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Physics vs. Chemistry undergrad

  • Thread starter Pronghorn
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Most chemistry departments will not have a class on group theory. It will be taught in an inorganic chemistry course.
I had a year-long Inorganic chem course and the term was never used throughout. Some basics of QM and atomic physics sure, but really no explicit talk of symmetry groups or any deal of quantitative problems involving molecular geometry. IME save for a few quantitative problems that really fell under the umbrella of spectroscopy/basic atomic physics, everything was theory/book-learning.
 
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I had a year-long Inorganic chem course and the term was never used throughout. Some basics of QM and atomic physics sure, but really no explicit talk of symmetry groups or any deal of quantitative problems involving molecular geometry. IME save for a few quantitative problems that really fell under the umbrella of spectroscopy/basic atomic physics, everything was theory/book-learning.
I guess I can't say for sure, but I *think* that is unusual. Group theory is a very standard topic in inorganic chemistry courses so that MO theory (mainly) can be done properly.
 
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To wrap up, I now understand that physics tends to be more theoretical and math-heavy, whereas chemistry is more hands-on and doesn't use as much math as physics does. I guess I should go with chemistry because I enjoy working with tangible stuff; yet I also like how physics can get conceptual and analyze not only small things, like atoms and molecules, but grand phenomena as well.
 
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To wrap up, I now understand that physics tends to be more theoretical and math-heavy, whereas chemistry is more hands-on and doesn't use as much math as physics does. I guess I should go with chemistry because I enjoy working with tangible stuff; yet I also like how physics can get conceptual and analyze not only small things, like atoms and molecules, but grand phenomena as well.
Keep in mind this is all generalization. There is very mathematically intense chemistry and mathematically light physics. Take some chemistry courses and physics and see what you enjoy.
 
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To wrap up, I now understand that physics tends to be more theoretical and math-heavy, whereas chemistry is more hands-on and doesn't use as much math as physics does. I guess I should go with chemistry because I enjoy working with tangible stuff; yet I also like how physics can get conceptual and analyze not only small things, like atoms and molecules, but grand phenomena as well.
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss physics as not being "tangible" (though it really depends on your definition). I would consider physics to be more so than chemistry in many cases. For example, classical mechanics: You can't get much more tangible than that. Another example geophysics: study the structure and dynamics of THE ENTIRE EARTH. Memorizing a table of molecular geometries on the other hand... :yuck:
 
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I suppose by tangible he meant real world industry tangible.

Chemistry at the university level does not consist in memorizing molecular geometries, reaction enthalpies, etc. It consists in obtaining proficiency in practical experimental methods: chemical synthesis and analysis, along with some skeleton of theory background (it is impossible to know every single compound and/or synthesis method, just like it is impossible to know all the zeroes of all the special functions or the Clebsch-Gordan coefficients by heart, or whatever. In physics you learn the basic methods: Hilbert-space formalism and perturbation theory, not every interpretation and method of QM).

Chemists and chem engineers work in all kinds of material industries: pharma and food manufacturing(I knew one that worked at a dairy company), materials industries (novel metamaterials, nanoparticles, fabrics, construction materials, raw chemicals, manufacturing (paint, paper, plastics), etc.), as environmental consultants/inspectors, as analysts/inspectors for many of those industries, forensics, ...
 
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