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My last two years

  1. Nov 21, 2011 #1
    So I put together a plan for the final five semester of my four year plan. It includes a physics major, math minor, and music minor. Looking to get feedback on its layout from anyone who has already finished a semi-similar program. Do any of the semesters look particularly overwhelming?

    Spring 2012
    Calc II
    Physics II
    Philosophy of Science

    Fall 2012
    Calc III
    Physics III
    Intermediate Seminar
    Music Appreciation

    Spring 2013
    Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
    Electromagnetic Fields
    World Music

    Fall 2013
    Theoretical Mechanics
    Senior Seminar
    Probability and Statistics
    Linear Algebra and Matrices

    Spring 2014
    Quantum Physics
    Math Modeling
    Discrete Mathematics
    Complex Variables and Analysis
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2011 #2
    Perhaps I am puzzled by your schedule? What about fall 2011?
  4. Nov 22, 2011 #3
    I'm in Fall 2011 right now. Just checking if the rest of it looks doable.
  5. Nov 22, 2011 #4
    "Spring 2011" should be "Spring 2012" then. :P
  6. Nov 22, 2011 #5
    I suck.
  7. Nov 22, 2011 #6
    I'm maybe a bit harsh here, but what I'm concerned about is the apparent lack of focus overall. What do you want to do with your degree and two minors? Specifically, if anything, the physics degree looks SPARSE / UNDERWHELMING (i.e. just fulfilling the minimum requirements). When you complete your undergraduate degree, you shouldn't JUST do the required coursework (or it's won't make for a strong degree... of the type both graduate programs and employers would want).

    Some comments: Where's the TWO semesters of classical, quantum and EM? Graduate programs will want to see this if you're interested in graduate studies in physics. Where's a thermodynamics course (including some "statistical thermodynamics)?

    It looks like perhaps you declared the major "late" (say like a year+ late) and it's hurting you. There are ways to "catch up" (I did as an undergrad who declared late)... but it will require some hard years if you still want a strong undergraduate degree, or an extra year of undergrad. I personally think only 4 classes in Spring of 2012 and 2013 looks sparse. I think you probably need to take Quantum and E&M simultaneously in Spring of 2012... and then strengthen your focus and degree from there. Also... you really need to see if the courses are only (or even) offered in the terms you have listed (and for this you need to check with the departments). At some point in a strong major, you should be taking at least 3 courses in the field... and possibly 4 if you are trying to "catch up" from a late declaration or from a need for remedial preparation at the beginning of the degree. I don't see any terms in your plan that have more than 2 physics courses (unless if maybe that "seminar" course is in physics).

    A math minor is very complementary to further study in physics (and it looks to me you've selected some good courses for that)... but depending on what you want to do, the musics minor might be complementary (you need to really focus on how to make it complementary unless you just flat out want it for your own edification). But regardless, tacking on minors without focus and a strong primary degree is NOT good for future schooling or employment prospects. So I'm just trying to warn you: you need to have some plan in mind for AFTER the degree is awarded... or the degree could prove relatively worthless.
  8. Nov 22, 2011 #7
    isnt quantum a sophmore level course?
  9. Nov 22, 2011 #8
    Thank you very much for that. I don't think you were harsh at all, just realistic. I had no idea at all that taking classes beyond requirements is something that's expected of majors for graduate school or the job market. I wasn't trying to be cheap about my degree, I just thought that I was doing it the right way.

    I'll see about taking those extra classes in the summers, and maybe tacking on an extra semester.

    Ambition wise, I am interested in doing astronomy based research. I am doing that this summer at a pretty good observatory. I was also considering applying to the navy nuclear school.

    In both situations I can see how taking those extra classes would be beneficial. Thank you.
  10. Nov 22, 2011 #9
    I'll note then (with that clarification in focus) that astronomy/astrophysics undergraduate degrees (if a school offers them) generally have less of a focus on undergraduate physics courses... and more of a focus on undergraduate astronomy and astrophysics coursework. Without a strong undergrad degree in astronomy or astrophysics (i.e. if your school doesn't offer them), you'd probably better strengthen the physics.... I'd think a graduate committee in astrophysics would look favorably on either a strong physics or astrophysics/astronomy degree, but not a weak degree from either. I couldn't find information on what courses would be considered "standard prep" for astro- programs... you really should try to get that information from individual departments you might be interested in... or from people in the field. In this respect... find really good advisors to help you. One of these can be the supervisor at this summer's research position (that's really good to get by the way). Also see if you can find someone at your own institution... and read a lot of potential programs information online... and some other information online (I notice astronomy and astrophysics have a number of "how to get into grad school / should you go to grad school blogs or websites, and there may be some from the astrophysical society).

    If you're looking into nuclear work -- then maybe your school has nuclear engineering courses you can overlap to fill the gap? Maybe see if you can minor in that, versus perhaps math?

    Just know that taking minimum requirements is like doing only what's requested you, and not really showing all your talents. It's like your mom asking you to take your plate away after dinner, but you then only put your dirty plate by the sink. Mom's gonna like it a lot better if you also take your silverware, scrape off any leftover food, rinse the plate, stack it neatly on other plates or even load it in the dishwasher, and throw away your napkin.

    It's even more important in your undergrad degree. After all, you're probably paying for this opportunity. It's best to learn all you can AND develop those talents that will make you special... not like every other undergrad just fulfilling the requirements. (Also if you're showing yourself to be a good student, maybe Mom won't even care if you put that plate away...)

    Sometimes this isn't emphasized enough by the schools or departments, because often they just care about the end numbers game (% or total graduated with x degree in x years)... which is about minimum requirements. If they're good about student data (and sometimes they aren't... or don't emphasize it / take the data on it), they'd also care about employment percentages or graduate admittances.

    Anyways... I think it's VERY smart of you to now be able to take this criticism and readjust your plan.
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