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Maths and CompSci as majors

  1. Jan 23, 2012 #1
    Originally I wanted to major in physics and maths. However, I have been shifting more towards majoring in Maths and CompSci. This is because I did really well in my CompSci in my first year, while in physics I did average and the physics department is terrible of my University. The CompSci department is much better than the physics one.

    I was wondering if these two majors will be suitable and what type of jobs are available with these two majors.

    Also, I don't know what to take as my third subject in second year, either App. Maths or Physics. Or a little of both. Which choice will benefit me the most later on.

    With those majors, I want to maybe do one of the following:
    Study further in Maths and later on do research in Maths.
    Or study further in CompSci and do research in CompSci.
    Otherwise get a job in CompSci if the other two fail.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2012 #2


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    Hey Centaur and welcome to the forums.

    Computer science and Mathematics is actually a very popular double major and both majors complement each other very nicely more than you think.

    The thing is, most of computer science is applied mathematics. The mathematics itself has some different characteristics to what you find in other standard areas of mathematics.

    Usually what computer scientists study relates to studying fields of what is known as 'Discrete Mathematics'. In this form of math you study structures and processes that are not continuous or that don't involve limits like calculus does.

    Examples include things like graphs and trees, discrete probability theory, automata and so on. If you study this it will make more sense to you later on.

    Also since computers have so many applications, there are interdisciplinary fields that combine the 'discrete mathematics' of computer science with the other mathematics found in normal math classes.

    For example you might do research in say computational applied mathematics where you come up with optimal ways to solve general mathematics problems. This might include techniques to solve specific classes of differential equations, or to invert a particular class of matrix or something else. There is just so much to say in this regard, that I think you should visit Wikipedia to get a better idea of how big this kind of thing really is.

    For all your options that you listed, this seems like a good choice.

    Also be aware that you don't have to make up your mind straight away: there is a lot to learn and you need to get a small taste of what is out there to make an informed decision so don't sweat about this.
  4. Jan 24, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the info. Please note that I meant majoring in CompSci and pure Maths. It seems like you are stating a lot of applied Maths.

    I have been looking on Wikipedia, and the field of theoretical Computer Science seems very interesting. Especially quantum computing.

    What would you recommend my other subject should be in second year. Applied Maths/Physics/mixture of both.

  5. Jan 26, 2012 #4
    Any advice what combinations would be useful later on.

  6. Jan 27, 2012 #5


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    If you want to do Quantum Computing then I would recommend being at least aware of optics/lasers in the context of quantum computing. You may have to do prerequisite courses for this but if you are allowed to do it with standard math/compsci prereqs I would recommend it.

    Also you will need to learn QM in some capacity to understand how unitary transformations are used to do computing. I read a book briefly on quantum computing and I found the exposition to be rather good. Here is the book in case you are interested:

    "An introduction to Quantum Computing Algorithms 2nd Ed" by Pittenger 2000. This tackles quantum computing for the software or comp sci algorithms point of view. I recommend you read this if you are interested in this kind of thing.

    In terms of pure mathematics there are interdisciplinary fields that use pure math in the context of computer science and its applications. The obvious one is cryptography that uses a lot of number theory and as a result group theory as well (they are connected in many deep ways).

    Also be aware that there are many different types of computation. The standard procedural model that you program computers with using something like C, BASIC and so on is only one model. There are non-procedural languages for all kinds of purposes and it might help you understanding computation in a wider perspective if you at least become acquainted with those and do a few applications either through a formal class or through personal projects.

    The key thing for computation (and this is any computation) is that you have to separate the state space and the flow-control of the computation. There can be a physical intuition for the flow control but thats another issue. Remember that different kinds of computations may arrive at the same final result, but the mechanism behind each will usually differ and this also applies to Quantum Computing.
  7. Jan 27, 2012 #6
    Computer Science is a great major. You can break into a lot of different industries with a computer science degree. I agree with the above posters that the physics computer science double major would put you in a great spot career-wise. I would consider it! Applied math is also a good route to take but, in this technological world, a degree in computer science can become very valuable!
  8. Feb 1, 2012 #7
    Thanks for all the detailed replies.

    I am wondering which of the following will benefit me the most later on in the field of Computer Science and Pure Mathematics, in general.
    I have to choose another subject for my second year, and I can choose between these two.
    Applied Maths: Differential Equations, Transform Theory, Numerical Methods, Linear Optimisation.
    Physics: Optics, Thermodynamics, Mechanics, Modern and Nuclear Physics.

    Also note that this is second year, so some of those will be just introductions. However, some of them we have already done in first year, so this will be a little bit more advanced, like Numerical Methods.

    Another thing, originally I wanted to major in Physics and Pure Math. And go into a theoretical physics direction. However, because I did only okay in my first year in physics, I don't know any more about that.

    Thanks for all the help. I can't really ask these questions to the lecturers, since they only know about the postgraduate studies offered by this particular University. I find it stupid that they don't expand their knowledge a little bit to other fields as well.
  9. Feb 3, 2012 #8
    Any useful advice on which subject (Applied math or Physics) will benefit me the most in Computer Science in general, would be greatly appreciated. I have listed the topics that will be taught with each subject on the previous post.

    I am completely in the middle between those two, and I have to pick one of them. This will be together with my other two subjects, Pure Math and Computer Science, which I am going to major in, most probably.

  10. Feb 4, 2012 #9
    Linear Optimisation extremely useful in computer science, from what I understand it goes into things like game theory, graph theory and the such.

    Transform Theory - Not quite sure what this is but looks useful for things like 3d graphics in cs perhaps?

    Differential Equations is probably more used for electrical engineering but the skills are likely still useful.

    Numerical Methods - also very useful for computer science but I imagine optimization being way more useful.

    As for physics:
    Id study optics or mechanics. As you can easily do programming related to these areas with things such as 3D Graphics Theory.
  11. Feb 4, 2012 #10
    Thanks for the concise breakdown. So it seems picking Applied Math as my third subject in second year will be the most beneficial.

    Thanks for the help. I'm glad that there are paths you can take with Computer Science and Pure Math as majors.

    I usually only hear about Applied Math and Computer Science or Physics and Computer Science at my University. But then again, most people here prefer Applied math to Pure.
  12. Feb 19, 2012 #11
    I think I made a big mistake. I have already chosen the three subjects I concluded in the previous post. However, now I'm thinking that I don't want to carry on with Computer Science in third year. So then I only have the choice of majoring in Math and Applied Math, which I can't do, because I didn't take all the subjects in App. Math in first year.

    So I will be changing my App. Maths to Physics. So that I have more choice to major in.

    I have also looked at the local Universities' Theoretical Computer Science honours degrees. And it seems like I need either Math or Computer Science at third year level, while the other one at second year level. So that means, if I major in Maths and Physics, then I can still go into a Theoretical Computer Science path.

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