Lack of physics courses at private university for a physics major

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  • #1
Hi, so I am a double major in Math and just recently added physics. But going through the major requirements and my university's offerings, it seems we don't offer many courses. This is also the case for our math program (and part of the reason I added the additional degree).
I am curious if this is going to put me at a large disadvantage for grad school? How might I want to remedy theses short comings? Changing school is not really an option for my wife, kids and I. I have a full ride to this private university.

Courses required:
Gen physics 1,2,3,4 (mechanics to modern intro courses)
thermal/statistical physics course (one semester course)
1 semester classical mechanics
1 semester EM
1 semester QM
1 semester Atomic physics
math methods for physics course
modeling in physics

Besides these physics courses, they occasionally offer theses courses
Optics
Astronomy
nuclear/partical physics

I often read here that other universitys offer at least 2 semester sequences for CM/EM/QM

Even my math major lacks any depth. We have 2 semesters Analysis, 2 Abstract Algebra, elective in complex and PDE's.
 

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  • #2
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To be completely honest, yes it's a problem. That said, I was once a student at a low end 4 year university, I then transferred to a big state school. I saw the state school accepted some grad students from the 4 year university.

Moral of the story, it's not impossible to move up but you're probably not getting into a top end university.

(To be clear, this wasn't in physics but mathematics).
 
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  • #3
eri
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While you'll be a bit behind physics majors from larger schools, that's not uncommon. Most grad schools expect some students might need to spend a semester or more 'catching up' with classes their school didn't offer but you might need. It won't hold you back if you're otherwise a solid applicant. I know many students who attended liberal arts colleges with small physics departments that ended up at top schools (CalTech, MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, etc).
 
  • #4
George Jones
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Courses required:
Gen physics 1,2,3,4 (mechanics to modern intro courses)
thermal/statistical physics course (one semester course)
1 semester classical mechanics
1 semester EM
1 semester QM
1 semester Atomic physics
math methods for physics course
modeling in physics

Besides these physics courses, they occasionally offer theses courses
Optics
Astronomy
nuclear/partical physics

I often read here that other universitys offer at least 2 semester sequences for CM/EM/QM

Even my math major lacks any depth. We have 2 semesters Analysis, 2 Abstract Algebra, elective in complex and PDE's.
I would be helpful if you could give the texts typically used for these courses.I understand this might be difficult, so don't spend too much time on this.
 
  • #5
I would be helpful if you could give the texts typically used for these courses.I understand this might be difficult, so don't spend too much time on this.
Hi, I have access to the textbooks for the courses offered this next fall, but not all the courses.

CM - Classical Mechanics by Taylor
EM - Intro To Electrodynamics - Griffiths 3ed
Thermal/statistical physics - Intro To Thermal Physics by Schroeder
QM - Introductory Quantum Mechanics by Liboff
 
  • #6
ZapperZ
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Hi, so I am a double major in Math and just recently added physics. But going through the major requirements and my university's offerings, it seems we don't offer many courses. This is also the case for our math program (and part of the reason I added the additional degree).
I am curious if this is going to put me at a large disadvantage for grad school? How might I want to remedy theses short comings? Changing school is not really an option for my wife, kids and I. I have a full ride to this private university.

Courses required:
Gen physics 1,2,3,4 (mechanics to modern intro courses)
thermal/statistical physics course (one semester course)
1 semester classical mechanics
1 semester EM
1 semester QM
1 semester Atomic physics
math methods for physics course
modeling in physics

Besides these physics courses, they occasionally offer theses courses
Optics
Astronomy
nuclear/partical physics

I often read here that other universitys offer at least 2 semester sequences for CM/EM/QM

Even my math major lacks any depth. We have 2 semesters Analysis, 2 Abstract Algebra, elective in complex and PDE's.
There's a lot of vague information here that makes this very hard to evaluate.

First of all, what does "private university" has anything to do with anything? What university is this? Harvard is a "private" university, but so is DeVry. There's a wide spectrum of private institution here in the US. Saying you are attending a "private university" has not provided any clarifying description whatsoever.

Secondly, are you at a 4-year institution that has only undergraduate degree in physics? This is more descriptive because I will then know the nature of the beast. I'm sure many people reading this assumed that this is the case, but I have not seen this being mentioned explicitly by you, so I'm not going to assume anything.

Thirdly, is this what would be categorized as a liberal arts college? If it is, is it one of the the more well-known liberal arts colleges? If it is, then you may want to read this thread:

https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...who-started-from-liberal-arts-college.930768/

If it is not, then you need to describe your institution a bit more. Ask your advisor on how many students who graduated from the physics program went on to graduate schools, and where.

Finally, unless your degree is not accredited (highly unlikely), then a physics degree with excellent grades is still a physics degree with excellent grades.

The lack of opportunities when compared to other bigger schools is not a valid excuse. Look for summer internships that are offered by DOE and various national labs. As your professors and advisors on how you can be involved in research work elsewhere if this is not available at your institution.

Finally, ask your advisor if there is a course for individual study. Even in a small institution, there is often a course usually called "Independent Study" where you study and work with a faculty member on a topic that is not offered in the curriculum. If that faculty member has a background in that area, and willing to supervise you, then you can learn about that subject matter from him/her and have it as part of your curriculum.

Coming from a small school is seldom a hindrance to getting into graduate schools.

Zz.
 
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  • #7
I wasn't sure how to classify my university. I go to BYUI and this university only offers BS level degree's. Our flagship campus BYU is a tier 1 research university, and I know a good amount of our students go there. But we do not have any real research opportunities at this campus in the mathematics department. I believe the physics department does have some projects to kind of introduce students to research.

I do plan to apply for some REU's, I am just worried about the lack of courses. I do understand in grad school, the first year you have the chance to catch up. But I feel like with what my university offers most grad school would be hesitant to admit me because of how much catching up I would need to do.

I am not an amazing applicant. My estimated GPA at time of applying would be somewhere around a 3.2 -3.4 GPA, so not something that might want them to overlook the lack of course work.

I also don't have my eye's set on any amazing universities. Mid tier schools would be on my upper end of expectations. Something like BYU, University of Utah, University of Minnesota ect.
 
  • #8
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I am not an amazing applicant. My estimated GPA at time of applying would be somewhere around a 3.2 -3.4 GPA
I will say that, right now, your obstacle has more to do with your GPA than your school's lack of courses. So channel your effort appropriately, rather than worry about things such as this that really isn't as big of a factor.

Zz.
 
  • #9
I will say that, right now, your obstacle has more to do with your GPA than your school's lack of courses. So channel your effort appropriately, rather than worry about things such as this that really isn't as big of a factor.

Zz.
Thank you, I appreciate that advice. Do you have an idea of what would be a decent GPA to be considered for mid tier university's? I had always assumed I was right around average and would be going to a average grad school.
 
  • #10
Vanadium 50
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First, Minnesota has a very strong program. I would not call it mid-tier. I think BYU is a good target, because they kind of have to overlook the flaws of BYU-I.

BYU-I is not doing their students who want to go on any favors. If I get an application from somewhere I am unfamiliar with, I check their course catalog. Most school's course catalogs will describe a given class with topics, e.g. time-dependent perturbation theory, addition of angular momentum, etc. BYU-I says simply "senior-level quantum mechanics". Not only does it leave me uninformed, it tells me that getting their students into graduate school is not a faculty priority.

To get past this, you want straight A's going forward. You also want to smoke your GRE. You need your statistics to tell the story that despite the indifference of your undergraduate institution, you learned some physics and are ready to move on. You might be able to convince BYU with a less impressive performance, but in general, this is what you need to do.
 
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  • #11
To get past this, you want straight A's going forward. You also want to smoke your GRE. You need your statistics to tell the story that despite the indifference of your undergraduate institution, you learned some physics and are ready to move on. You might be able to convince BYU with a less impressive performance, but in general, this is what you need to do.
Yes, I was just looking into rankings and was a little embarrassed when I saw Minnesota having a top 25 physics graduate program.

And I do think BYU would be a good option. Even if it is just getting my MS and using that as a stepping stone into a better program. At least BYU is a known university and leaves little room to doubt the quality of the program.

I do have to say, even though I don't have the highest GPA, I do feel like a big fish in our small pond here at BYU-I. I have a feeling the lack of competition is not helping anything.

I guess I had always assumed my GPA was good enough. I can't say that I have really focused on my GPA at all and more focused on learning more advanced material, talking to professors and being with my family. Now I know that a 3.4 just isn't good enough to overlook my university, I will be sure to focus on that much more. The hope would be all A's but I guess we will see. At least all A's in major course work.
 
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  • #12
You also want to smoke your GRE.
THIS. I think your university probably matters less than your GPA and Physics GRE score. You want to absolutely nail the Physics GRE regardless of your other qualifications.

The Physics GRE will also tell you if you're ready for grad school, in some ways. Take a practice test and see how you do. How easy or hard is it?

Here's a forum where people post their GRE scores and other credentials along with the school/program they were admitted to (informative, but also intimidating): https://thegradcafe.com/survey/index.php
 

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