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## Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello PF!

So I'm an engineering student soon to enter the final year of my degree, and I have two electives that I'm taking physics modules (read: classes for the US peeps :P ). The first one I'm planning on taking Quantum Mechanics I as one of them, but I'm not sure what to take for the other.

The options I have are:

Thermal Physics - standard first thermodynamics/statistical physics course. Its about 2/3 thermodynamics and stat phys to the extent of distributions, then about 1/3 stat mech focusing on partition functions and quantum stat phys. Supposedly quite easy in previous years, it has a new lecturer this year so I expect the exam format will change.

Condensed Matter I - a first course in solid state/condensed matter physics. Starts with crystal structure and the free electron model then moves on to semiconductors and some nanostructures topics. However I have been advised by SEVERAL different people it's very poorly taught, and my flatmate who demonstrates (TA's) the module has said the lecturer has literally asked unsolvable questions on the homeworks before without realizing it.

Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics - a second (optional, unlike the previous two which are core physics classes for the degree/major) classical mechanics course. Despite the title it's mostly (75%+) analytical dynamics with only a short "topical" introduction to chaos and dynamical systems at the end (which apparently is only on one question in the exam which can be skipped if you choose other ones, for better or for worse). The lecturer is pretty intense apparently, and has a heavy accent, but otherwise the module is well received. It's considered fairly difficult however.

Nuclear and High Energy Particle Physics - a (relatively) non-mathematical introduction to nuclear and high energy physics. About a third of the course is on various nuclear topics such as structure, spin, decay and neutrinos. The rest is various particle and high energy topics from a primarily qualitative point of view, including an overview of the standard model, including topics relating to symmetry, and some QED and QCD (again fairly qualitative with it seems only very constrained and simple calculations involved). It also discusses the Casimir Force, weak interactions and gauge symmetries as short topics. Allegedly somewhat boring, although not terrible difficult. It's worth noting there is another module, Principles of Theoretical Physics, which deals with most of the high energy topics from a much more rigorous theoretical and mathematically sophisticated point of view, and so they've been designed to not overlap too much.

Outside of this my background is mainly in electronic engineering, although I've refocused on materials science in this final year. I'm also taking an engineering electromagnetics module, and the rest are various materials themed ones (two topical ones on research in the department and one on the mechanics of materials).

I'm not really sure what I plan to do after I graduate, although I'm fairly certain I'm not going to get a job as an engineer (even if I wanted one, which I'm not sure I do). I've considered looking into a masters in physics afterwards and shifting gears more towards that side (hence EM and QM1) but I'm not sure if/when this will happen (what with tuition fees and such). When I originally went into my degree I was really interested in nuclear engineering, particular nuclear fusion and plasma physics, but I'm not really so sure now. I think quantum computing is also quite interesting from the standpoint of physically realizing a quantum computer (i.e. not designing quantum algorithms), but I can't really say I'd be certain I want to study/research in this field in future.

Thus, which of the above four would you suggest if I was hypothetically going to continue to a (general) physics masters degree? Either as a terminal degree or as preparation for potential doctoral work in physics, applied physics or materials science/engineering. Which would you suggest simply for intellectual enjoyment and beauty (if any)? Finally which do you think would be most practical e.g. in terms of getting a good grade etc?

edit: also it may be worth noting that I haven't had any thermodynamics courses in my engineering curriculum, having originally focused on electronic engineering, and that our first year mechanics was much more focused on statics/solid mechanics than dynamics (although we did both, to some extent).

So I'm an engineering student soon to enter the final year of my degree, and I have two electives that I'm taking physics modules (read: classes for the US peeps :P ). The first one I'm planning on taking Quantum Mechanics I as one of them, but I'm not sure what to take for the other.

The options I have are:

Thermal Physics - standard first thermodynamics/statistical physics course. Its about 2/3 thermodynamics and stat phys to the extent of distributions, then about 1/3 stat mech focusing on partition functions and quantum stat phys. Supposedly quite easy in previous years, it has a new lecturer this year so I expect the exam format will change.

Condensed Matter I - a first course in solid state/condensed matter physics. Starts with crystal structure and the free electron model then moves on to semiconductors and some nanostructures topics. However I have been advised by SEVERAL different people it's very poorly taught, and my flatmate who demonstrates (TA's) the module has said the lecturer has literally asked unsolvable questions on the homeworks before without realizing it.

Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics - a second (optional, unlike the previous two which are core physics classes for the degree/major) classical mechanics course. Despite the title it's mostly (75%+) analytical dynamics with only a short "topical" introduction to chaos and dynamical systems at the end (which apparently is only on one question in the exam which can be skipped if you choose other ones, for better or for worse). The lecturer is pretty intense apparently, and has a heavy accent, but otherwise the module is well received. It's considered fairly difficult however.

Nuclear and High Energy Particle Physics - a (relatively) non-mathematical introduction to nuclear and high energy physics. About a third of the course is on various nuclear topics such as structure, spin, decay and neutrinos. The rest is various particle and high energy topics from a primarily qualitative point of view, including an overview of the standard model, including topics relating to symmetry, and some QED and QCD (again fairly qualitative with it seems only very constrained and simple calculations involved). It also discusses the Casimir Force, weak interactions and gauge symmetries as short topics. Allegedly somewhat boring, although not terrible difficult. It's worth noting there is another module, Principles of Theoretical Physics, which deals with most of the high energy topics from a much more rigorous theoretical and mathematically sophisticated point of view, and so they've been designed to not overlap too much.

Outside of this my background is mainly in electronic engineering, although I've refocused on materials science in this final year. I'm also taking an engineering electromagnetics module, and the rest are various materials themed ones (two topical ones on research in the department and one on the mechanics of materials).

I'm not really sure what I plan to do after I graduate, although I'm fairly certain I'm not going to get a job as an engineer (even if I wanted one, which I'm not sure I do). I've considered looking into a masters in physics afterwards and shifting gears more towards that side (hence EM and QM1) but I'm not sure if/when this will happen (what with tuition fees and such). When I originally went into my degree I was really interested in nuclear engineering, particular nuclear fusion and plasma physics, but I'm not really so sure now. I think quantum computing is also quite interesting from the standpoint of physically realizing a quantum computer (i.e. not designing quantum algorithms), but I can't really say I'd be certain I want to study/research in this field in future.

Thus, which of the above four would you suggest if I was hypothetically going to continue to a (general) physics masters degree? Either as a terminal degree or as preparation for potential doctoral work in physics, applied physics or materials science/engineering. Which would you suggest simply for intellectual enjoyment and beauty (if any)? Finally which do you think would be most practical e.g. in terms of getting a good grade etc?

edit: also it may be worth noting that I haven't had any thermodynamics courses in my engineering curriculum, having originally focused on electronic engineering, and that our first year mechanics was much more focused on statics/solid mechanics than dynamics (although we did both, to some extent).

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