Physic undergrad and material minor?

  • #1
Okay there's a lot to chow down here but I am at a standstill. Ultimately there are too many variables and unknowns but I need a framework.

I am transferring over to ASU from a community college and have declared physics as my major. This is something I have planned on for a while because I am more of a thinker and dreamer than an engineer or computer scientist. Literally everyone in my classes is an engineering major, mostly mechanical. I am the only physic major I know right now.

Okay so decisions decisions...

I have been doing a lot of research and what I have gathered is that I need some engineering or computer science experience to help out my physic degree. I have looked into materials science and engineering and it seems pretty cool and appears to lean to the more scientific side of things than compared to all the other engineering majors. Materials science also appeared to have connections with quantum mechanics and nano-science, but I am not sure how much and in what way exactly.

A big problem is that I will have a lot to fill in for my physic degree in order to graduate in 4 years (I am a semester behind in physics for the ASU program but a little bit ahead in math and general studies). I will not have as much wiggle room if I plan to graduate in four years have been considering an extra semester.

Now, when did university and choices for majors become set paths in order to figure out what you like and what to "be"? In my perspective, it seems that picking the right major is really to find work that has decent pay and good opportunities with some wiggle room for personal satisfaction and interest in the job field.

In my dreams I am a theoretical physicist, astronaut, and a revolutionary inventor/entrepreneur.
But in my reality I am a father and husband with a good job and during playtime outside my work I have my own hobbies and interests.

idk, any and all advice and experiences to share is much appreciated.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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In a very concrete sense, what do you want to do with your degree? Grad school? Industry? Not knowing is fine.

Physics major and a minor in materials science seems like a solid route.
 
  • #3
ZapperZ
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Okay there's a lot to chow down here but I am at a standstill. Ultimately there are too many variables and unknowns but I need a framework.

I am transferring over to ASU from a community college and have declared physics as my major. This is something I have planned on for a while because I am more of a thinker and dreamer than an engineer or computer scientist. Literally everyone in my classes is an engineering major, mostly mechanical. I am the only physic major I know right now.

Okay so decisions decisions...

I have been doing a lot of research and what I have gathered is that I need some engineering or computer science experience to help out my physic degree. I have looked into materials science and engineering and it seems pretty cool and appears to lean to the more scientific side of things than compared to all the other engineering majors. Materials science also appeared to have connections with quantum mechanics and nano-science, but I am not sure how much and in what way exactly.

A big problem is that I will have a lot to fill in for my physic degree in order to graduate in 4 years (I am a semester behind in physics for the ASU program but a little bit ahead in math and general studies). I will not have as much wiggle room if I plan to graduate in four years have been considering an extra semester.

Now, when did university and choices for majors become set paths in order to figure out what you like and what to "be"? In my perspective, it seems that picking the right major is really to find work that has decent pay and good opportunities with some wiggle room for personal satisfaction and interest in the job field.

In my dreams I am a theoretical physicist, astronaut, and a revolutionary inventor/entrepreneur.
But in my reality I am a father and husband with a good job and during playtime outside my work I have my own hobbies and interests.

idk, any and all advice and experiences to share is much appreciated.
The most important thing that you left out here is whether you have relayed this very exact information to your academic advisor. This is the one, most important person - the person who not only should know you more than we do but also should know more about the programs and courses at ASU - to be able to give you informed advice and guidance!

If you haven't done so, maybe this should be the first step that you must take.

Zz.
 
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  • #4
CrysPhys
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Okay there's a lot to chow down here but I am at a standstill. Ultimately there are too many variables and unknowns but I need a framework. ...
Well, I got my undergrad (bachelor's) and grad degrees (master's and PhD) in physics. I didn't go for an official minor (saw no need for it), but took almost all my free electives in materials science and engineering, both on the undergrad and grad level. Most of my physics classmates took their free electives in either math or EE.

(a) From your post, it's not clear to me what your questions are. Your situation appears to be this: You are primarily interested in physics as a scientific pursuit, but you realize that an undergrad degree in physics by itself might not position you well in the job market. You're not interested in engineering or programming, so you're hoping that a minor in materials science and engineering will (i) still be a scientific pursuit akin to physics, yet (ii) provide you with sufficient "engineering-like" credentials to land you a job. Is this an accurate assessment?

(b) You also mention that one of your dream careers is to be an inventor/entrepreneur. But most people in that mold are interested in developing and marketing a product (which requires engineering or programming skills), not pursuing science for the sake of science. So there's an inconsistency between that goal and your lack of interest in engineering and programming.

(c) Are you planning to stop with a bachelor's, pursue a terminal master's, or pursue a PhD?

(d) If you can clarify the above and formulate your questions more specifically, I'll be in a better position to help.
 
  • #5
Well, I got my undergrad (bachelor's) and grad degrees (master's and PhD) in physics. I didn't go for an official minor (saw no need for it), but took almost all my free electives in materials science and engineering, both on the undergrad and grad level. Most of my physics classmates took their free electives in either math or EE.

(a) From your post, it's not clear to me what your questions are. Your situation appears to be this: You are primarily interested in physics as a scientific pursuit, but you realize that an undergrad degree in physics by itself might not position you well in the job market. You're not interested in engineering or programming, so you're hoping that a minor in materials science and engineering will (i) still be a scientific pursuit akin to physics, yet (ii) provide you with sufficient "engineering-like" credentials to land you a job. Is this an accurate assessment?

(b) You also mention that one of your dream careers is to be an inventor/entrepreneur. But most people in that mold are interested in developing and marketing a product (which requires engineering or programming skills), not pursuing science for the sake of science. So there's an inconsistency between that goal and your lack of interest in engineering and programming.

(c) Are you planning to stop with a bachelor's, pursue a terminal master's, or pursue a PhD?

(d) If you can clarify the above and formulate your questions more specifically, I'll be in a better position to help.
Responding in order,
(A) Yes, that is an accurate assessment. I want some engineering experience to improve my credentials to land a job and I had come to the conclusion that materials science and engineering would provide the best scientific pursuit akin to physics in the sense that I would be more of a researcher than an engineer.

(B) Sorry, what I posted there was unclear, my thoughts got very scrambled there.

(C) I'm not entirely sure but I've been leaning towards graduate school. I learned about materials science and engineering because they offered a masters and PhD for it. I have been seriously considering of going to graduate school for materials science and engineering, but that is a ways away and I may change my mind for something else. I was hoping to get some insight here on how that might turn out if I did and what other options might be good. Also, I do not really know the difference between a PhD and a masters.

You're right about how the minor declaration wouldn't matter. I want to take my free electives in material courses but I would have to take a chemistry pre-req course and that would leave me with even less wiggle room, so I thought I might as well just bulk up on some math and programming classes(I've been thinking that the programming experience could help me with future research experience).
 
  • #6
In a very concrete sense, what do you want to do with your degree? Grad school? Industry? Not knowing is fine.

Physics major and a minor in materials science seems like a solid route.
Dishsoap,
Your profile name and picture is incredibly enticing, surely you have some incredible insight and wisdom you can offer me to help, well... "clean up" my situation???
I kid. I have been leaning mostly toward graduate school but who knows what happens after that?
 
  • #7
The most important thing that you left out here is whether you have relayed this very exact information to your academic advisor. This is the one, most important person - the person who not only should know you more than we do but also should know more about the programs and courses at ASU - to be able to give you informed advice and guidance!

If you haven't done so, maybe this should be the first step that you must take.

Zz.
You're right, I have clarified some things with her but I also feel that my indecisiveness should be sorted out myself. I've never really interacted with an advisor on an intimate and personal level, how much should she know? My options I have considered for graduate school? What engineering or programming classes I think might help me out? How many cats I have? The color of my underwear?
 
  • #8
ZapperZ
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You're right, I have clarified some things with her but I also feel that my indecisiveness should be sorted out myself. I've never really interacted with an advisor on an intimate and personal level, how much should she know? My options I have considered for graduate school? What engineering or programming classes I think might help me out? How many cats I have? The color of my underwear?
But you don't feel anything awkward with sharing among strangers on an open forum?

Your advisor should at least know your goals, or know the issues you're having with where you want to go or what you want to do. Otherwise, how is she going to be able to properly advice you on what is best? You don't have to share with her the color of your underwear. If this clear line of separation between professional contact and TMI is something you are clueless about, then you have bigger issues to deal with than just this.

Zz.
 
  • #9
But you don't feel anything awkward with sharing among strangers on an open forum?

Your advisor should at least know your goals, or know the issues you're having with where you want to go or what you want to do. Otherwise, how is she going to be able to properly advice you on what is best? You don't have to share with her the color of your underwear. If this clear line of separation between professional contact and TMI is something you are clueless about, then you have bigger issues to deal with than just this.

Zz.
My goodness... can you not tell those last two parts were a joke? If you do not have a sense of humor then my apologies.

Sharing info with strangers over an open forum under an anonymous identity is certainly not a problem, I do not see how you can compare this to a face to face interaction? That is not a problem for me though, I have just never considered giving my advisor more information.
 
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  • #10
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
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Responding in order,
(A) Yes, that is an accurate assessment. I want some engineering experience to improve my credentials to land a job and I had come to the conclusion that materials science and engineering would provide the best scientific pursuit akin to physics in the sense that I would be more of a researcher than an engineer.

(B) Sorry, what I posted there was unclear, my thoughts got very scrambled there.

(C) I'm not entirely sure but I've been leaning towards graduate school. I learned about materials science and engineering because they offered a masters and PhD for it. I have been seriously considering of going to graduate school for materials science and engineering, but that is a ways away and I may change my mind for something else. I was hoping to get some insight here on how that might turn out if I did and what other options might be good. Also, I do not really know the difference between a PhD and a masters.

You're right about how the minor declaration wouldn't matter. I want to take my free electives in material courses but I would have to take a chemistry pre-req course and that would leave me with even less wiggle room, so I thought I might as well just bulk up on some math and programming classes(I've been thinking that the programming experience could help me with future research experience).
(1) If you are interested in solid-state physics, electives in materials science and engineering (MS&E) are a logical choice. Introductory solid-state physics courses emphasize the application of basic physical principles in ideal single crystal materials. MS&E takes a more phenomenological approach to complex materials (including, e.g., defects and inhomogeneous compositions and microstructures).

(2) If your heart is set on being a lead researcher (academics or industrial R&D) in either physics or MS&E, you will typically want to pursue a PhD. If you want to settle for some other role, a terminal masters in physics typically won't provide you much more opportunities over a bachelor's, but a terminal masters in MS&E typically will. Usual qualifier with generalizations: there are always outliers.

(3) If the major goal of your electives is to enhance your employability (rather than to satisfy an inner passion), then I would recommend that, once you have completed basic courses in MS&E, you should take practical lab courses, if available at your school, in characterization and fabrication. Characterization includes, e.g., classic optical metallography, X-Ray diffraction, electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, surface analysis, and mechanical analysis. Fabrication includes, e.g., classic "heat 'em and beat 'em" metallurgy, crystal growth, lithography, thin film deposition, and etching. Personally, I found such lab courses to be a great deal of fun, and a welcome break from lectures and homework.
 
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  • #11
(1) If you are interested in solid-state physics, electives in materials science and engineering (MS&E) are a logical choice. Introductory solid-state physics courses emphasize the application of basic physical principles in ideal single crystal materials. MS&E takes a more phenomenological approach to complex materials (including, e.g., defects and inhomogeneous compositions and microstructures).

(2) If your heart is set on being a lead researcher (academics or industrial R&D) in either physics or MS&E, you will typically want to pursue a PhD. If you want to settle for some other role, a terminal masters in physics typically won't provide you much more opportunities over a bachelor's, but a terminal masters in MS&E typically will. Usual qualifier with generalizations: there are always outliers.

(3) If the major goal of your electives is to enhance your employability (rather than to satisfy an inner passion), then I would recommend that, once you have completed basic courses in MS&E, you should take practical lab courses, if available at your school, in characterization and fabrication. Characterization includes, e.g., classic optical metallography, X-Ray diffraction, electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, surface analysis, and mechanical analysis. Fabrication includes, e.g., classic "heat 'em and beat 'em" metallurgy, crystal growth, lithography, thin film deposition, and etching. Personally, I found such lab courses to be a great deal of fun, and a welcome break from lectures and homework.
Thank you.

(A) I am interested in solid-state physics however I will only be able to squeeze in basic materials science courses(first chemistry then the materials science and engineering course). On the upside, I can take a graduate level materials physics class during my last semester.
(B) I plan on pursuing a PhD and I am interested in doing research.
(C) I am pursuing my inner passion for the most part. I would love to take more upper division mathematics classes but I do think I need some engineering courses as well. Again, I do not think I will be able to squeeze in such classes. Right now an elective I am taking is applied statistics because I think it would be beneficial in the future, however I am deciding if I should take chemistry instead so I can take some engineering courses in the next semesters. During the summer I hope to secure some research experience and/or internships(more unlikely than research though).
 

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