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Physics for Chemists: Which areas are of help to chemists

  1. Aug 5, 2013 #1

    I just finished my bachelor's degree in chemistry, in which I have made sure to get some extra mathematics and statistics (introduction to calculus, linear algebra, and linear differential equations; experimental design, ANOVA, advanced regression). I feel pretty covered here and ready for starting my master's degree.

    However, I feel I really lack knowledge in physics, because I have not studied that since high school (and then I didn't really care). I have recently grown interested in solid-state chemistry, or chemistry more tangent to material science, and I have noticed that have a general understanding of quantum mechanics (applied to chemistry) really is important to fully understand electronic structures and, in the end, chemical properties. There is a fine line between chemistry and physics at that level, and I would really like to take a year to "catch up".

    I applied for a master's degree, but did not make it - mostly because I failed to send in all required documents! So, that is disappointing, but somehow I got a little relieved. I can now take a year to take some physics courses, and hopefully end with an introductory course in quantum mechanics. Being versatile is important.

    My academic writing professor repeatedly said that good science is about finding new connections. Good research finds connections that no-one has considered before, and explains something in terms of something new. This has stuck to me, and I feel by being more versatile in my "academic areas" will do nothing but good.

    With this (lengthy) preface of situation, here comes my question: What kinds of physics courses should a chemistry student focus on to better understand chemistry and build versatility? I see myself having to start at the bottom with some kind of "Introduction to physics" and moving on to "General Mechanics" and "Classical Physics", moving on to "Thermodynamics" or something like that. Much of this will be familiar but with new applications, but maybe I could skip some courses that "I do not need"? I know that kind of defeats my idea of being versatile, but I hope you get my point.

    I will also take a course in radio-chemistry and a course in instrumental inorganic analysis. I see that my university offers a course called "Physics for Chemical Engineers". There is also one course within material science which I want to take. Should I take a separate course in classical mechanics or classical physics? Thermodynamics? I already have the one physical chemistry course, but the course did in no way cover the entire book. I can of course do some self-study.

    I really thank anyone who advices me in this. I do plan on talking with my supervisors, but I hoped to be a little informed before doing so. Again, thank you in advance!


    P.s. Link to physics courses: http://www.umb.no/search/emner/?string=fys
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2013 #2
    Sorry if I missed this but what area of chemistry do you want to specialize in?
  4. Aug 6, 2013 #3
    Solid-state chemistry or something tangent to material science. Of course, that may change during the year, but that is where I am now.
  5. Aug 8, 2013 #4


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    Maybe zou want to take some quantum chemistry class. There you will learn basic quantum mechanics and may feel confident to take some solid state physics classes.
  6. Aug 8, 2013 #5


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    (Relativistic!) quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and statistics.
  7. Aug 8, 2013 #6
    It still depends on if you'll be working for an inorganic chemist, physical chemist or someone really interdisciplinary.

    That being said, quantum mechanics, stat mech, solid state physics, condensed matter and computational physics courses should be useful.
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