PhD in pure Maths and... Physics

In summary: If you just stuck with math, how far are you from graduating?The program's duration is four years. I'm in the first year.
  • #1
mathguy_1995
7
11
Hello,

I'm currently a phd candidate in pure maths, doing research in Ergodic Theory (concerning ergodic convergence theorems). When I started studying Ergodic Theory I ran into Statistical Mechanics and I immediately fell in love. I've started studying physics from scratch. As my current research and my thesis are purely mathematical (no applications to other disciplines), and I really love this topic, is there any way I could also start doing some work on Physics (even later in my academic life)? I'd love to do research in QFT and Superstrings or generally in Mathematical Physics. How possible would it be (provided my background) that I could find a postdoc program on these fields and that I would get accepted into it? Do you have any advice on what could I do starting TODAY, while doing in parallel my PhD?
Thanks in advance!
 
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  • #2
If you just stuck with math, how far are you from graduating?
 
  • #3
The program's duration is four years. I'm in the first year.
 
  • #4
If the program you are in isn't taking you where you want to go, why stick with it?
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
If the program you are in isn't taking you where you want to go, why stick with it?
What do you propose? How could I get into physics without any certification? I have a BSc in Maths and an MSc in Pure Maths.
 
  • #6
Do your university have a research programme in such physics? Could you ask your advisor if there is a possibilty that you take courses in qm, qft, gr and string theory? I think we had some math phd students on the courses i took on gr and string theory when i was phd student
 
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  • #7
If you're not on the path you want to be on, how will going further along it help you? Sure, changing course won't be easy. But it won't get any easier if you invest 3 more years on your present path.
 
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  • #8
Vanadium 50 said:
If you're not on the path you want to be on, how will going further along it help you? Sure, changing course won't be easy. But it won't get any easier if you invest 3 more years on your present path.
The reason I've started this thread is because during the last couple of weeks I am always thinking about having chosen the wrong option. One of my first thoughts was that I should try to turn into physics. Here in Greece, the path is somewhat painful, as someone with no previous experience in physics (and with my undergraduate grades - 6/10 BUT WITH an awesome 10 in M.Sc.-that's where I started considering a Physics path) has to study everything from the very beginning, meaning that someone should do a B.Sc. in Physics. The last few days I started accepting this option and started studying for the entrance exams. This post was meant to inform me about any "hidden" options I could've followed. I know that being in a PhD program and stopping to go to a bachelors it may be extremely hard, but anyway, I know that I love what I'm gonna do, I always loved it! I really thank you for your comments! Any new comments are truly welcome.
 
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  • #9
I think you need to talk to some people in the math department and the physics department about your research options. There's a decent chance you can just do a math phd in a very physics related topic, and be well positioned to do theoretical/mathematical physics coming out of your math phd.
 
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  • #10
mathguy_1995 said:
Hello,

I'm currently a phd candidate in pure maths, doing research in Ergodic Theory (concerning ergodic convergence theorems). When I started studying Ergodic Theory I ran into Statistical Mechanics and I immediately fell in love. I've started studying physics from scratch. As my current research and my thesis are purely mathematical (no applications to other disciplines), and I really love this topic, is there any way I could also start doing some work on Physics (even later in my academic life)? I'd love to do research in QFT and Superstrings or generally in Mathematical Physics. How possible would it be (provided my background) that I could find a postdoc program on these fields and that I would get accepted into it? Do you have any advice on what could I do starting TODAY, while doing in parallel my PhD?
Thanks in advance!
I think if you wanted to do research in statistical mechanics or complex systems your math background would be very helpful. However, QFT and strings seems much further afield and would most likely require changing either your focus in math or switching to physics. That's just my opinion, though.
 
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  • #11
mathguy_1995 said:
Hello,

I'm currently a phd candidate in pure maths, doing research in Ergodic Theory (concerning ergodic convergence theorems). When I started studying Ergodic Theory I ran into Statistical Mechanics and I immediately fell in love. I've started studying physics from scratch. As my current research and my thesis are purely mathematical (no applications to other disciplines), and I really love this topic, is there any way I could also start doing some work on Physics (even later in my academic life)? I'd love to do research in QFT and Superstrings or generally in Mathematical Physics. How possible would it be (provided my background) that I could find a postdoc program on these fields and that I would get accepted into it? Do you have any advice on what could I do starting TODAY, while doing in parallel my PhD?
Thanks in advance!
During the time that I was in university, I have known a number of faculty members in the Math department who have conducted research in topics closely related to physics (e.g. ergodic theory, homotopy theory, harmonic analysis, etc.), or who specialized in mathematical physics, including areas like statistical mechanics, quantum theory (including quantum computing), string theory, etc.

My suggestion would be to continue in your math PhD program and continue research in topics within the math department that aligns with physics. Your math department should have advisors that you can discuss this matter -- I would suggest you speak with them on this. I would also suggest that you find faculty members who specialize in areas related to physics and discuss potential research topics.
 
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  • #12
Perhaps I understand your situation a bit better than many others in these forums; my BSc (Physics) is from a Greek university, too (Ioannina). Of all the (decent) pieces of advice offered above, the one from StatGuy2000 is, in my opinion, the most feasible. Ideally, if you REALLY want to jump into physics, you might have to start over with a BSc course, but I believe that would be kind of a waste. Stick with your two math degrees and following StatGuy2000's suggestion, work out a new Ph D project with your advisor. There are many mathematicians doing theoretical physics in fields like GR or Strings (perhaps too many!)

In my humble opinion, GR is your best shot---it's a classical theory, in a sense created from scratch. Strings require quantum mechanics. Anyway, good luck!
 
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  • #13
@StatGuy2000 and @apostolosdt that option is what I consider the last few days. I will start a new Phd project (maybe with a new supervisor, since my current one has no research interests towards physics) on Mathematical Physics. The next few days I will have some meetings with stuff members from the Physics Department of my Institute, so I hope I will have a clear perspective for my academic future.
 
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  • #14
What makes you think ergodic theory isn't related to physics?
 
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  • #15
I'm a little busy to give a detailed answer now but in short: doing an undergrad in physics is completely unnecessary.

Undergrad physics goes at a snail-pace and contains many topics that will not be relevant for you.

Given you've done an undergrad in maths, you will be able to catch up on whatever physics you're interested in pretty rapidly.
 
  • #16
hw562 said:
I'm a little busy to give a detailed answer now
So...why? This thread has been dormant for a good chunk of a year. Why not wait until you have the time?

hw562 said:
Given you've done an undergrad in maths, you will be able to catch up on whatever physics you're interested in pretty rapidly.
I disagree, There is far more to physics than just math. Being good at math helps, but it is not sufficient. I've seen more than a few people try and hack there way through a jungle of math because of a lack of physics insight - such as exploiting a symmetry - in a physics problem.
 
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  • #17
Vanadium 50 said:
So...why? This thread has been dormant for a good chunk of a year. Why not wait until you have the time?I disagree, There is far more to physics than just math. Being good at math helps, but it is not sufficient. I've seen more than a few people try and hack there way through a jungle of math because of a lack of physics insight - such as exploiting a symmetry - in a physics problem.

Honestly I started my degree with approximately the same ability to exploit symmetry as I have now.

My point is getting into QFT does not require doing a whole undergrad in physics. A crash course on electromagnetism (skipping all the silly problems with interfaces etc) and probably a slightly more full look at QM, GR and a full lagrangian/hamiltonian mechanics course seems sufficient.
 
  • #18
hw562 said:
Honestly I started my degree with approximately the same ability to exploit symmetry as I have now.

My point is getting into QFT does not require doing a whole undergrad in physics. A crash course on electromagnetism (skipping all the silly problems with interfaces etc) and probably a slightly more full look at QM, GR and a full lagrangian/hamiltonian mechanics course seems sufficient.
Sounds like an oversimplification to me.
 
  • #19
Don't try to learn physics from scratch. I've thought about how to explain physics to mathematicians, and I'm pretty sure the only way for mathematicians to get into physics is to try to imagine it in their own way. I am a physicist but equally interested in mathematics. I will be starting study in mathematical physics at Edinburgh in Scotland this year.
 
  • #20
dx said:
Don't try to learn physics from scratch. I've thought about how to explain physics to mathematicians, and I'm pretty sure the only way for mathematicians to get into physics is to try to imagine it in their own way. I am a physicist but equally interested in mathematics. I will be starting study in mathematical physics at Edinburgh in Scotland this year.
<<Emphasis added>> Care to clarify how someone unfamiliar with physics would "imagine it in their own way"? ETA: Is this limited to only mathematicians, or would it apply to other non-physicists (e.g., engineers or art history majors)?
 
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