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Physics Curriculum: Am I Leaving Anything Out?

  1. Dec 16, 2005 #1
    Hi, I thought perhaps some of the more experienced members of the forum could give me some advice: So I'm an undergrad I've got 3 more semesters to go before I graduate, and basically last summer I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to be a theoretical or mathematical physicist, so I switched out of my old major and into the math program after not having studied any math before (past baby single variable calculus); now starting with the current semester (the one that's about to end) I'm doing the entire 4 year math major this year so I can do most of the graduate core program next year and I'm also taking basically all the grad theoretical physics classes they have (people keep telling me nobody does this and nobody can blah blah blah but I jumped into classes like grad quantum mechanics without any prior knowledge and I'm getting mostly A's, a few B's and definitely nothing lower than that, it's just a matter of picking up background material). Anyways, I was hoping somebody could look at the classes I was planning on taking the next 3 semesters and let me know if this is adequate preparation to do well in a graduate theoretical or mathematical physics program or if I'm leaving out some important subjects. I know that's what I have an academic advisor for, but the physics faculty over here all just tell me I'm crazy for trying to do this and that they can't understand how I'm just able to jump in to high level classes and do so well but they still think I should take a more traditional approach, and I'm not interested in listening to that from them no matter who they are (I stood up to a prof. who has over 200 publications in math/physics and who is also a former editor in chief of the journal of mathematical physics, so that should let you know how serious I am about it). Anyways:
    (This semester I took the standard real analysis, topology, grad quantum, a grad math methods for physics, linear algebra, and Fourier analysis)
    Next semester: Grad quantum II, General Relativity, Classical Mechanics, Topology II (basic algebraic topology), Abstract Algebra, and Differential Geometry (this was is an Independent study with a professor who is encouraging me to do some research with him this summer in discrete
    Riemannian geometry and possibly some applications to mathematical physics)
    Then: Quantum Field Theory, Symplectic Geometry, Representation Theory, Electromagnetism, Complex Analysis, Functional Analysis
    Last Semester: Algebraic Topology (more advanced grad class), continue with the E&M and QFT and Complex Analysis and Functional Analysis sequences...
    So am I leaving anything big out? Is doing all of this in 2 years good enough to make up for not studying any physics at all up until this point as far as graduate school goes? Thanks for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2005 #2


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    Well you sound like a very smart person. Just two things to remember. Basic fundamental physics is important. Though it may not be as interesting as the courses you are taking make sure you understand the basics as well as anybody who has taken the course. The other thing, i wuldn't stand up to your profesors too much. Where do you think you letters of recommendation come from. Anything else, ask someone else, I'm still an undergrad myself.
  4. Dec 17, 2005 #3
    Hey thanks for the resopnse, I do agree with you about understanding the basics (though on one hand it seems like understanding every detail of the fundamentals helps most in placing the more advanced subject in context and understanding why results are significant). in my very limited experience and from talking with physics majors it seems as though the core graduate classes do cover the basics, just in a more rigorous and also a more mathematical way...I realized that I missed thermodynamics and statistical physics in my planning, is this somebody I absolutely need for theoretical and mathematical work? As for standing up to profs, I'm never out to fight with anybody but of course I won't listen to them if I don't agree; besides, and perhaps this is foolish, but I think I would much rather have a on a rec letter "student didn't listen to me and was able to make it work very well his own way" than pretty much most other things since that shows independence...
  5. Dec 18, 2005 #4
    I am too very interested in hearing the answer for this as I am in the same situation in that I also missed taking thermodynamics and statistical physics. I know some basic stuff and the main concepts, but in general very little.
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