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Pair CS/Math or another natural science with Physics?

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Generally speaking, would it be better to pair a CS/Math minor/minor or minor/major (respectively) with physics or an additional natural science major (e.g., biochem, biophysics, chemistry) with physics?

I plan on going to grad school to either pursue a physics Ph.D. or a master's in electrical engineering at the moment. I'm in a program that, if I stay in, would virtually eliminate any time I may have to obtain a CS/Math minor or major and would force me to double major my physics degree with another natural science. I was told by my academic advisor that it would be best for me to show that I am "well-rounded" in the sciences by pairing my physics degree with another natural science instead of being just like everyone else and getting a CIS minor.

My situation is a bit more complex than this, but this is likely the most simple, succinct way I can express my question/problem.

Would you agree/disagree with my academic advisor? Should I forget pursuing an additional natural science, or should I forget pursuing CIS/Math in a more in-depth manner than my physics major requires me to?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
verty
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If you are going to put all your ducks behind becoming a scientist then it makes sense to pair it up with another science. Biochem would be my choice. But if you want computers as a backup, I guess you'll need to do that.

But don't take my word for it. Hopefully you'll get a few responses and it'll make sense.
 
  • #3
ZapperZ
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Generally speaking, would it be better to pair a CS/Math minor/minor or minor/major (respectively) with physics or an additional natural science major (e.g., biochem, biophysics, chemistry) with physics?

I plan on going to grad school to either pursue a physics Ph.D. or a master's in electrical engineering at the moment. I'm in a program that, if I stay in, would virtually eliminate any time I may have to obtain a CS/Math minor or major and would force me to double major my physics degree with another natural science. I was told by my academic advisor that it would be best for me to show that I am "well-rounded" in the sciences by pairing my physics degree with another natural science instead of being just like everyone else and getting a CIS minor.

My situation is a bit more complex than this, but this is likely the most simple, succinct way I can express my question/problem.

Would you agree/disagree with my academic advisor? Should I forget pursuing an additional natural science, or should I forget pursuing CIS/Math in a more in-depth manner than my physics major requires me to?
First things first: how are your grades?

Zz.
 
  • #4
symbolipoint
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If you are going to put all your ducks behind becoming a scientist then it makes sense to pair it up with another science. Biochem would be my choice. But if you want computers as a backup, I guess you'll need to do that.

But don't take my word for it. Hopefully you'll get a few responses and it'll make sense.
Note that "another natural science" can be something other than just Physics; and other than just Biochemistry.
 
  • #5
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First things first: how are your grades?

Zz.
I'm sorry; I should mention that I am a freshman only into their fourth week or so of undergrad. I haven't taken many assessments yet. If I stay in this program, I will be required to take two semesters of general chemistry (this school year) and two semesters of organic chemistry (next school year). Besides that (and another required seminar course I would be taken all this school year), I am free to branch off into any other natural science double major duo (which would be physics and something else, for me).

I think my biggest fear would be the chemistry courses. I haven't taken a chemistry class since freshman year of high school (despite being invited into this program filled with mostly biochemistry majors) and would have to count on me doing well in general chem and organic chemistry, along with whatever else I have to do.

I'm also worried with ending up going through this entire curriculum only to pursue something like electrical engineering or a field of physics that won't even use this knowledge.

I think I'm answering my own question at this point, but I think it would be best for me to put up with the extra work and loss of sleep for at least this semester (or until the drop period) and see how well I do in chemistry. Then, I should decide on what to do next. Would you agree?
 
  • #6
ZapperZ
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I'm sorry; I should mention that I am a freshman only into their fourth week or so of undergrad. I haven't taken many assessments yet. If I stay in this program, I will be required to take two semesters of general chemistry (this school year) and two semesters of organic chemistry (next school year). Besides that (and another required seminar course I would be taken all this school year), I am free to branch off into any other natural science double major duo (which would be physics and something else, for me).

I think my biggest fear would be the chemistry courses. I haven't taken a chemistry class since freshman year of high school (despite being invited into this program filled with mostly biochemistry majors) and would have to count on me doing well in general chem and organic chemistry, along with whatever else I have to do.

I'm also worried with ending up going through this entire curriculum only to pursue something like electrical engineering or a field of physics that won't even use this knowledge.

I think I'm answering my own question at this point, but I think it would be best for me to put up with the extra work and loss of sleep for at least this semester (or until the drop period) and see how well I do in chemistry. Then, I should decide on what to do next. Would you agree?
Until you are able to judge how you handle the workload of doing one major, do you think it is wise to jump blindly into trying to do a double major?

How good of a chance of getting into a good graduate school do you think you will have if you have a double major with mediocre grades?

As of now, you are putting your cart waaaaaaaay before the horse..... like in the next county away. I'm surprised your academic advisor didn't try to slow you down when you told him/her of this.

Zz.
 
  • #7
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Until you are able to judge how you handle the workload of doing one major, do you think it is wise to jump blindly into trying to do a double major?

How good of a chance of getting into a good graduate school do you think you will have if you have a double major with mediocre grades?

As of now, you are putting your horse waaaaaaaay before the cart..... like in the next county away. I'm surprised your academic advisor didn't try to slow you down when you told him/her of this.

Zz.
Yeah, I understand where you're coming from. For more context, I was selected among the top percentage of science applicants (particularly biochem/biophysics/chem/physics) and invited into this program. My academic advisor is one of the heads of the program. Had I not been invited or ever heard of this program, I would be following the route that I had thought I would be taking: physics major + CS minor. However, this program throws a wrench into that entire plan.

The main benefit of this program would be two separate $10,000 stipends to conduct two separate, on-campus summers of research given that I manage to stay in the program until the end of my sophomore year.

Once again, I haven't taken a chemistry course since freshman year of high school, didn't expect to be invited to a program (I never even heard of this program before I applied here) where I would have to take four semesters of chemistry, and at the moment am not betting on me being good enough to excel in general chemistry and organic chemistry. I have surprised myself in the past, but I'm not going into this program expecting to do well.

I actually emailed my academic advisor (one of the program heads, once again) about dropping the program to pursue CIS and math along with my physics major. His response was that it would be better if I were more well-rounded and pursued another natural science instead of CIS. He states that this is because it is hard to come across someone with a broad knowledge of science (I can see why) than someone who is limited to CS/programming knowledge.

Currently, I've been stressing about this entire process of whether I should stay in this program or not. I already dropped down to a slightly lower-level math class that I enjoyed to give me more time for my chem course. Although this may be viewed by some as a good problem to have (I guess because the program is hard to get into), I have never been this stressed before into my life trying to balance my current courses and predict how my next four years should go before the add and drop deadlines.

EDIT: I guess I should also talk about how tempting it is made to drop the program. All entering freshmen in the program are required to take two-days-a-week of a seminar course where one day we're handed close to 80 pages worth of science news articles to read and the next day we're quizzed on our readings. Along with that, we're expected to memorize nucleotide and amino acid structures and are tested on those as well. (The quizzes are curved, but still, you need to find the time to read and memorize or else you will not do well in the course.) I think it would be best for me to stay in the program and see how well I do in chem, but that means that I would also have to stay in this required course for longer (which also takes away time I could be spending on my others courses as well as sleep). Any advice at all would be appreciated. I am so lost with what to do right now.
 
  • #8
symbolipoint
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I think my biggest fear would be the chemistry courses. I haven't taken a chemistry class since freshman year of high school (despite being invited into this program filled with mostly biochemistry majors) and would have to count on me doing well in general chem and organic chemistry, along with whatever else I have to do.

I'm also worried with ending up going through this entire curriculum only to pursue something like electrical engineering or a field of physics that won't even use this knowledge.
No; do not fear General Chemistry. Just study well!
(How is your Mathematics?)
 
  • #9
Dr. Courtney
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My view is that one should never sacrifice GPA (not even a little) for a minor or second major if one aspires to grad school.

GPA, research, recommendations, and PGRE all trump purported benefits of a minor or second major.
 
  • #10
symbolipoint
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My view is that one should never sacrifice GPA (not even a little) for a minor or second major if one aspires to grad school.

GPA, research, recommendations, and PGRE all trump purported benefits of a minor or second major.
Probably true and most probably that would be the best advice. The benefit of being well-rounded in science is still valuable.
 
  • #11
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Probably true and most probably that would be the best advice. The benefit of being well-rounded in science is still valuable.
The thing is that this program would guarantee me two summers of paid research given that I am capable of surviving the first two years. However, I go to what is said to be a very good research university, so I shouldn't have too much trouble finding other research opportunities.

So far I've been advised by my academic advisor and two others to stay in the program. My physics professor says that there would be no wrong choice and that I should do what I'm passionate about. I don't feel as if I'm passionate for chemistry, and I'm bad at the fact that I can't just focus on my physics and math classes but have to also worry about chemistry and a weekly, sadistically-crafted quiz on science articles for this program's required freshman course. I want to get rid of this stress in my life, but I feel as if it could be a foolish move to give up this great opportunity as some others are saying.
 
  • #12
vela
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It seems a little early in your college experience to panic and drop out of the program. It takes awhile for many to adjust to the pace of college. In the end, you'll need to choose what's best for you, but don't make the decision out of fear.

Why do you want to major/minor in CS?
 
  • #13
CrysPhys
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The thing is that this program would guarantee me two summers of paid research given that I am capable of surviving the first two years. However, I go to what is said to be a very good research university, so I shouldn't have too much trouble finding other research opportunities.

So far I've been advised by my academic advisor and two others to stay in the program. My physics professor says that there would be no wrong choice and that I should do what I'm passionate about. I don't feel as if I'm passionate for chemistry, and I'm bad at the fact that I can't just focus on my physics and math classes but have to also worry about chemistry and a weekly, sadistically-crafted quiz on science articles for this program's required freshman course. I want to get rid of this stress in my life, but I feel as if it could be a foolish move to give up this great opportunity as some others are saying.
In response to this thread and your other thread (https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/chemistry-based-research-program-or-more-math-cs-courses.954988/), I have these words of advice, "A bargain is a good bargain only if it meets your needs." If you get a great discount on a mini-van, but you really need a pickup truck, then that mini-van is not a great bargain. If you are interested in a combo of physics and chemistry, then your program, with stipends included, is a great deal and can lead to a variety of career opportunities. But, in your posts, the message I get is that you really don't like chemistry, and you really want to pursue more CS and math.
 

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