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Need help with majoring in either chemistry or physics

  1. Oct 30, 2016 #1
    I am interested in nuclear reactions, so the ultimate goal is to get into either nuclear physics, or nuclear chemistry. The thing is, I am torn between the two in which one to major in. Should I major in chemistry or physics first? The goal is to work alongside a nuclear physicist or chemist as soon as possible, or do I have to wait until finishing grad school?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2016 #2
    I think nuclear chemists and nuclear physicists come at nuclear reactions somewhat differently. If I understand correctly, nuclear physicists to understand the mechanism and structure of the nucleus, and how they contribute to changes in the nucleus. Nuclear chemists are interested in how nuclear reactions contribute to changes in the atomic (i.e. electronic) structure. I am not sure the division is quite this stark. Why not ask nuclear physicists and/or chemists at you local (or any) university?

    To work alongside a nuclear physicist/chemist you will probably do it during grad school at latest. You will not likely wait until finishing grad school.

    I think nuclear physicists studying reactions are more likely to be in an academic setting. Nuclear chemists may be found in more diverse settings such as hospitals, the biological sciences, (irradiating foods may kill deleterious microorganisms), etc, but I do not know for sure. This may be a prejudice.

    My guess, although I may have it wrong is, if you want to study with a nuclear chemist or physicist as soon as possible, chemistry is more likely to offer this chance, at the undergraduate level. For example, nuclear magnetic resonance is a common tool used in magnetic resonance imaging with ubiquitous medical application. However this medical imaging studies) are not nuclear reactions you want to study.

    However, I also think you should not be in a hurry to work with a nuclear chemist or physicist. It is probably best to consider the advisor whose area interests you the most, even if it means waiting a semester or possibly two.

    It is really best to ask the experts, but I try to help. I am not sure of many of these outlooks.
  4. Oct 31, 2016 #3
    Thank you for your input. So it seems, I'm personally more geared towards nuclear physics and just waiting until after grad school. A little bit about me in which you may be able to help with guiding is I'm fascinated by how atoms are made and can create elements.

    However, what's very important to me is to not only work towards a problem but I also have to see it in motion, so if nuclear physics is just a lot of researching without any application or little application I will become overwhelmingly bored, but at the same time I am interested in knowing why and how something is functioning and to see it in motion by experimentation will just give me that feeling of completeness.

    The reason I'm seeking this right now is because I am currently teaching myself chemistry from online tutors and videos on youtube; however, if I am looking to get into nuclear physics I mine as well give myself a head start on math and physics.
  5. Oct 31, 2016 #4
    As for asking a professor I currently am not attending a University due to financial situations and job placement. I'm currently working on job security and working on building my business. Once everything is in a steady motion, I can then attend a University, so at the moment I am currently keeping myself busy by teaching myself.
  6. Oct 31, 2016 #5
    You don't have to attend university in order to send a professor an email. I send professors from other schools emails all the time!

    Whether you go into a chemistry or physics program depends on the schools you're considering (or maybe you've got enough flexibility to attend any number of universities). If you're interested in "how atoms are made" (i.e. nuclei) you'll probably want to study nuclear physics. In terms of nuclear physics applications, there's a field called "Health Physics" that works on making devices using nuclear physics safe for use around people.
  7. Oct 31, 2016 #6
    Ah you're right, I forgot about the emails. Great pointer. When I mean applications I mean like experiments. Or seeing the work in motion. Sounds like nuclear physics. I think you helped summed it up. If I do have any further questions around this subject I'll be sure to email a professor. I totally forgot about that haha.
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