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Physics grad classes or math with honors

  1. Jun 26, 2011 #1
    Hey guys,

    So I'm a physics major who wants to go to grad school in theory. My current preference is high energy theory but I'm open to other fields of course. My question is, if I want to go into theoretical physics or any very mathematical field of physics is it better for my grad school application and for building up my own knowledge to take graduate classes in physics or to graduate with honors in mathematics (along with Physics).

    Right now I'm only planning on taking one grad physics class, first semester QM, but I thought it would be better to take more to prepare. OTOH in grad school I would probably have to retake those classes anyway so that kind of seems like a waste to do them now.

    To get into the honors program I'd have to take a class about "analysis in several dimensions", a seminar course in math that changes topics each semester, and write an honors thesis. So far I've enjoyed my math classes and do want to learn more, but I don't want to sacrifice my physics classes. I probably wouldn't have time to take solid state or other grad classes if I try to complete the honors program.

    To sum up: For HET, would more advanced math or grad physics classes help me more?

    PS: the syllabus to the class is:

    Continuity, differentiation, and integration in Euclidean n-space. Differentiable maps. Implicit and inverse function theorems. Differential forms and the general Stokes's theorem.

    and if i dont enter the honors program i'd still be taking classes in topology and geometry, differential geometry, and analysis.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2011 #2
    Looks like you've got a pretty good system of math courses planned out already.

    I don't know much about HE, but for theoretical physics in general, I'd recommend grad-level mathematical physics (math methods for physics at some schools), QM, and perhaps some sort of computational class. I took numerical PDEs in the math department, but I was also doing an MS in math. Computational physics would probably be more useful.

    You also might want to take a general relativity or particle physics course, depending what's required of your field. Are there any HE theorists at your current school? If so, talk to them. If not, look for resources at other schools. If you're a senior and currently applying to grad school, talk to people at the schools you're applying to.

    All of that said, you'll have plenty of time in graduate school to take all of those courses. It's certainly not a bad idea to take a few grad courses as an undergrad, but don't make your schedule too beastly. In grad school, there is a basic set of core courses that all physics grads take, and then you're generally expected to take a few "electives" that are more specific to your field. If you do some of that as an undergrad, those courses _may_ transfer -- but check with the graduate school that you end up at.
  4. Jun 27, 2011 #3
    Thanks for the advice, I was hoping to take a grad class in mathematical methods for physics but it wasn't offered this semester. I dont know about any computational class though beyond what we did in our programming class. I'm hoping to take a GR and particle class next spring granted there's no time conflicts of course.

    There are plenty of HE people at my school and I was planning on asking a professor I'm working with for independent study, but there's a big conference going on so I figured I'd wait before asking him.

    What I was worried about was the courses transferring too. I don't want to take a class here and then have to retake it later anyway (granted it would be easier). I'd rather learn something new even if its on the undergrad level while I can. OTOH it may transfer and it does look good on an app.
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