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List of topics that theoretical physicist has to master?

  1. Mar 7, 2008 #1


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    hello guys, this is my first post here..
    i am a engineering physics undergraduate.
    however i hv more interest in theoretical physics and i want to hv further study in theoretical physics. The subjects taught in my programme is like applied physics which do not hv so much theory.
    I think having a good foundation of theory is extremly important.
    So, i would like a ask for a list of topics that theoretical physicist has to master.
    (both Mathematics and Physics topics)
    also, any physics undergraduate can share their programme list?

    thank you.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2008 #2
    Course Outline

    Hi There

    I am currently studying physics and am in my 3rd year. Going to probably go the nuclear/theoretical stream!

    With regard to my course outline:

    1st year: Physics - Classical mechanics, Electricity & Magnetism, Optics, Thermodynamics
    Maths - Calculus , Linear Algebra

    2nd year: Physics - Advanced mechanics,Electricity/magnetism, optics. Intro
    Quantum physics. Computational Physics
    Maths - Advanced Calculus, Advanced Linear Algebra

    3rd year: Physics - Quantum Mechanics, Magnetism, Statistical/Thermal Physics,
    Relativity, Atomic & Nuclear physics, experimental physics.
    Maths - Complex Analysis, Intro Topology

    In my own opinion, your course outline would depend on a) the focus of your physics department's research (for example our department does not research astrophysics directly, hence there are no specific astronomy and general relativity courses) , b) Your own interests. i.e Your course choices in maths or physics will ultimately be reflected on your own long term interests. If you want to go a theoretical route then I guess mastering as much maths as you can will benefit you, but like I said i still think it depends on what you would eventually like to do.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Mar 7, 2008 #3
    This is a good thread idea, thanks for posting. ^_^
  5. Mar 7, 2008 #4
    what is Advanced calculus? Real analysis?
  6. Mar 7, 2008 #5
    Sounds like Vector calculus and multivariable calculus to me. It might be differential equations
  7. Mar 7, 2008 #6
    It differs from school to school; on the list in question, it would presumably be differential equations, multivariate calculus, etc. (as Hydragyrum says). At other schools, advanced calculus is an upper-division (i.e., 3rd or 4th year) course that it essentially undergraduate analysis for dummies. That is to say that actual math majors take a full-blown analysis course, and everyone else who's interested takes advanced calculus. Typical physics majors would not take either.
  8. Mar 8, 2008 #7
    The actual answer to the OP depends on which area of theory you actually want to pursue. HEP theory would have a very different graduate curricula than CM theory.
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