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Physics and maths

  1. May 27, 2003 #1
    Hi all. I'll choose what subject(s) to study in university in November this year. I am thinking of choosing physics and maths(double majors) and I want to know more about what it is like when you are studying these 2 subjects? Of course I want to get PhD and do researches but I'm not sure whether I have potential or not. Do you need to be exceptionally intelligent in order to get a PhD ? What obstacals or difficults did(do) you meet when you were(are) an undergraduate? I am interested in math/physics now but I'm afraid I'll lose interest after a few years.

    Besides phy/math, I'm thinking of entering a medical school, which is a totally different stream in science but the future seems more promising. I'm not studying biology now but I'm studying chemistry. I like helping others and to be a doctor can help lots of people for sure.

    Both to be a surgeon and to get a PhD in math/physics are my dreams. I would like to know is it possible for a person who is a surgeon while is doing researches on physcis or maths, like part time mathematician or physicst ?

    I'm thinking of studying engineering too but I don't know much about it. I'm studing pure math and I can apply to enginnering dept. Is engineering fun ?

    I still have about 5 months to think of this problem seriously. I know there are lots of people who are studying/ have studied the subjects I mentioned. Any suggestions ?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2003 #2
    study a little of each and pick what you like the best and/or are the best at. unless of course you would like to be a 20 year college student .
  4. May 27, 2003 #3

    Not a chance.

    The time commitment to be a surgeon is ridiculous.
    You would be lucky to find time to eat, never mind do research in maths/physics.
  5. May 27, 2003 #4
    Yes, to be a surgeon is a life in itself. However, you can certainly have an MD and do research. You have plenty of time to decide though, so take some courses see what you like. Time's on your side.
  6. May 28, 2003 #5
    Yes, I've taken some courses on physics and mathematics, but not medicine. What troubled me is that everytime I take a math course or after math lessons in class, my interest in math increased by 10 times. Everytime I watch a tv program about doctors and medicine, my desire to be a surgeon increased by 10 times. That's why I want to know about what problems you've encountered when you are studying math/physics or what potentials do you need to get a PhD.

    Besides, I've heard some proferssors said that double major = double minor because the math syllabus in phy/math double major is less than that for pure math major and it is the same in physics syllabus. Is that true? Is it worth to double major physics and math? Or it is better to study physics major with math minor or the other way round?
  7. May 28, 2003 #6
    Make sure you could be exposed to a lot of theoretical physics, as it would be a waste of time to do experimental physics on one side, and group theory on the other, as there would be no overlap.

    In terms of being a MD and doing research, you would require to do research in the field of medicine, as it would be very very hard to get up to speed with the maths/physics.

    You cannot possibly cover the same amount in dual majors as two people would doing single majors. That is why you would have to choose an area such as theoretical physics.
  8. May 28, 2003 #7
    Cannot speak for anywhere but the U.S., but the prerequisites for medical school admissions can be accomplished with any major. The minimum requirements are a year of physics, a year of general chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, and a year of introductory biology. The math prerequisite may depend on the medical school, but given the other prereqs, at least courses in single variable differential and integral calculus will end up being taken. Additional courses in statistics (esp. biostatistics), biochemistry, and advanced biology courses are recommended but not required. A kick ass MCAT score is of course preferred, as is volunteer experience in a clinical setting. Given the structure of most physics/math majors in U.S. universities, you'll have to take the year of intro chem, intro physics, and calculus anyway, so one would just need to tack on a year of organic chemistry and a year of intro biology.

    I could blather on about the MD/Ph.D. program that is available at most U.S. medical schools, but it's intended for those interested in biomedical research, particularly of a cross-clinical/basic bent.

    I would of course ask if you've thought about combining your interests and perhaps pursuing something like biophysics or molecular/structural biology. You could still get to tackle some very difficult problems in physics yet still doing something that could contribute to medicine. (I only ask because that is what I decided to do.)
  9. May 28, 2003 #8


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    I am not sure just where you are in your education, if you are just starting in college, you are not even close to needing to make a decision yet. The first 2 years will be about the same for any Science major, then if you can major in Physics/Math and still be in a postion to either go to Med school or contiue with grad work in Physics. Here is where your troubles will start, you will NOT be able to do both simutaenously, yet each is a 5-7Year commitment. If you attempt to do them sequentially the first will be useless due to age and lack of activity by the time the second course is completed.

    Good luck, Not saying that it is impossible, but certianly very difficult.
  10. May 29, 2003 #9
    I get your points, I know it would be better to specialize in one narrow topic rather than a few different topics in totally different fields. This is what university education is for.

    I'm not being educated in USA, though i wish I was. Well, I haven't thought of combining my interests and study biophysics or molecular biology, probably because study pure science isn't a very popular choice here. And personally I don't think we have very good science departments here. I'll have an A-level exam (a public exam for all year 13 students) in April next year and all universities will consider the results in the A-level (AL) exam we get. In order to study pure sciences in uni, like pure math, physics, biology, we only need results like C C D in AL exam! The mininmum requirement for myself is ABB. Students who get ABB or above usually don't consider to study pure sciences, except double major in phy/math, which only accepts students who get at least 1 A in AL exam.

    What bother me most is that if I study pure science, say phy/math double major, I'll have to be a graduate student and do researches, or else I'll end up as a high school science teacher, which isn't my dream at all. Besides, I'll probably leave for USA or UK when need to study my PhD. I'll leave here once I get the chance. One the other hand, it seems that the future is brighter if I can study medicine, but I'll probably miss studying phy/math.

    Unlike the education system in USA, once we get accepted in medical school, we'll need to finish a 5-6 year medicine course and we don't need to have any degree in science major as prerequisites. (I prefer the education system in USA).

    In November, I'll need to fill in a form and choose what universities I want to be in and which subjects to study. Unlike USA, I can't apply to a few universities at the same time and wait for offers, and then choose which one I like most. I'll need to fill in something like, say for example,

    First choice, University A, phy/math double major
    Second Coice, University A, medicine
    Third Choice, University B, physics
    Fiftieth Choice, University C, chemistry

    Finally I'll only get one offer. That's why it is important what to put in the first 3 Choices. I have been questioning myself what to put as my first choice, phy/math or medicine, for quite a long time. Well perhaps I can come up with a final decision after my final exam.
    Thanks all for advices.

    PS. Subjectively, I do think the education system here is one of the worst one in the world.
  11. May 29, 2003 #10
    I believe your fears that there are very few career options available to Maths/Physics graduates are unfounded. Thing is, job security is a thing of the past in any career in this country - I wouldn't worry too much about Science graduates not being very employable, if you get to a good University doing a good course then you should have as good a chance as most when your older of getting a good job that you enjoy. Just go for what you want to at this stage - be it Medicine or Science.
  12. May 29, 2003 #11
    Mulder, I wish I am doing my A Level in UK, however I'm not.

    Next year, we'll probably only have less than 100 places for medicine. I'm afraid I will not be good enough to get an offer. That's why I need to consider it very seriously whether to put medicine in the first or second choice in the form. In the past, we used to have more places for medicine, due to some reasons, starting from last year (or this year, I'm not very sure), only about 100 places can be avaliable for us. Which is a dissappointing news.

    What do you usually consider when you choose your major(s) in university? Interest or job security?
  13. May 29, 2003 #12
    ^Sorry, I didn't realise any countries outside the UK even did A-Levels. I know Medicine places are also very hard to get here though aswell - it's just a very popular choice.

    I would put interest ahead of job security - simply because you don't want to choose something that you realise you are bored of or don't want to do a year later. I would of course take what you plan to do as a career into some consideration though.

    And just a little (hopefully not bad) advice; if you're stuck between straight Physics and Physics and Maths, I would go for the double because doing Maths aswell probably would open more career paths.
  14. May 30, 2003 #13
    we have public exams for all year 11 students here, like GCSE in UK. Unlike UK, A-level exam is held only once every year for year 13 students only, meaning we need to put everything we learn in year 12 and year 13 before taking the exam. (Very cruel!)

    I think I shall be able to come up with a clearer mind before September, after a university math course in summer holiday. (see if I can be accepted to study that math course)
  15. May 30, 2003 #14
    Your profile interests are confusing

    Hi KLK,
    I wish you great success in whatever career you choose. However, I suggest that a large part of that career has got to be your perennial contentment with your choice. Psychologists tell us that there are "right-brained" people who become artists, entertainers, lawyers, preachers, politicians, athletes etc that are considered "talented" when deeply involved with things they do well. On the other hand there are "left-brained" people whose talents are outwieghed by their hopes to be academically "gifted" with pragmatism, logical sense, immense curiosity, and high interest in science and math. The epitome of gifted people are those who discover how to experimentally prove whatever science/math theory interests them - IQ is important but a good memory also rates highly.

    Now about your profiled interests: almost every pleasure you list is normally associated with R-B people suggesting that your pursuit for science is perhaps more wishful than genuine. I would suggest, because of your preoccupation with surgical medicine, that biology and chemistry - both branches of physics but less dependent on math, would be areas of testing your tolerance for things medical.

    I applaud your survey of possible expectancies for KLK's life after high school. Again, good luck! Cheers, Jim
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