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Looking for some feedback on potential outlooks

  1. Dec 4, 2013 #1
    I'm going to try to paint a picture that will allow you to get some sense of where I'm coming from. Forgive me if this post is not as clear as it could be.

    My goal in life is to work in the natural sciences. There's not much I care for besides nature. In the end, whatever I do, I have to feel like it somehow comes back to understanding nature a little better. I'm not motivated much by people. I simply don't get much out of them. I have a theoretical temperament and I have a decent level of intelligence with some creativity.

    Throughout high school and my 20s, I was mentored by a teacher in mathematics (and partly computer science). Because of this, I have a decent level of ability in abstract mathematics and I have a lot of experience with computer science and in a worst case scenario, I could make a living as a programmer.

    I am 26 years old now and I came from a disadvantaged family background. The reason I mention my family background is because it contributed to what is considered a late start at college and I still don't have any financial stability. At the age of 23, I began college at a decent community college for the purpose of demonstrating that I have academic ability before I transferred and the cost was covered by state grants. My grades were very good (all A's except for one B+ and a C) and I obtained my A.S. My intention was to either major in mathematics and minor in physics or major in physics and minor in mathematics. If I majored in mathematics, I still wanted to be connected to the natural sciences somehow. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any physics courses before I transferred but was able to take the first year of chemistry and biology.

    My dream school was (and still is MIT) but unfortunately I did not get in as a transfer. I applied to a number of schools and settled on Tufts University. This was a horrible decision. I did not fit in culturally, the liberal arts requirements were far too large, the math program was far too weak, and the cost was too much despite the large grant I received. I left Tufts at the end of the Fall semester and went to SBU the following Fall. Between the time I left Tufts and attended SBU I fell into a very bad depression. I wasn't sure what to do when I got to SBU and in general wasn't sure how to proceed with my academic career. While at SBU, my depression continued which resulted in messing up my grades except for one (I'll be getting one F and one A this semester). It is now the end of the semester, and my depression has subsided and I'm trying to make the best of my situation and figure out how to proceed. I'm very good at computer science and pure mathematics, but it's not what I want to do. I'd like to work in the pure natural sciences, or at least aid the natural sciences. I've realized I can't continue as a mathematics major without pursuing either physics or chemistry. Therefore, I have decided to switch my major to physics. My reasoning for this switch is:

    1) The courses I need are offered over the spring and fall (unlike chemistry).
    2) It's easier to go to graduate school for mathematics with a physics major than to graduate school for physics with a mathematics major.
    3) If I don't become a pure mathematician, most of the careers available to a mathematician in industry are not suitable for me personally. Physics can lead to positions outside of my ideal that I think I'd find personally acceptable. There doesn't seem to be much employment for my interests in pure mathematics.
    4) I'm finding mathematics too far disconnected from the other sciences.

    To summarize, I'm a junior at the age of 26 that is pursuing a physics major without any physics courses currently on my transcript and without any financial stability. Is it unreasonable for me to think I'd have a chance at being a serious physicist? I'm finding the stress difficult to deal with and I'm wondering if I should abandon any lofty goals in the sciences and just settle as a programmer. Thank you for your responses in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2013 #2


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    Programming pays well. If you're good at it you should be able to find a job and save up a pile of money. Spend a couple of years to achieve financial stability, learning some physics on the side, and then go back to school.

    It will do good things for you mentally to be in charge of your destiny, earning the money to support yourself. You also might find that your employer is willing to fund some of your education.

    Good luck!
  4. Dec 4, 2013 #3
    Could you not do a major in computer science with a minor in physics? Or major in physics minor in CS? And then APPLY computer science/programming to the field of natural sciences you are interested in?

    Sometimes it is better to settle for something good enough, this leads to other things, especially if you are limited.

    You will find there is a pretty big need for this type of thing, and it would give you the best of what you like with what you feel you can handle. You could easily get jobs programming all types of physics related things, that connect to real world natural phenomenon. Most physicists end up learning programming at some point anyways, they need it for a lot of the work they do.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  5. Jan 27, 2014 #4
    I may have found a compromise between working to support myself and continuing with my schooling. It doesn't look like I'd be able to jump into a purely physics education immediately but I may be able to in the somewhat near future.

    That is something I'd be interested in doing. Somehow applying work in algorithms and computation theory to physics interests me, but I have no idea what kind of research is done in that area if any.
  6. Jan 27, 2014 #5


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    Sounds like a good direction. I hope it works out for you. Don't lose sight of your goals amidst all the complications.
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