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Physics or biology major?

  1. Sep 29, 2007 #1
    Please Help!

    Hello there,

    I need some advice:
    I'm studying biology and I took the two required physics courses but I didn't do well in them, Eventhough I love physics. It's all because I had a lot of stuff going on in the past year (when I took my two physics courses), so it was a bad situation all mixed up.
    My question is: As I said I love physics a lot, but I fear I would never be able to pursue anything in it any more because of those two courses I took, which were easy., and which I didn't do well in. Is there a chance that I can take physics courses on the graduate level, while I do a Biology Masters? I really love physics and I think it's not fair to me not being able to do physics stuff because of what happened. What do you think about that? What should I do? Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2007 #2
    Why don't you try taking another undergrad physics course and see how you do?
    I doubt most departments would let you into a graduate course with only two intro undergrad courses under your belt. And even if they did, unless you have very, very strong math skills, you'd probably be hopelessly lost.

    Did you take algebra-based introductory physics? If so, I would start by going back and talking the calculus-based intro courses.

    How's your math? Have you done the standard calculus + differential equations coursework?
  4. Sep 29, 2007 #3
    As I said, I am a Biology student, so there's not much of math requirements. The 2 courses I took were algebra-based introductory physics. I want hope. I know that why I didn't do well in those courses wasn't because I can't do it, I was just slacking off a lot, as I had many stuff on my mind already. I am thinking of taking a calculus 3 course this semester, so I can try an introductory physics course. If I didn't do well in the algebra-based introductory physics, does it destroy any chance I do any physics?

    Concerning physics graduate school, I know it's not possible, but I was thinking of a biophysics joint grad degree, in which I can take physics courses through the process. Again, will they reject me just because I didn't do well on the 2 algebra-based introductory physics course? Thanks
  5. Sep 29, 2007 #4

    Chris Hillman

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    You might still have a chance of studying some physics if you can persuade a faculty member (ideally, a biophysicist) to give you a reading course (see my other post for a suggested "textbook"). You'd have to make a persuasive case that you can succeed without taking much time (maybe one hour each Friday afternoon?) from a faculty member and also that you have reasonable career goals related to biophysics.
  6. Sep 29, 2007 #5
    Thanks a lot Chris for your post. I just felt crushed... :(
  7. Sep 29, 2007 #6

    Chris Hillman

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    Why would you feel crushed? I offered you a possible way out! Read it again, please.
  8. Sep 29, 2007 #7
    It's just it's becoming more and more complicated. What about a double major thing? How much years should this require if I complete my BS in biology? What about other options? Thanks a lot man.
  9. Sep 29, 2007 #8

    Chris Hillman

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    Didn't you say in your other thread that you are now a senior? I suspect it is too late to double major, but maybe not too late to take some reading courses in physics if you can make a good case to Prof. X why he/she should offer one to you. If you perform very well in those and do well on some standard exam, suggesting that you have a strong math background, I should think biophysics programs would consider you a serious candidate for admission.

    I've been assuming you are a student in an American university; I have much less knowledge of other systems. The good news is that the American system tends to reward improvisation when you fall between the cracks of a pre-existing structure. Reading courses are the universities versions of curricular improvisation.
  10. Sep 30, 2007 #9
    I am in an American University outside the States. I don't think we have reading courses, as I don't see a sign of them in our catalog.

    May i ask why is it late for a double major? What difference could it make if I extend my college studies a while?
  11. Sep 30, 2007 #10

    Chris Hillman

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    Sorry, I assumed you'd know what I was talking about: a reading course is a "one-off" tutorial, in which a faculty member "supervises" self-study by a particular student. It is arranged between a professor and a student and so it wouldn't appear in the catalog!

    In practice a reading course usually entails meeting once a week so you can ask questions about things you didn't understand. Your instructor may ask you to prepare and give minilectures so that he/she can quickly get an impression of your progress. At the end you are given an oral exam and some kind of grade is assigned. Doing this requires you to be a "self-starter" and highly disciplined and motivated.

    Since this does require an investment of time and energy by a faculty member you may find you need to make a good case for why you should be offered such an opportunity. However, I would expect that say American University in Beirut would not flatly forbid undergraduate students from taking reading courses if they can find a willing faculty member in the appropriate department.

    As for extending your undergraduate career--- this is a question for your faculty advisor at your university, I think! It might be a reasonable option but this depends upon your individual circumstances and your universities regulations. Also, bear in mind that arranging a reading course is not incompatible with taking formal courses in an extra year, e.g. if something you particularly wish to learn isn't taught next year.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2007
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