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Is this path realistic?

  1. Nov 3, 2011 #1
    Hey guys, as I stated in another thread, I'm a business/finance major and it's really too late for me to apply for a switch. I can drop my physics minor though (which would give me EXTREMELY shallow knowledge) and keep my math minor, taking enough classes for me to essentially have a major in math. The reason I can do this but can't drop my math minor for physics is because I've already taken a lot of math classes and picked up my physics minor more recently.

    The thing is, I realised that I would rather go into theoretical physics (I've always liked it, I just care about money a lot less now). I was thinking about taking a lot of high level math then trying to apply for masters programs in applied mathematics while simultaneously taking some physics courses, then going for a grad degree in physics. Any better ways y'all think I could transition? I was originally thinking of a second bachelors but this may be the better option.
     
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  3. Nov 3, 2011 #2

    Pengwuino

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    Gold Member

    If you want to go into a physics graduate school, why wouldn't you focus on taking physics courses instead of math courses?
     
  4. Nov 3, 2011 #3
    If I started taking physics courses now, I wouldn't get very deep at all in physics. Mainly because though I knew the AP physics material, I never took the test due to personal issues around that time. So didn't think it would be practical doing physics from the start of college (I regret this now as i realise i like theoretical physics much more than math from learning way past AP physics on my own) On the other hand, I knew multivariable and linear algebra, and some stuff on diff eqs going into college and had a 5 in BC calc, allowing me to be much more comfortable taking more math classes, initially. I was just wondering whether it would be easier to have an impressive math record, go into applied math and jump to theoretical physics from there, or whether it would be better to know some math and some physics. Because I feel like I can probably get into at least a mediocre applied math program. So basically the question is: is it easy to jump from pure to applied math, and is it feasible to jump from applied math to physics if I take some physics classes while doing an applied math degree.

    If I continued just doing physics this late, I feel like I wouldn't make it into a math or physics program. Hence this weird path that I've thought up.
     
  5. Nov 3, 2011 #4
    You do know that physics isn't just applied math, right?
    I am baffled as to how you know you like theoretical physics without having taken anything but bare courses in the subject.
    But you want to go into physics grad school! I would say the methods of reasoning and your picture of the physical world are two things that will not be well-developed if

    I am VERY skeptical when someone says 'I learned physics on my own', because it usually means they've read some popular science books about wormholes and fell in love with string theory. MAYBE some of them have actually read actual physics textbooks like Griffiths but almost none have done the problems. If you have not done (or cannot do) problems from an undergraduate physics textbook, you are woefully unprepared for physics grad school. Reading alone does not count as learning in physics anymore than it does in math. Neither is a spectator sport.
     
  6. Nov 3, 2011 #5
    "You do know that physics isn't just applied math, right?"
    Obviously, or I wouldn't be asking whether it's possible to jump from applied math to physics...

    "I am VERY skeptical when someone says 'I learned physics on my own', because it usually means they've read some popular science books about wormholes and fell in love with string theory. MAYBE some of them have actually read actual physics textbooks like Griffiths but almost none have done the problems. If you have not done (or cannot do) problems from an undergraduate physics textbook, you are woefully unprepared for physics grad school. Reading alone does not count as learning in physics anymore than it does in math. Neither is a spectator sport."

    It's true that I first got interested in physics when I read pop science, string theory stuff in middle school/high school, but I've since come to really like physics. Only reason I'm saying theoretical physics is where I wanna go is because I know I really like math too and I know I'm not extremely experimental. Maybe saying I "realised I like theoretical physics" was a bit of exaggeration. But I do know that I like physics, and that I like the mathematical aspect of it much more than the experimental aspect of it. Most people who choose to go into physics as freshmen have little more than AP level exposure to it (if even that)...why can't I know that I'm interested in it when I have significantly more than AP exposure?

    I've done MIT opencourseware for numerous physics classes (physics I, II, and III, right now ive run out of classes with videos so im trying to use lecture notes + textbooks to fill in the pieces.) with all psets and scored myself on exams if they provided them. I've reviewed all the questions I get wrong on psets and exams and made myself understand them. I am very committed to this. I just don't have any room for it in my course schedule (max 20 credits per semester here, which I've been taking and getting good grades in but they won't let me add more)

    EDIT: and I've actually done pretty well on the MIT psets provided on their Open Courseware website. If I understand correctly, these are the problems they are doing at the university. Though this can be attributed to the fact that I was good at AP physics, the stuff in Physics III is wholly uncovered in AP, and I did fine learning that stuff/doing problems.

    I understand your skepticism, and it's completely reasonable, considering how many people "think" they are interested in physics. But even if you think I'm wasting my time, can you at least answer whether it's possible to take some physics classes while pursuing, say, a masters in Applied mathematics, then trying to do a theoretical physics program after? I'm really most unsure about the dynamics of grad programs. Nothing you say is going to make me rethink my decision to go into physics. I'll go get a second bachelors if I need to. I want advice on whether this path is easier (but not necessarily a "shortcut," in that a shortcut implies I may miss out on a lot of stuff).
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2011
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