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Physics proficient?

  1. Nov 13, 2008 #1
    I'm graduating soon and wondering: how do you know when you've learned what you should have as an undergrad? I know I should have learned E&M, mechanics, thermal, QM, some optics, modern physics, etc., but how do I know if my proficiency level is high enough?

    It is tempting to think that the physics GRE is some indicator of this, but then the ave. score for American students is quite low, so I don't know (it's even lower for students at my school). Anyways, I just want to gauge if I know enough before I bound off to grad school. My undergrad. program isn't even ranked, and although I feel proficient, I have no idea what physics is like at other universities... I feel pretty good about opening any of my textbooks and chugging through problems, though I can't derive everything from scratch without peeking, and sometimes I have to look up formulas that I forgot. Does this sound like okay proficiency?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 13, 2008 #2
    How many terms of EM, QM, Classical? Generally they look for a full year of all these. What were your texts? How much of the texts did you actually work through (including what were you're problem sets like)?

    Generally, graduate selections committees will briefly glance at transcripts to see if there are weaknesses that might make getting through core-coursework difficult.

    Perhaps more interesting: what advanced lab electronics have you had? What research experience have you had?

    Then open up some standard texts (like the dreaded Jackson... which I as a grad student actually adored! :!!) ) Do you feel ready for that?
  4. Nov 13, 2008 #3
    Oh, Jackson, that's a good idea. I am just learning some of the special functions (Bessel, Laguerre, etc.) that I hear are big in that course.

    I guess my main weakness is E&M. We had to do all of Griffiths in one semester, so even though I did really well in the class, I've only "seen" things once, and we had to go so fast that we skipped most of the first half of the book as well as the relativity chapter. So that could be a problem (they were the problems that always got me stuck on the PGRE too).

    We also never have done any electronics. We have an intermediate physics lab, but doing mostly the classical sort of experiments - measuring the charge-to-mass ratio of the electron, using a Cavendish balance, etc. I couldn't tell you anything whatsoever about AC circuits, really. But I'm a theorist, so maybe it will be okay... I've done some research in GR, a research project at NASA that got 2 publications (though was mostly programming, so no lab time) and a medical physics research project way back as a sophomore. I guess it should all work out!
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