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Programs Is math/physics dual major worth it?(to get into grad school

  1. Oct 26, 2016 #1
    Hi everybody!

    To be concise
    -My undergraduate majors are math and physics
    -I want to go on and do research in physics (probably theoretical/mathematical physics) and be a professor.
    -My GPA is a 3.98 and Real Analysis and Abstract Algebra will likely drag down my GPA (I'm currently in these classes)
    -I asked a professor if I could do research with him and he said yes.
    -He said he had no use for analysis and algebra and asked me to start learning MAPLE/DiffGeometry/tensors/GR.

    So the question "Will I get into a better graduate school if I just major in physics and devote myself to research and learning only the math I'll need, or if I dual major?"

    Thanks for your advice. I think this should apply to many undergraduates out there.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2016 #2
    If the choice is between real analysis and algebra on the one hand, and solid research and a good GPA on the other, then choose for the latter.
  4. Oct 26, 2016 #3
    Real analysis and abstract algebra are generally useless courses for theoretical physicists, who by necessity operate at a lower level of mathematical rigor. Mathematical physicists are really mathematicians and care more about such things. Ask yourself if you want to go to the math or physics departments for graduate school. If you want to be a mathematician both courses I assume are essential.

    GPA/research >> courses taken. Even taking graduate level physics courses at the expense of GPA/research is unwise. A letter of recommendation, or better, a publication, will get you vastly farther.
  5. Oct 26, 2016 #4


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    I think your course selection does matter, especially for a theorist. Taking grad courses definitely looks good for admissions purposes and most theorists I know at my current institution did that if they were available. If you get a high GPA but took easier courses, that won't get you anywhere. They want to see that you challenged yourself.

    Also, it is possible to get out of core requirements if you have taken the corresponding grad course and submit a petition at many places. Or you can test out of them sometimes.

    In regards to the math major, it is definitely not necessary for most fields of theoretical physics.
  6. Oct 26, 2016 #5
    Exactly. Taking easy courses with a great GPA will impress nobody. But taking hard courses and getting bad grades is very bad too. As a future grad student, you should be able to take hard courses and get good grades on them. If you can't pull that off, then grad school is not for you.
  7. Oct 27, 2016 #6
    I suppose this might be an applied vs. fundamental issue. It's probably very rare for an undergraduate to do anything meaningful research wise in pure math or fundamental theoretical physics. However for more applied theoretical/computational work research seems to be weighted far more heavily than GPA/courses taken.
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