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Physics vs Math & Physics

  1. Apr 6, 2009 #1
    Hello. I have been accepted to the physics program at McGill university and I have to choose one of their programs. However I cannot seem to decide between these two:

    Honours Physics: http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/ugrads/honours.html

    Joint Honours Math & Physics: http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/ugrads/math.html

    The difference is mainly that you replace a thesis and some grad-level physics courses (such as general relativity, introduction to string theory, particle physics, etc) for some basic undegrad math (Analysis 1, 2, 3 Algebra 1, 2 Differential geometry.. etc)

    I love both math and physics but I am not entirely sure of what I would like to do next. I believe it would be either theoretical physics or biophysics. I would not consider grad studies in mathematics though.

    I could always take the math courses as electives if I choose the physics program, but then I would not graduate with both degrees.

    What do you think would be best?

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2009 #2


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    And how about you do the Math&Physics program and choose the physics courses (GR, String theory, particle physics) as electives? Is that an option?

    Personally I would also prefer a physics grad study over pure mathematics, but I have doubled my undergrad in physics and math and found the additional math courses to be extremely helpful.
    Whether you want the double degree, is up to you. Of course, it always looks so much cooler when you have both, but if it will make a difference (e.g. you will get a job sooner with a double degree than just one) I cannot tell you: I don't have any experience with that (yet) and it probably differs from one country to another.
  4. Apr 8, 2009 #3
    I guess I could do that! (Although it would mean having no more room for a language or some other interesting course outside of math/physics)

    In what way were your math courses helpful?


    How important do you think an undergrad research thesis is? (the joint program does not have one, the physics program does)

    Thanks again!
  5. Apr 8, 2009 #4
    Well, I'm in Math&Physics at Mcgill. You can still do GR, intro to string theory and all that in U3, you just don't have as many free slots. Yes, you can take them as electives, though you only get 3. In your first year, the only difference is that you'll be doing Algebra I in your first term (which I recommend if you have some interest in math) as opposed to an elective. In your second term, when you have math you'll have a choice between applied linear algebra or algebra 2 (which is also linear algebra, but more theoretical). From what I've heard from people who did applied lin. algebra, the professor is horrible, so you may want to stay away from that class (which you can't do if you haven't done algebra I). For U2, the difference is that you have one less elective in math and you don't get to do lab in modern physics, though I think you can do it in U3. You can always do an honours research project in U3...
    Bottom line, I'd really recommend taking Algebra I in your first term, just to get a feel for what the math side of the program is (Ad. Cal doesn't really do it justice). If that's not your cup of tea, then go into just physics.
  6. Apr 8, 2009 #5
    Oh wow, thanks for the advice. I will give the joint program a try.

    Thanks again!
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