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Physics Undergrad: Transfer from UWaterloo to Mcgill?

  1. Mar 6, 2010 #1
    Okay, this is is going to be a long and hard decision and I really need some advice. Particularly if you have gone to either of these schools for a while, in physics, I'd love it if you could give me some inside information.

    NOTE: This is long, so if you want to skip the bulk and just throw in any information about Mcgill math-phys or anything else related, that would be awesome. Thank you!

    So, let me give you the background, and I'll try to sum the details up.

    I'm just about to finish my first year as a mathematical physics major at the University of Waterloo. I'm interested in going onto grad school so I can do research in a theoretical field. Additional info on me:
    -I'm not wealthy, so keep money in mind
    -I'm currently performing strongly in math, and under-performing in physics (most likely from my skills, or perhaps the school itself? I don't know)
    -my average grade for last term was 81% overall and 83% in my core courses; phys1 (99%midterm and 86% overall), calculus (85%), linear algebra (75%)
    -my to-date best grades of my current term: calculus (84%), chem (87%), chem lab (high 80's), astrophysics (poor midterm, but 90% on a research project), programming for physics (82% overall, high 80's midterm)
    -from Vancouver, BC (little interest in UBC, maybe UofT)
    -made great friends here, but education takes priority [sorry]

    There is a lot of things that I have problems with the University of Waterloo, let me explain what I think:
    i)the program seems disorganized: -the calendar switches regularly between years -physics faculty seems to be put to the aside compared to math, engineering, CS, etc.
    ii)the math is so good: -problem because it out preforms the physics by far, from what I can tell from my first year, that I feel like I should be a math major (which is ridiculous because I'm all about physics)
    iii)poor teaching: -I've had bad profs from the phys department, and I find bad ratings of the upper year ones too (rate my prof & random people)
    iv)this school is built for engineering: -even some of the best phys profs only teach engineering physics (which I'm not interested in)
    v)the school is about practicality: -great coop => school is built to get a job after the undergrad degree (which is good for finance, resume, etc... but is it worth the extra year if I want to go into theory?)
    vi)connection to PI?: -I thought there would be a close affiliation with Perimeter, but it's not what I expected -the only time I hear about PI is when people talk about how cool it is -I only had to opportunity to go there once through the school
    vii)whoever organizes the university dates sucks: -finals are dated in an unfair way (though this could be back luck, and I guess it's a tough job anywhere) -the system for arranging when your classes are for the week is horrendous (I spent over seven days scheduling my term 2 courses, and they made it impossible for me to get the elective I wanted)
    viii)waterloo: -waterloo is pathetic, coming from Vancouver -it's like I live in the southern states (locals keep sofas on their lawns and chill on the porch, wtf) -"uptown" is tiny -lack of resources; they try to make up for travelling forever to the nearest mall with an okay bus system -there's barely anything on the range of entertainment -people call it a "city" sometimes... but it's a town at best -the first month here was serious culture shock (I couldn't believe people could actually be homophobic and uncultured in Canada) (maybe I'm just a little left wing/west coast... but this place weirds me out big time) -white trash, no?
    ix) I'm generally unhappy here: -maybe it's my attitude about life or something, but I can't remember the last time I was happy about this school, my program, and the town

    Alright, now I'll try to sum up what I think about Mcgill (which I need more advice on big time):
    i)math-phys program: -course outline looks good -professors definitely get better ratings then ones at UWaterloo -the math most likely won't compare, but math is aside and theoretical physics is my focus
    ii)Montreal: -it will feel good to be in a city again -actually has resources (malls, markets, etc.) -great entertainment (though I'll probably be studying all the time, I need a break sometime, right?) -beautiful, definitely think it's going to visually appeal way better than waterloo -I know lots of people in Montreal and going to Mcgill from high school (though I'm outgoing and all about making new connections) -I've heard that if you need to, you can live cheaply
    iii)the school itself: -larger => better organization and more resources for the students -more money towards the faculty definitely can't hurt -way more exciting campus -reputation; if I go to the states for grad school who do you think they're going to know, Mcgill or Waterloo for physics? -seems well put together and organized compared to other universities I've dealt with concerning the application process and etc.

    So my real problem is that I'm in my own bubble. I only have my perspective, and only a year of information on the university I'm currently attending. So I need more information on both schools concerning this field of study. I don't want to persuade others not to go to UWaterloo for physics; though my input may help, I think it's just been my personal experience with the school. This is a really hard decision, because it's so important and it is so hard to get solid information on any of these things. I really need help to make an informed decision, especially about Mcgill because I don't know enough about it's program yet.

    Thank you for reading all of that... wow! Any advice you could give me would be absolutely excellent.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2010 #2
    You're at WATERLOO. I don't think their program is disorganized.
  4. Mar 13, 2010 #3
    I'm not too interested in keeping this thread anymore... how do you delete it?
  5. Apr 6, 2010 #4

    I see that you aren't interested in keeping the thread around anymore, but in case you still want feedback I'm originally from Waterloo, I'm at McGill, and I've taken a bunch of math here:

    - Math profs here are almost exclusively into pure math. There are some more applied ones but the Math/Phys guys don't really get taught by them. It's obvious they're smart but some of them are shoddy teachers.

    - Math/Phys honors has something like 3 electives. Be aware of that. Also, McGill is set up so you pick out courses manually, which allows for flexibility in most majors, but in Math/Phys it's more like you get to shuffle around some mandatory courses here and there.

    - Montreal is a hell of a lot more fun than Waterloo... I go back to visit sometimes, I know what you mean. I know some people who are transfers from Waterloo who are much happier here.

    It sounds like you'd probably like it here from what I'm reading, as I know people who came from a pretty similar situation, switched, and are extremely satisfied. It's more theory-oriented from what I gather, and if you're mathematically-minded you'll get a lot out of the teaching.
  6. Apr 7, 2010 #5
    Hey S.N,
    I have gone through your reply. Actually I am thinking of studying further in the fields of Quantum Computing. Can you pls tell me what are the pros and cons of doing this course in waterloo or Mcgill...Waterloo has a seprate institute IQC for this. As far as my academic bachground is concerned, I have done masters in physics and added to that i am currently having a 2 years exp. in IT industry as well. Your inputs will be be valuable.
  7. Apr 7, 2010 #6
    Hi observer20,

    Unfortunately I can't say I know enough about QC at Waterloo vs. McGill. All I can really say is that I'm aware of the ICQ going up at Waterloo, I believe there's also work done at the Perimeter Institute in that area (but I'm not 100% sure on that!), and distinct from those two institutes, some people at Waterloo applied math do work that relates to QC. I know there's some highly theoretical people at McGill who must dabble in it, but I've never seen it listed as a primary research focus (that probably reflects my lack of knowledge though!) Wish I could be of more help, it's not really my area. But if you do have more general questions about Waterloo and McGill I may be able to help. Best of luck!
  8. Apr 14, 2010 #7
    Dear SN, thanks for the reply!

    You seem to be a great inside source, and you also know people who've had my same issues, so I'm eager to ask you a few questions. First of all, I'm curious as to what year(s) you and the others transferred? I'm a bit sketchy with how the transfer credit would work out, and seeing as to it's a bit too late for me to apply now, if I switched it would most likely be after my second year. Do you think it would be worth it to switch then, or after the second undergrad year am I pretty much committed to staying at Waterloo? Also, you say that it is more theoretical at Mcgill, if I'm not mistaken, and that I will get a lot out of the teaching if I'm geared towards the math. That seems to mix me up a bit, considering it seems as though Waterloo's math faculty is "better" than Mcgill's. Do you think that theory-orientation would set me up better for gradschool and becoming a professor in the future as opposed to Waterloo? Also, one major thing that I'm interested in is whether or not Mcgill will be better for getting into grad school due to it's reputation. I'm very concerned with Waterloo's size, and thus it's reputation within the physics community, especially when it comes to places like Europe or America knowing about Waterloo. Will my chances be better with a Mcgill degree, or is it more a question of my performance?
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