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Major Advice?

  1. Mar 27, 2007 #1
    All right, I'm a first year freshman at UC Davis, and I can graduate in three years with a BS in math, or five years with a BS in physics (taking a number of math courses), or possibly 6 years with a BS in math and in physics.

    I want to go into quantum gravity and foundational issues in quantum mechanics, or something along those lines. It seems to me that it would be a good idea to go with math since that will be used extensively in quantum gravity (viz. Loop Quantum Gravity alone!) or foundational issues in quantum mechanics (e.g. Isham's topos in quantum theory).

    But I was always told that I ought to get a good, solid foundation in physics from (well) physicists. Should I disregard their advice and go for the BS in math since it's faster? Or should I get a BS in math and physics? Or just physics?

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 27, 2007 #2


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    I've got about the same goals as you, and am still in undergrad. My plan is basically this:

    major in physics, taking lots of advanced math electives (~10). Things like advanced analysis, a few algebra courses, lie groups, topology

    I'm planning on doing a Masters in math after this, probably in mathematical physics, lie groups or something similar
    After this, though it's quite far, I'd probably take a PhD back in a physics department

    It seems to make sense to me. You don't really need a BS in math to do these, just get it in physics, and take as many math electives as you can, while still not being forced into some math requirements which would be useless for your field.

    Another possibility might be to take the BS in math and take a lot of physics electives, but I don't quite like this one as much. Seems like you'd be missing a lot of stuff, things like electrodynamics, more advanced QM, courses on GR and so no.
  4. Mar 27, 2007 #3
    A degree in physics would probably suit you more than a degree in math. A physics major with a math minor would probably be pretty good, or just do the double major. If you take 2 classes each summer you can save a lot of time (and money) getting the double major.
  5. Mar 29, 2007 #4
    Regardless of the courses/major (also I lean also to a degree in physics with lots of math or a dual)... also try to get involved in an independent study project with a professor doing research in the area... this could be through the department of math or physics. It will make you more competitive for grad schools, give you hands on experience, and give you a personal advisor (with networks!) when it comes time to choose your next step after graduation.
  6. Mar 29, 2007 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Woo-hoo! I got my undergrad EE degree at UCD! Good school, and a fun place to live. We try to make it to Picnic Day every year.

    What professors in the Physics and Math departments are involved in research that is closest to what you want to do? I'd recommend talking to them -- they'll probably each have a bias towards their own department of course, but at least you'll be able to talk over the issues involved in the two specialties versus combining them in a double major.

    Best of luck! :biggrin:
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