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Just started physics classes I'm hating the lab

  1. Sep 3, 2013 #1
    I'm starting on physics I (introductory classical mechanics) and although I love the theory class, I find the lab extremely tedious and tiresome. I'm just two experiments since starting (we've seen grafication and measurement uncertainty) and they are quite disencouraging, specially after knowing that my physics major curriculum has five compulsory lab courses (one in more mechanics and fluids, another in electrics and optics and the other in modern physics. The last one is elective in the topic).

    Are they gonna be as terrible as it goes on this one, or is it getting hopefully better?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2013 #2
    I don't know what exactly you can do with physics. You better rething and fast. It's not just about in school, you likely have to do work in the lab one way or the other in your career. Look into what jobs are you going to get, if lab is not your thing, you might consider getting out. Even if you mixed electronics in your career, you are going to have to be building circuits, testing, trouble shooting.

    I don't say this because I am negative. I had gone through the exact same thing with my Chemistry. I love the theory and I got straight A's for all 4 years. I hate labs, I hate being there, I got B's and C's. I ended up never worked a day in Chemistry. I never even sent in a single resume. I did pizza delivery and I still refused to apply for a Chemistry job. It's a total waste for me as I studied biochem, I did not even have calculus physics and only one semester of calculus. I literally started over cold.

    Find out and get out if that's not what you want. It's not about theory, it's all experiments and with in lab one way or the other, working with instruments and all.
  4. Sep 3, 2013 #3
    I haven't considered physics lab as my main job in case I graduate from it (I'd rather do theoretical/mathematical job). I quite prefer chemistry labs, they're boring but are way better than theory.

    I'd love to major in physics, but I'm not sure if this first labs are this tiresome just because they're the first ones or if all labs are going to be the same.
  5. Sep 3, 2013 #4
    You better find out, it is very important that you like to be hands on. I can tell you from working in an environment with dozens of PHDs, they spent 70% of the time in the lab building instruments, calibrating, fixing, modifying instruments. Even the top dog, my CTO is no exception. It the lab, working on the instrument he dreamed up!!!

    If you don't have a PHD and not in other mixed careers, I cannot see anything but helping a scientist and do his dirty work...........Lab rats.

    As I said, I work with the physicists but I am EE, I can just tell you what I've seen.
  6. Sep 3, 2013 #5
    Also, a lot of people make a big mistake thinking that science and discovery come from theory on paper, that you just sit there and work out the formulas. At least that's what I thought when I was young. A lot of the great theory comes from observation and then derive the theory to explain the observation. These are all experiments and lab work.

    I have to clarify, after years, you might be able to stay out of the lab and sit in the office and dream up and design things. But it takes years of experience in real lab work to get the feel and touch. I spent the first 12 years staying in the lab even as the chief design engineer. Finally in the mid 90s, I feel comfortable to stay out of the lab and do designing and inventing. The difference is I hate chem lab and love electronic lab.
  7. Sep 4, 2013 #6
    I don't know much about lab courses in a physics degree (my guess is that they become more interesting), but have you considered doing a degree in applied math? Math degrees generally have less requirements than physics degrees, so you would likely still be able to take most of the core physics theory courses. This could be the ideal preparation for further study in mathematical physics if that's what you are interested in, seeing as how mathematical physics is about as much higher level math as it is physics. Apart from this, applied mathematicians work doing mathematical modelling in fields like atmospheric/oceanic/environmental science, all areas of biology, and finance.
  8. Sep 4, 2013 #7
    Actually I'm starting a second degree in math (there isn't an applied math major apart of the math one in my college). I'd like to have both to get a better understanding of physics besides just knowing the math.
  9. Sep 4, 2013 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    The labs will get "better" as the course progresses. At the beginning of an intro physics course you simply haven't covered enough physics in lecture yet to be able to do a "real physics" lab, so you commonly get a lab or two that is basically math or analysis oriented.

    Even after that, intro physics labs tend to not be very sophisticated. As you progress to higher-level courses, the equipment and concepts used in labs will become more sophisticated, and the labs will become more open-ended and less "cookbook" style.
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