1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is it OK to ask professor to use different textbook?

  1. Oct 17, 2012 #1
    next semester I will be taking a grad level solid state course.

    It will be using a textbook that is literally 40 years old: Ashcroft.

    Is it OK for me to suggest to the professor to use a more modern textbook (with absolutely no hope that the suggestion will be listened to; just want to put it out there), with a brief explanation of why, or would that be impolite?

    I really think that using a 40 year old textbook for an elective class that's supposed to prepare us for cutting edge research in the field is not very helpful.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2012 #2
    First things first, just because a textbook is 40 years old doesn't make it bad.
    As an example, look at Mary Boas' Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences, from the mid 60s.
    I don't see any harm in letting him know another textbook exists but he's most likely using that textbook because he used it and he knows it works, just keep in mind that he has years of experience on you!
  4. Oct 17, 2012 #3
    Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler is a forty year old book too. There would be violence if anyone suggested that I teach GR without it.

  5. Oct 17, 2012 #4
    that is true. however the point is, Solid State Physics is not a "static" science the way math methods is. math methods hasn't changed since the 60's. Solid state physics has seriously changed since 1970! Compare a 70's computer to a computer today to see why! Things like liquid crystals, OLEDs, dye activated photovoltaics, spintronics, etc. simply did not exist back then either! scanning probe microscopy was invented in the 80's! Now it is a core part of the materials sciences.

    More modern books include sections on scanning probe technologies, soft materials like liquid crystals, OLEDs, etc. and new insights into traditional fields like semiconductors.
  6. Oct 17, 2012 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    If you know a textbook that you think he should be using instead, use it as a supplementary resource for yourself.
  7. Oct 17, 2012 #6
    yes, I'm aware of that option but I would like to conserve money and get modern insights first hand, rather than having to teach myself (the way I'm teaching myself in every other grad class). It is more useful for me, and I believe most students, if the professor lectures from a modern textbook and adds in a bit of their own cutting edge insight, rather than using a 40 year old book and probably not adding in much, due to the limitations of the book.

    Would it be *rude* to suggest another book though?
  8. Oct 17, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    You could always read a more modern textbook on your own.

    Suggesting the professor use a different textbook with just a few months to go before the start of the class sounds like a bad idea to me. I doubt it would be a trivial matter for the professor to switch textbooks (or homework/exam questions) at this point, especially if they are not already familiar with a textbook that could be used as a replacement. This sounds like it would be a better suggestion for feedback at the end of the course, especially if you read a textbook or two on your own that you could recommend the professor look at.

    Even with the best of intentions this sounds like the sort of thing that could get you off on the wrong foot with the professor, so you should at least tread carefully. As a disclaimer, I am only a fellow grad student myself and not a professor, so I could be wrong, but I imagine I would not appreciate such a suggestion if I were in the professor's position! (At least not so soon before the semester starts)
  9. Oct 17, 2012 #8
    Ok, thank you. I'll just keep silent and buy another book on my own.
  10. Oct 18, 2012 #9
    What textbook would you rather be using? And if you know enough about solid state physics to know the material it leaves out, why are you taking an introductory solid state class?
  11. Oct 18, 2012 #10
    Here's why: if you are a grad student in condensed matter physics you must take solid state physics.

    Also the material it leaves out is kind of important. Even though I read the books on my own, I don't feel the same if a professor, who is a top level expert in their field, teaches it to me directly. I only have informal knowledge; after a professor tells it to me directly, then I think I have formal knowledge.

    I didn't do well in solid state in undergrad and I really want to do well this time, but would also like to learn new cutting edge things, not things that might actually be wrong now. I read the books on my own and did problems by myself, but that's really not the same.

    As for a good book I believe Principles of Condensed Matter Physics P. M. Chaikin (Author), T. C. Lubensky (Author) is great. Solid state physics isn't just about the solid state anymore. It is condensed matter physics, and condensed matter has phases that are between crystalline solids and liquids ranging from simple extensions of crystalline structure such as superlattices and quantum dots to truly unique materials like polymers, glasses, liquid crystals, biomaterials, and other "soft", "quasi-ordered" or “multiscale" materials.

    My opinion is, a graduate course in solid state physics should cover the fundamentals like band theory, etc. but it should also cover things such as phase transitions, diffusion and mass transfer, entropy effects in soft materials, experimental techniques, microscopic theory of mechanics of materials, stuff like that.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm too idealistic and condensed matter physics really is about electromagnetic properties alone, and all you need to know is crystalline materials and Greens functions and all that. But do you think that's right? What about experimental condensed matter physicists?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook