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Programs Physics BS and other MS/PhD degrees

  1. Jun 25, 2012 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I'm beginning my physics major in the fall, but my situation is a little odd. I have an AA in history (because I had to work full-time through my degree and it was available entirely online at my school). Now that I'm able to finally study what I want, my #1 plan is to graduate in 3 years with a physics BS and apply to grad schools in astronomy or nuclear physics.

    Out of curiosity (and because I'm apparently interested in EVERYTHING), would a physics BS be enough to get into grad school in either an oceanography or biochemistry program, without a minor in either? I'm considering a minor in chemistry, but it would add a massive amount of time to my degree and I might wind up minoring in math instead (because it would add only one semester). There is no biochemistry minor at my school, otherwise I would heavily consider that despite the time involved. I might not be at my undergrad school for more than a year, so there may be a minor where I move, but I'm not counting on it and am not sure if I'm moving yet.

    I'm pretty sure I don't want to major in biochem, and I'm not moving anywhere for undergrad oceanography. I just want to keep my options open in case astronomy doesn't work out for whatever reason (like location issues). I'm 95% sure that I will get my degree in physics.

    I've looked at some oceanography programs, and I haven't really seen much in the way of degree requirements. Does anyone know if they care, as long as it's science related, and you can prove you're capable of the work? Or do they expect earth sciences? It's been a passion of mine since I was a teenager and am curious if I could make it doable. My fascination with the ocean is probably similar to my love of space -- the possibilities are endless.

    My interest in biochem is MUCH more recent, and I'm skeptical that it would work out in the end. Basically, I did well in my chemistry classes and missed doing it as soon as the final exam was done (which I wasn't expecting!) and would be interested in pairing it with marine studies based on several books I've read and my history with marine studies. But I'm not sure if oceanography would take me down that path, or if a strict bio/chemistry program would be better, and then maybe do PhD work in marine studies? My guess is that I will not have enough biology under my belt by the time it comes to apply for any biochem programs, if I even have enough chemistry.

    Anyway, I just wanted to get any advice and see if anyone else has jumped around at all between these fields (even physics and chem, which I imagine is more common). How much chemistry would I need to get into a chemistry master's program? Would I have a shot at biochem at all? I plan on having at least organic chemistry II finished by the time I graduate.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2012 #2
    I was looking into oceanography graduate programs a few months back. I remember just about all of the programs I looked at said a physics degree is acceptable. That's probably true for physical oceanography, but if it is more of the biology and chem you want to do, you would probably want a background in those instead of physics. Some geology would probably be useful too.
  4. Jun 25, 2012 #3
    I don't have any experience with oceanography programs. Can't help you there.

    Regarding chemistry - if you aren't a chemistry and/or biochemistry major, you might be trying to ice skate uphill a bit more than you'd like getting into a typical Arts & Sciences-type chemistry graduate program. If you had a physics degree and had completed the organic chemistry sequence, you'd be well-placed for an interdisciplinary chemical physics graduate program or - given your stated biological interest - one of the increasingly common biochemistry/molecular biophysics graduate programs (either interdepartmental or based at a medical school). I wouldn't worry about having insufficient biological background for the latter - the curricula of these types of graduate programs is usually designed to stiffen the backs of the more qualitative sorts, and to make the more quantitative types realize that not everything can be realistically approximated by a spherical cow in a vacuum. :cool:
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