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Physics and neuroscience

  • Thread starter dstrong
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hey guys,
I'm a first year at a small private school (college) and I've been thinking about it for a while and I think I finally know what I want to do. I would to eventually get my physics and neuroscience Ph.D. (probably joint program degree) at either Princeton or Stanford. I told myself going into college that I would come out with at least a physics degree and hopefully a degree in mathematics but thinking about that, I don't know if it will be enough. I just recently changed my academia, I guess, to majors in math and physics with minors in pre-med and chemistry. I'm in basic psychology now and my "top of the line" courses I'll take in each would be: physics=> capstone/quantum; mathematics=> probability; biology => physiology/biochemistry; chemistry=> physical chemistry

Bottom line is, I was wondering if there were any other encouraged supplemental courses I should take in order to improve my chances of getting into these schools. I would greatly appreciate the feed back!

Thank you,
Dstrong
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Student100
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Hey guys,
I told myself going into college that I would come out with at least a physics degree and hopefully a degree in mathematics but thinking about that, I don't know if it will be enough.

Thank you,
Dstrong
Enough for what exactly?

I don't understand what you mean by top of the line either, quantum physics isn't "top of the line" in physics, neither is probability for math, physical chemistry for chemistry, and so on. So I'm a little confused by the comment.

Neuroscience is inoculated with so much bull-crap, I don't see the allure. However, if you want to go that route above though, you should focus on physics. As you need to pass the physics qualifying exam, then get permission from the department/your adviser for those joint graduate degree programs. If you're taking a bunch of extra stuff now in undergrad that takes the focus off physics, you aren't doing yourself any favors for the future.
 
  • #3
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That's my bad, those are the most difficult courses my school offers (we only have about 40-50 hours per major). And I was hoping it would be enough to get into a neuroscience program such as Stanford's or Princeton's (assuming research and my grades stay up). But focusing on physics I guess I should take more physics courses. I just wanted to understand the biology aspect as well so I wasn't clueless when I got to that point.
 
  • #4
Student100
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That's my bad, those are the most difficult courses my school offers (we only have about 40-50 hours per major). And I was hoping it would be enough to get into a neuroscience program such as Stanford's or Princeton's (assuming research and my grades stay up). But focusing on physics I guess I should take more physics courses. I just wanted to understand the biology aspect as well so I wasn't clueless when I got to that point.
Where are you going for your undergrad?

.
 
  • #5
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William Jewell College
 
  • #6
Student100
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William Jewell College
Before you start worrying about doing a dual graduate degree, you should be worrying about just getting through school and getting accepted to a graduate program.

With all your double majors/minors, are you going to be able to at least take: PHY 444, 443, 415, 332, 318, 316, 321, 214, 213, and do research at a minimum? That's about the basic core of what you'll need to even be accepted into a graduate program (let alone Princeton/others) with a great GPA and great LoR. Honestly, you should probably do their optics course, and the computer programming/LabView class could be handy as well.

Have you spoken to your adviser? Does he know what your desires are? What did he say?
 
  • #7
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I didn't plan on taking optics because I thought electronics would be more practical for the field and I'm taking cs50 online through Harvard at the moment so programming isn't an issue.

My advisor knows I want to do "Neurophysics" (so essentially physics and neuroscience). He actually tried to talk me out of doing physics and doing biology but I said no, physics wins.
 
  • #8
Student100
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I didn't plan on taking optics because I thought electronics would be more practical for the field and I'm taking cs50 online through Harvard at the moment so programming isn't an issue.

My advisor knows I want to do "Neurophysics" (so essentially physics and neuroscience). He actually tried to talk me out of doing physics and doing biology but I said no, physics wins.
The applied electronics course description doesn't impress me, I don't think it would be overly useful, again it's up to you.

I would reach back out to your adviser, ask for help structuring out what you need to do for a graduate program in physics, with a side emphasis in neuroscience. If he isn't helping advise you, or you don't like the advice given, (what it sounds like) get a new adviser.

I think your adviser is probably right though, I don't see the usefulness of physics for neuroscience - other than developing solid problem solving skills. There's a reason we have the sciences of chemistry and biology. While physics is (sometimes/more often than not) about reducing things to elementary or simple constraints, reducing things often isn't the most useful approach to learn about the macro-object under study.

Then again, I don't know very much about neuroscience beyond the quackery that's presented in the news/on Tv.
 
  • #10
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Student100; you're approach does seem logical, I'm just incredibly curious about the brain and was hoping to incorporate the 2 but if they don't work together then it would be pointless.

And yes atyy, the plan is to take all of those actually. I took AP Stats in high school so the next closest thing here is probability. But the others I do plan to take as well for the math major.
 
  • #11
Student100
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Student100; you're approach does seem logical, I'm just incredibly curious about the brain and was hoping to incorporate the 2 but if they don't work together then it would be pointless.

And yes atyy, the plan is to take all of those actually. I took AP Stats in high school so the next closest thing here is probability. But the others I do plan to take as well for the math major.
I'm sure at some level the brain operates on physics (it basically has to!), is reducing the brain to that level useful for studying it? I don't know. Maybe you'd be the one to figure that out. Maybe someone who's doing medical physics has more insight here, or someone who's also studied neuroscience.

Don't get too discouraged, reach back out to your adviser and have a sit down and discuss how to best prepare for graduate school in physics. I'm sure what you want to do is plausible, I'm just not sure how likely it will be for you.

If physics is your main interest though, you should do all that you can now to prepare for GS acceptance. Your adviser definitely should be able to help you in that regard, if he isn't, get a new one.

Double majors/a bunch of minors is fine, as long as you can hit all the core physics courses and do some research, and not have it negatively affect your GPA or sanity.
 
  • #12
atyy
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And yes atyy, the plan is to take all of those actually. I took AP Stats in high school so the next closest thing here is probability. But the others I do plan to take as well for the math major.
Oh, knowing Maxwell's equations is also helpful. This guy did some radar physics and then some neuroscience: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1963/hodgkin-bio.html.

Another person who did physics then neuroscience was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Stewart_Cole.

A more recent example is http://neurophysics.huji.ac.il/.
 
  • #13
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Oh, knowing Maxwell's equations is also helpful. This guy did some radar physics and then some neuroscience: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1963/hodgkin-bio.html.

Another person who did physics then neuroscience was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Stewart_Cole.

A more recent example is http://neurophysics.huji.ac.il/.
That's great! Thanks for the resources, I was really impressed by Kenneth Cole actually. I think what he did and how he did it was cool.
 
  • #14
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If physics is your main interest though, you should do all that you can now to prepare for GS acceptance. Your adviser definitely should be able to help you in that regard, if he isn't, get a new one.

Double majors/a bunch of minors is fine, as long as you can hit all the core physics courses and do some research, and not have it negatively affect your GPA or sanity.
So, the new plan is to recreate my 4 year plan. Sounds good. My advisor and I have incredibly conflicting schedules so it's difficult to meet with him, I really just show him my plan and he says if it's ok or not.
 

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