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Programs Physics or mathematics master for mathematical physics?

  1. Mar 25, 2017 #1
    Hello! I'm a European physics student with an interest in what I believe to be mathematical physics. I'm torn between going for a master in physics or one in mathematics as more and more it seems to me that the research areas I'm interest are often conducted in the mathematics department.

    While I'm about to complete a bachelor in physics I've also taken several extra courses in mathematics making me meet the requirements of a master in mathematics. To describe what I hope to be doing is to work on physics or physics related problems from a theorem proof perspective or at least involving interesting calculations in a mathematical framework.

    So is there any way to tell which department would be a better fit? Generally I enjoyed the core physics courses, CM,EM, QM, Stat.Mech. etc. while more specialised topics didn't seem to be my thing. I also had a lot of fun in pretty much all the math courses I've taken, Abstract algebra, Real analysis, Fourier analysis, Differential Geometry, Topology and the proof/theorem style really seemed to be my thing.

    Going for a physics master it seems to mainly contain courses that I'm very interested in and most likely would take either way. On the other hand the mathematics master allows me to take some of these physics courses while replacing the few more specialised/experimental courses with mathematics courses such a functional analysis, algebraic geometry etc. which all look very interesting. The main difference I think will be if it matters if I do my thesis in the physics or math department and which gives me a suitable background to be able to apply for phd positions in mathematical physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2017 #2
    Well if you like doing math in a rigorous way, the maths MS supplemented with lots physics subjects seems like a better fit. After all, the maths you get taught by physicists is not explained rigorously, but intuitively, as you know.

    However I think the job/PhD market is very competitive for people who only know maths/mathematical physics. I mean, if you want to do a PhD in a very theoretical field, you'll be competing with allot of freakishly good people, so you ought to at least learn some applied stuff, like programming, if you're planning on going the Maths route.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
  4. Mar 25, 2017 #3
    Thank you for your reply! That's what I'm starting to think as well, that mathematics with physics courses may be the better option. And yes the rigour is something that often bother me during physics classes and I find a spend a lot of time trying to fill in all the steps I don't feel are always justified.

    I'm aware that I probably won't get a job working in these areas but the way I see it it's an opportunity to do something I find really interesting for a few years. I got quite a lot of programming experience and have had some minor programming work in the past but it's not something I really enjoy. Even there I find myself more interested in the theoretical parts as in algorithms and data structures but at least that's a little more applied. Still I don't expect to be unemployed after but rather that I may end up working with something that I won't enjoy as much but I think that's true for most people.
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