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Life Advice | Should I go for a Second Major in Physics?

  1. Dec 21, 2015 #1
    Sorry if this is in the wrong forum.

    (If you don't want to read my rant, just skip to the bottom paragraph.)

    I am currently majoring in chemistry at university, and I am graduating next semester. I like chemistry, unlike most people, but I'm a little different than my fellow undergraduate chemists, because I love physics, too. The other chemists either hate physics or are not very interested in physics, which I can not understand, because, to me, chemistry is physics.

    I became a chemistry major because of my interest in physics and mathematics. I avoided physics directly, because I was in an elementary math course at the time, and I thought that I was too stupid. I was also in love with my general physics TA, and I thought maybe that was clouding my judgement. However, I'm about to graduate, and I still love physics. I love just about everything that has to do with physics. I like learning about mathematical concepts; I love physical theory; I like learning about electronics; I like quantum theory; I like mechanics; I liked designing circuits; I love the atomic and subatomic world, nuclear chemistry/physics, etc.

    I can't think of anything that I don't like about it. I read about physics in my spare time, as well. Right now, I'm reading about electronics and quantum theory, during my christmas break. I like synthesizing chemicals, too, but I don't read about it or have much interest in memorizing billions of mechanisms.

    I guess the problem is that I'm graduating next semester with a chemistry degree, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I think physics is extremely fascinating, and I enjoy all of the physical aspects in chemistry. I thought about going into physical chemistry, but it doesn't seem like the same thing. I don't know what the application of physical chemistry is. It seems like I might as well go into materials than physical chemistry. Maybe molecular engineering?

    Is there any advantage to having a chemistry and a physics degree? I could probably get a physics degree with just one extra year. I am, however, a non conventional student., and I am 26 years old. Maybe I need to grow up and just get a job at this point. I'm not sure what to do.

    I am working in a lab right now and tutoring in chemistry. The lab is an instrumental lab. I've mainly studied the fragmentation of gas phase molecules in an electric field and the ionization of these molecules using beta decay of an unstable nickel isotope. We are trying to create the next generation of handheld spectrometers. I really like the concept of the lab, but actually working there is excruciatingly boring. I think I would kill myself overtime if that was my whole life. As a chemist, all I do is make samples, inject them into the machine and try to interpret the data. It's incredibly boring.

    I'm sorry for the rant, and if you actually read all of that, thank you for your time. My main concerns is whether there is any benefit in having a physics and chemistry degree. Can you go into a physics field with a chemistry degree? What kinds of jobs can you get with either degree? Is there any specific field that might prefer both? Maybe my studies in chemistry, biochemistry and physics might make me a good candidate for something like molecular engineering? All of the chemistry majors at my school who are graduating with me (there are only like 4 of us) know that they want to be organic chemists. My other friends know what they want to be, too. One is going to get her masters in education and become a teacher, the other applying to medical school. I, on the other hand, seem to be heading toward a brick wall.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2015 #2
    One of my mentors in atomic physics was a chemistry PhD.
  4. Dec 22, 2015 #3


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    You first need to know what to do with your life. No use in studying physics for an extra year, if you won't end up doing anything with physics. Sure you can do an extra year in physics if you truly enjoy it. No problem with that. But try to figure out what you want to do after. Grad school in physics?

    Also, which physics courses have you taken? Maybe you'll need longer than a year to get a physics degree.
  5. Dec 22, 2015 #4
    Well, none of that - except maybe circuit design, but not really like you see it - are things physicists actually do. I think we both agree you're going to really enjoy the next year or two or more of school, but it's not clear at all you'll actually enjoy what comes after. I mean, I'm sure you think you do, because everyone does, but the reality often turns out different.

    However to answer your question, have you looked into material science? It's a robust and very interesting area that combines both chemistry and physics (and often more, such as engineering). Magnetism, semiconducting materials, nanotechnology and novel materials all often require both chemistry and physics perspectives. Back when I was involved with physics my work was all materials related, and I worked with more than a few chemists. That area may be a good staging point to combine your educational background with something you enjoy.
  6. Dec 26, 2015 #5
    Yea. I was looking into nanotechnology. It sounds pretty interesting. Do you think a dual degree in chemistry and physics would be appropriate if you are heading towards a career in a field related to nano engineering? I am considering perusing the second degree in physics, because I don't really feel ready to graduate. It's either take an extra semester or two or just apply to random graduate schools and hope I get into one that I'll like.

    Thanks for all of the feedback. It's obvious I need to figure the majority of this out myself, but it's nice to have a little bit of feedback from people who may know a little bit more or have more experience than I do.
  7. Dec 26, 2015 #6
    I want to be working in labs during this time, as well. Maybe more than one. I definitely don't want to just be taking classes during these extra couple of semesters. I could use the research experience and I need the extra . I'll be working in one lab and taking two laboratory courses this semester. The lab I work in is an instrumentation lab. It's kind of like a chemical engineering/physics engineering/electrical engineering/chemistry kind of lab. I'll be in physical chemistry lab as a student and inorganic lab, as well. So, that will give me a good opportunity to ask questions and look around. I'd like to also get involved in the physics department. I wanted to last semester, but wasn't able to.

    There's not enough time though to go through all of this take my GREs and then start applying to graduate schools by the end of the semester.
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