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Schools Is University of Maryland a Good School for Physics/Astrophysics

  1. Dec 24, 2008 #1
    I'm going to be going to Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland for two years, then I'm going to transfer, probably to UMD (University of Maryland) or UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County).

    What I want to know is, is UMD a good school for a physics degree? Can I get a good education and, eventually, get a solid job if I go into it??

    Thank you, in advance, to any and all who answer! Happy holidays. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 24, 2008 #2
    I may be biased, since I go to UMD, College Park. Right now, I am a junior, pursuing a physics/astronomy double major. At UMD, physics and astronomy are very close, there are only 6 additional required classes for the double major.

    I think it is a great school for physics. I think the physics department has over 70 tenured faculty members, and the astronomy department has about 30 teaching faculty. From the outset, undergraduate research is highly encouraged, and with so many researchers in both departments, chances are there will be something interesting going on. Professors are readily available to talk, and most of them seem to enjoy talking to undergraduates. The classes taken by majors are generally well taught and challenging.

    It is not perfect, though. I would like to see a fluid mechanics class offered, and I certainly would like to see more emphasis on numerical analysis and maybe even programming in the sciences. The class sizes are fairly large, even for majors. Physics majors have a series of introductory classes separate from the engineering/other majors' physics classes. But we still routinely get classes of 40 students, even in senior level classes. But, as I stated before, the professors are very available.

    We see a fair number of transfer students at College Park, too. Howard Community College and Montgomery College are both pretty much next door and are fantastic schools. These transfer students are generally successful at UMD.

    I am just about to start working with the Space and Plasma Physics group in the astronomy department (UMD is tied for the #2 ranking for plasma physics), and this will be my first research experience. However, I know many students who have been involved in research since their freshman year.

    I would recommend for you to poke around the department websites:

    I know that UMBC has a solid physics department, but they do not receive as much support as College Park. Sorry I can't be of more use for UMBC. If you have more questions about UMD, feel free to ask.
  4. Dec 24, 2008 #3

    Wow!! Awesome... I honestly didn't expect to get to talk to someone who is actually at UMDCP (Sorry, meant to specify that I was talking about College Park specifically in the post. I know there are a few branches).

    I guess my main question here is - will I be happy there - but very obviously, you can't answer that for me. Only I could. What I guess I want at this point from a college is somewhere that will help me understand what I want, because right now, I'm sort of flailing. I love astrophysics, but my high school experience is drastically limited due to an overconfident mother (Who 'homeschooled' me through 'highschool'), so what I really need is professors who are willing to talk with me and push me forward. You know, help me know what I want, and such. From what you say, it seems like UMD would be really great for me.

    Now, if somewhere down the line I decide to do something other then physics... is the school good for changing majors as well? I've told people I want to do physics or astrophysics, and I've been told "Ew, don't do that. Do engineering. You'll be happier and make more money'. If I end up taking their advice, would UMD facilitate my indecision? (Directed in general, not to you specifically, unless you have the answer, SpiffyKavu.)

    Thanks for your answer again, SK. How's the weather in MD? I'm in NYC for a month. Heh.
  5. Dec 25, 2008 #4
    Yes, as long as you are enthusiastic, the professors are willing to help. And they actually enjoy helping driven students; most of the professors take teaching very seriously. But you do have to actively seek them out, in office hours, or by making an appointment: they do research while teaching, so they are always busy.

    Engineering is a whole different thing. The programs for engineering require a huge commitment. If students do not want to take more than 17 credits every semester, they often go into a 5th year. These students are only engineering majors, too. There is little room for switching into engineering.

    But, you can substitute some of the physics major classes for some engineering classes. I'll talk to my brother soon, who is double majoring in electrical engineering and physics, so I can get back to you pretty soon with more details about the engineering aspect.

    And it is pretty warm here in MD. Good tennis weather. Have fun in NYC.
  6. Dec 25, 2008 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    UMd (CP) is a good school. It was one I considered for grad school in physics, and its undergrad program certainly has a good reputation.
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