solutions to Physics problems that others have not yet found.

It's kinda like ...

My knowledge of quantum mechanics was my biggest advantage in blast injury and ballistics. Nearly no one else in these fields really knew quantum mechanics. My knowledge of biology was my biggest advantage in tackling problems in quantum chaos. My knowledge of chemistry was most useful in my work in educational physics. But it's rarely about direct application. It's about seeing the analogies.
 

symbolipoint

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But it's rarely about direct application. It's about seeing the analogies.
Much of the post that above quote comes from was difficult to understand the right way, but this part quoted is possibly very important.

Physics interrelates and overlaps with too many things. Cutting out Chemistry just to concentrate on Physics seems a terrible way to think, and I cannot find any better way to explain this than I had previously.
 
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Physics teaches you how atoms are moving, chemistry teaches you what atoms are doing. As the pursuit of science is the pursuit of understanding nature, I don't understand why an intro chemistry requirement is worth any concern.
 

symbolipoint

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Physics teaches you how atoms are moving, chemistry teaches you what atoms are doing. As the pursuit of science is the pursuit of understanding nature, I don't understand why an intro chemistry requirement is worth any concern.
Meaning is that it should be included.
 

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