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My chances in physics

  1. Jun 15, 2008 #1
    Well I have a question. I just started community college and I'm trying to get my A.A. to get transfer to UCF. I'm 21 yrs old and I just started community college.

    I love math and I'm curious about the universe and its beauty.
    I'm new to physics and this forum by the way. Albert Einstein is my inspiration in physics.

    so I would like to hear from real physicist or amateurs as well.

    Be well-
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2008 #2
    The love for mathematics and the curiosity of the universe are 2/3 of what you need. The other 1/3 is dedication. Physics is hard. I've seen many people in my undergrad days who would say they were really interested in the science but then would ***** about the "bullgarbage" work or trivialize the classes. In reality, they were interested in "popular" science, i.e. the flashy stuff that gets on the History/Discovery/Science channel. There is nothing wrong with what's on TV and what gets published as NY Times Best Sellers (I like them too), but it all begins with the fundamentals and the road is a rough one.

    If you are still reading and are not yet offended, then I'd say you have a great chance. Also note that nowhere above did I mention skill. For some people, physics will come easier, for others it will not. If you are dedicated then you are all set.
  4. Jun 15, 2008 #3
    On the technical side:

    Make sure you take calculus and calculus-based physics. It goes without saying, do as best as you can in these classes. Does your college offer an AS? This might look a little better for the transfer process. I'm assuming the major field of study is something science/physics related?

    When you do make the transfer, do not be afraid to retake any class you might have done a bit poorly in. You'll find that even the basic classes are taught much differently in the community college setting compared to a research university (I've seen this first hand). Also, don't just accept transfer credits left and right: compare the material covered in corresponding classes to make sure they match one-to-one.
  5. Jun 15, 2008 #4
    If you are willing to put in the effort and really enjoy the subject matter, then you will be fine in physics. It's just another major, like chemistry or engineering. You don't have to be a genius to do well in it.
  6. Jun 15, 2008 #5
    My community college does offer AS, but you can not transfer to a university with an AS degree. I want to get all my math done before i make a big step in physics. I already bought a basic physics book to understand physics as well(Amazon.com rocks!) I Thank you on your advice cmos and I will follow it as much as I can.

    -Be well-

  7. Jun 15, 2008 #6
    My community college does offer AS, but you can not transfer to a university with an AS degree. I want to get all my math done before i make a big step in physics. I already bought a basic physics book to understand physics as well(Amazon.com rocks!) I Thank you on your advice cmos and I will follow it as much as I can.

    -Be well-

  8. Jun 15, 2008 #7
    *Sorry that I doubled posted*

    But yea, Physics and math are my fav because of equations. I love equations and today people are still making new equations or formulas for the future. I hope someday I can work for NASA and maybe solve a formula to control particles......someday I hope.
  9. Jun 15, 2008 #8

    Dr Transport

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    As a practicing professional physicist (I hold an industrial position, not a tenured faculty slot) the advice I would give is work hard and you'll do well.

    Remember that later in your studies you'll encounter problems where the analytical solution does not exist. Advanced physics is has, as my adviser calls it, "pick and shovel work", in other words your only going to get so far with your mathematical skills, then you'll have to sit down and do the numerical work via computational methods.

    If you feel that experimental physics is where you want to go, then you'll have to add the additional skills of experimental design, i.e. how to set up an experiment get the data then work at interpreting what you see. This is where your theoretical skills come in handy, but always remember to work closely with a theoretical group to ensure that what you are seeing is an actual physical phenomenon not just noise in your system. I have seen where people try to publish some outlandish claim, only to be completely wrong because of their bias (room- temperature fusion comes to mind, wasn't that almost 20 years ago???, I am getting old).

    Do a search in this forum for other threads similar to yours, there are many of them, most have links to outside sites where you can go and look to get an idea of what others think.
  10. Jun 15, 2008 #9
    Dr. Transport, could you do any problem from any textbook in physics with a PhD? For example, could you solve all the problems in Halliday and Resnick, or Jackson E&M, if they were given to you on the spot? Is this necessary to be a good physicist?

    Also, isn't it true that is very difficult to become a professor of physics?
  11. Jun 15, 2008 #10

    Dr Transport

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    With some refreshing I most likely could do all of Halliday and Resnik, now there isn't a person alive (in my opinion) who can do all of Jackson's Electrodynamics book off the top of their head. I can do about 50-60% if I am lucky. I have not done Jackson problems since the early '90's while studying for my comprehensive exams and I took that course back in the late '80's. Every once in a while I pull it out to refresh my memory and do a problem or two to keep up some level of competency. As you get on farther in your career, you'll learn new things, have to go back and relearn things, it is just a cycle. I might be considered a good physicist, but I don't answer questions on the spot, I take my time and build up an answer, of course there are things you know the answer to right away, so you can just tell them. Feynman was a really smart guy, but he isn't my ultimate hero in physics, I have 3 (in no particular order), Boltzmann, Ehrenfest and Gouldsmit. Boltzmann because he wrote down the equation for my dissertation, Ehrenfest because he couldn't remember anything and had to derive it from scratch everytime (just like me) and Gouldsmit because he felt he never knew enough theoretical physics (again just like me).

    As for becoming a professor, you have to be really good, but also extremely lucky. Other than doing a bunch of post-doc work, you have to be in the right place at the right time to get a position and also to get tenure. My adviser was unlucky, he is an extremely talented condensed matter theorist making seminal contributions to a couple of fields, but could never get a tenure track position, just a research professorship. (He is an extremely difficult guy to work with and only had two students finish, a masters student and my PhD.)
  12. Jun 15, 2008 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Have you ever met Dave Jackson? I bet he could.
  13. Jun 15, 2008 #12
    I'm also majoring in physics in college, I start next year though. I'm scared it's going to be really tough. I do well in physics classes but not math.
  14. Jun 15, 2008 #13
    UCF as in University of Central Florida?

    Don't go there for physics, if you can avoid it. There's a couple really good faculty, but mostly terrible ones. The class offerings are pretty bad, too.

    Then again, they're getting a new building!
  15. Jun 15, 2008 #14


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    Hi Kaos - I'm not a physicist, because I just have a BS in physics (physicist = PhD, post-doc, research, blah blah blah...). But I came up the same way you are.

    When I transfered to a university from a community college, I wasn't too surprised to learn that when it came to raw intellegence, I wasn't in the top quartile in the class anymore - far from it! I was amazed at how smart some of my fellow students were.

    Turns out that meant nothing. Many, many of those uber-smarties left the program. But I was doggedly determined.

    My advice: just don't quit!

    PS - it's going to be hard :smile: !
  16. Jun 15, 2008 #15
    Pet peeve here..."Physicist" does not just refer to Ph.D. physicists any more than "Chemist" or "Biologist" or "Engineer" refer to only people holding Ph.D.s in those disciplines.

    There used to be an elitism associated with the title, but I am not sure why.

    If you have earned a degree in physics, or work in a position titled "physicist", then you are a physicist. A physicist can also earn advanced degrees, do research, and become a professor. Or not.

    Evidence that I can think of quickly:

    * The AIPs "Hidden Physicist" columns, highlighting people with degrees in physics (and therefore "physicists") working outside of physics.

    * The AIPs now-defunct "Industrial Physicist" magazine, highlighting jobs in industry for physicists of all educational levels.

    * The Federal government's employment requirements for "physicists" at various levels include requirements for various levels of education.
  17. Jun 16, 2008 #16
    This is very true... many people understand the very basic principles of physics and have a love for the universe... this is all good and well for "popular" science like he said but to get a "true" and in depth understanding you must have a love and understanding of complex math as well to bridge your way into the physics world... the math behind it is probably the most significant and hardest part!
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