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Programs Is BSc in Mathematics and Physics a waste of time?

  1. Dec 28, 2016 #1
    Hi,

    Can someone explain what the appeal is of a joint subject degree such as BSc Mathematics and Physics? Logic dictates that you will not get proficient at either, so what are the benefits of such a programme? You would be stuck in the middle knowing a little bit of both but not enough of either.

    If I am, for example, interested in theoretical particle physics wouldn't it make more sense to get a BSc Mathematics and then pursue BSc and PhD in Physics?

    EDIT: It might make more sense to show the actual syllabus for both:
    #
    # BSc Mathematics
    #

    --- Level 4
    Discovering mathematics
    Essential mathematics 1
    Introducing statistics
    Essential mathematics 2

    --- Level 5
    Pure mathematics
    Mathematical methods, models and modelling

    --- Level 6
    Applications of probability
    Complex analysis
    Deterministic and stochastic dynamics
    Electromagnetism
    Further pure mathematics
    Graphs, networks and design
    Mathematical methods and fluid mechanics
    Optimization
    The quantum world

    #
    # BSc Mathematics and Physics
    #

    --- Level 4
    Questions in science
    Essential mathematics 1
    Essential mathematics 2

    --- Level 5
    Physics: from classical to quantum
    Mathematical methods, models and modelling

    --- Level 6
    *Optional physics modules 60 credits
    Astrophysics
    Electromagnetism
    The quantum world
    The relativistic Universe

    *Optional mathematics modules 60 credits
    Applications of probability
    Complex analysis
    Deterministic and stochastic dynamics
    Graphs, networks and design
    Mathematical methods and fluid mechanics
    Optimization
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2016 #2
    It's not uncommon for people to do this double major and then do physics for graduate school. There's lots of overlap in the classes.

    If you only do math, then you'll have to catch up on physics courses before you can do physics for graduate school.

    Undergraduate education is about getting a wide knowledge, not a deep one. Graduate education is about deepening your understanding,and then specializing.

    -Dave K
     
  4. Dec 28, 2016 #3
    Thanks Dave, I always thought (according to what people say online) that theoretical Physics is mostly Mathematics and that one would be better off getting a BSc in Maths. I might be wrong, I don't know.
     
  5. Dec 28, 2016 #4
    Also consider what would be expected to admit you to graduate school. A double major is going to be more "competitive." (I know we hate the idea of competing, but we have to think of it that way sometimes).
     
  6. Dec 28, 2016 #5

    Choppy

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    A double major offers the advantage of building foundations in the two different subjects. In principle, they qualify one for graduate school in either discipline. But you're right in that they typically come at the cost of the ability to dive more deeply into either subject and they tend to restrict one's freedom in terms of electives in other areas.

    In general, if you're interested in going to graduate school for physics, even if the sub-field is math heavy, you're better off starting with a physics degree and building up from there. Trying to get in from another field may draw into question your ability to pass a qualifying exam.
     
  7. Dec 28, 2016 #6
    Well Open University doesn't offer any BSc Physics programmes, BSc Mathematics and Physics is the closest one. I was interested in a couple more universities and/or colleges around the area I live in, but none of them have their programmes accredited by the Institute of Mathematics and/or Institute of Physics in the United Kingdom, but Open University has.
     
  8. Jan 1, 2017 #7
    ACCREDITATION is not the end all be all. Going to a physical university means you get more labs in physics for xample, even though it may not be "accreditad".

    Often, the reasons for not getting accreditation are marginal or not really reflective of the quality of the program. I would even venture to say its a bit of a misleading thing. Believe me there are a lot of bad unis that are "accredited".http://www.ima.org.uk/activities/education/university_degree_programme_accreditation.cfm.html

    http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en

    http://www.ima.org.uk/activities/education/university_degree_programme_accreditation/what_does_accreditation_mean_to_undergraduates_and_graduates.cfm.html [Broken]

    http://www.ima.org.uk/activities/education/university_degree_programme_accreditation/programme_accreditation_faqs.cfm.html [Broken]

    one of the the
    link states:
    "My degree is not accredited by the Institute. What does this mean?
    Do not worry if your degree is not accredited by the Institute. If you apply to join the Institute at Associate Member grade, transfer from Student member to Associate Member grade or apply for CMath then you will need to supply a copy of your transcript with your application, which will be considered by the Institute’s Membership Committee.

    they visit each institute once or twice each year, for one day, is that enough in your opinion?

    The system isnt as effective as you think, I used to study at a I-gcse school where we literally learnt nothing in one year *no lie* there were no teachers, and yet when the "inspector" arrived everything was prepared to be professional and such, but it was renewed, and most likely due to money they get from charging so much for the education.:mad: One of the kids cut his hand in front of the inspector and one student who was failing all her courses was reccomended by the instructors to be given special attention, never happened.

    I will easily tell you more but I don't have the time to go through the trail of papers. Accreditation may be more useful for engineering and other applied kinds of subjects, but even then I wouldnt base my whole decision on it, especially if considering an entirely online degree vs brick university.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  9. Jan 1, 2017 #8
    Thanks. So would you say the course structure I posted in my opening post is quality enough? I am asking because I'm 32 and I can't study full time, so I'm looking for either part-time courses or the distance learning one with Open. I was looking at Birkbeck but I've heard people who did their degrees with them say their Maths programme is horrible, but on the other hand I've heard some people say Open is quite decent for Maths. It would also suit me better, time-wise, but I am not competent enough to judge what people say as I have no clue about undergraduate-level of Mathematics or Physics.

    I've begun to develop a strong interest in Mathematics and Physics recently and I've decided that I want to get a degree so I can pursue MSc and PhD afterwards and become a theoretical mathematician or a theoretical physicist one day (I like both equally). Apart from a strong interest in these fields I'm quite clueless and therefore asking for help here. So please keep that in mind when reading my questions as I am a Penny to your Sheldon.
     
  10. Jan 1, 2017 #9
    agh I would be very careful, some people just don't want to work hard, a subject like maths is constant hard work, overwork of your mind, often you will be thinking about what you dont understand for days. I would say you are really on your own and teaching might or might nor make that much of a difference. i never learned much math or physics during lectures
    I will ask @dkotschessaa answer that for you as I am not a maths graduate.

    http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/2017/undergraduate/programmes/UUBSMTHT_C/

    http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/qualifications/q77

    birkbeck is more geared towards people who want to study part time while having a 9 - 5 job. I remember one of the authors of economics for dummies did his masters there as he was working and then moved to do a Phd and is now a professor at a good university.
     
  11. Jan 1, 2017 #10

    ZapperZ

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    Oy vey. If this is remotely true, then the accreditation status in the UK is significantly different than here in the US. Just in case those students in the US think that you can go to a non-accredited schools, think again. Your degree is almost worthless, and you may not even get student loans or financial support to go to such schools.

    Zz.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  12. Jan 1, 2017 #11

    MathematicalPhysicist

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    I wonder to which logic do you subscribe to...
     
  13. Jan 1, 2017 #12
    Birkbeck falls under as a college of the university of london, so it is good enough. : - D.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_London
    Op might want to visit their proffessers or lessons and talk with students, see if anyone has gone down his desired path before. (Which I dont see any reason why it cannot be accomplished, accreditation or not).
     
  14. Jan 1, 2017 #13

    George Jones

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    Indeed.

    Roger Penrose was a faculty member at Birkbeck for nine years before moving to Oxford. Penrose was at Birkbeck when he did much of his brilliant work on general relativity, including his work on singularity theorems.

    David Bohm was a faculty member at Birkbeck for twenty-two years.
     
  15. Jan 1, 2017 #14
    , and they didn't worry about accreditation (tho they were not really doing a bsc i imagine) : - )
     
  16. Jan 1, 2017 #15
    Don't pay for anything which isn't widely recognized.
     
  17. Jan 2, 2017 #16
    Birkbeck doesn't have a Physics undergraduate programme, not even Physics and Mathematics. They only offer a Certificate in Higher Education.

    I know they used to teach Physics, not sure what happened.
     
  18. Jan 2, 2017 #17
    yes
     
  19. Jan 2, 2017 #18
    The OP's list of courses looks like they are not taught with the view that you would want to go graduate school in maths. Certainly, advanced math undergraduates do courses in stuff like differential geometry, topology, number theory, etc.

    I bring up this point because a lot of students who want to study theoretical particle physics or theoretic condensed matter physics think that doing a double major in maths and physics us useful. But then, I have talked to undergrads doing double major and they negate this claim. Undergrad math courses are all about theorems and proofs. There's certainly no hand-waving arguments or use of heuristic intuition, which is the hallmark of a practicing theoretical physicist. Of course, unless one wants to work on the mathematics of string theory, for example, in mirror symmetry, in which case you would better be a mathematician than a physicist.
     
  20. Jan 2, 2017 #19
    You might want to skip out on Graphs, Network and Design, and Optimization. They have no uses in theoretical particle physics, as far as I know.
     
  21. Jan 2, 2017 #20
    I've had a look at the two obscurely named subjects from the list in the opening post and what they entail:

    Year 2 - Pure Mathematics 60 Credits (Group Theory, Linear Algebra, Analysis)
    http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/modules/m208

    Year 3 - Further Pure Mathematics 60 Credits (Number Theory, Groups, Numbers and Rings, Metric Spaces I, Metric Space II, Rings and Fields)
    http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/modules/m303

    I've emailed Imperial College London and asked them if they take Open University Maths students into their MSc programme. I want to see what they say.

    Cheers for the advice, although a lot of people have made a valid point by saying that a 'double-degree' is not suitable for pursuing either subjects in more depth.
     
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