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Physics BS vs. Applied Physics (Computational) BS

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Hi everyone! I'm currently finishing my last year of community college, and I'm looking to transfer to UC Davis next Fall. The school offers a general Physics major, as well as an Applied Physics major with a number of possible concentrations. I'm specifically interested in going to grad school for computational physics after my undergrad, and I wondered if it would be better to take a BS in Applied Physics with a concentration in computational physics, or take the general Physics BS for my undergrad. The computational concentration has a few less upper division physics electives, but adds more computer science and electronics classes. At this point in my academic career, I've only taken one programming course (C++), which I really enjoyed. Any input would be appreciated!
 

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  • #2
Student100
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Hi everyone! I'm currently finishing my last year of community college, and I'm looking to transfer to UC Davis next Fall. The school offers a general Physics major, as well as an Applied Physics major with a number of possible concentrations. I'm specifically interested in going to grad school for computational physics after my undergrad, and I wondered if it would be better to take a BS in Applied Physics with a concentration in computational physics, or take the general Physics BS for my undergrad. The computational concentration has a few less upper division physics electives, but adds more computer science and electronics classes. At this point in my academic career, I've only taken one programming course (C++), which I really enjoyed. Any input would be appreciated!
Either really, both are in the physics department and both require the core classes you'd need to go to graduate school. It really only comes down to electives, you'll have less choice with the AP degree, where as with the physics degree you'll have more oppertunities to explore other areas of physics and take some graduate level classes.

If you know you want to go to graduate school for physics, I'd go with the degree that lets me have more freedom to explore different areas as an undergraduate.
 
  • #3
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It would be really helpful if you could list the relevant courses in both programs.
 
  • #4
Student100
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It would be really helpful if you could list the relevant courses in both programs.
I'll help him out since he may not understand college completely.


Generally for:
AP physics with CP physics concentration:

Lower division:

Intro physics series, normal or honors.
Intro math series Calc 1 2 3 + LA +ODE
Computer science engineering course
General chem.

Upper division:
Math methods
Analytical mechanics first quarter
E&M two quarters
Thermo
QM one quarter
Two quarters electronic instruments
An experimental lab in CM, a course in computer based experiments, second course in math methods specifically pertaining to computational methods, and a upper division computer science course.
24 additional credits between several more upper division CS courses, or math upper division courses, or continuum mechanics, second quarter QM, or solid state physics.

Generally for:
Physics BS
Lower division same as above
Upper division:
Math methods
Two quarters of Analytical mechanics
Three quarters of E&M
Thermo
Two quarters of QM
Either computational physics course or second quarter of math methods
Lab requirement 4-12 credits
Lab in advanced HE or advanced CM exp methods or any from computational series.
Two courses in one speciality and one from a different speciality (GR, CM, etc)
Additional upper division physics courses for a total of 15 upper division physics courses. May sub courses from math or CS department with departmental approval, 0-9 units.

Bit more freedom with physics BS in physics courses and extra quarters of core classes, but they're pretty close otherwise.

Typed this on phone so tried to be as accurate as possible, no guarantees though.
 
  • #5
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Those are very close. I don't think that doing a "computational physics" program will put you in too much of a disadvantage for grad school, provided you choose your electives right.

So I think that if you know reasonably sure that you're going for computational physics (or simply if you like programming a lot), then I would choose the computational physics program. Even if you want to do something else later on, you won't be in a disadvantage.
 
  • #6
Thanks Student100, that's exactly what both programs look like. Thanks for all the input, everyone!
 
  • #7
Student100
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Thanks Student100, that's exactly what both programs look like. Thanks for all the input, everyone!
If you do the AP degree make sure you at least do the second quarter of mechanics and QM, then choose other course options for the rest of the 24 credits. One of the math courses offered was complex analysis, if I remember right, which also wouldn't be a bad idea.
 

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