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Pre-med physics to more advanced classes

  1. Apr 2, 2008 #1
    I used to be pre-med but I switched to chemistry and I'd like to go to engineering grad school. I have to take more advanced physics classes in addition to chemistry but I've only taken the Algebra-based intro class. Can I take more advanced physics classes like Classical Mechanics, Modern Physics, or E&M without having to do the whole calculus-based introductory sequence?

    I should mention that I have also done very well with three semesters of calculus and linear algebra. I plan on taking DiffEQ next semester also.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2008 #2
    What is your math like? you need A LOT of math in higher level physics classes so that is the main pre-req.
    Before Classical Mechanics and E&M you will need Calc 1,2,3 + Diff EQ. Linear Algebra wouldn't hurt but will generally not be a pre-req unless maybe for Quantum Mechanics

    I'd say after having calc - Diff EQ
    then you should be ok to being the higher level physics classes, however your dept. may require you to take a "Modern Physics" class as a buffer from intro level to upper division.
    Here we are also required to take a Mathematical Methods of Physics class but that is not always the case
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2008
  4. Apr 2, 2008 #3
    If you're doing chem and engineering, your math should be pretty high, if not up to speed with what a physics major requires.

    Classical, Modern, and E&M shouldn't be bad as long as you know the math that mgiddy mentioned. Quantum... eh... probably not that bad, either.

    I'd suggest either classical or E&M, though.
  5. Apr 3, 2008 #4
    Hey Leumas, i was in the same situation as you. I started premed too, and i took the "pre-med version" of physics. And then itook the "real"sequence for physics majors. turns out you learn the exact same thing. Theres really not much more mathematical sophitication in the calculus-based class. You're not going to really do linear algebra or diff. eqtns at the introductory lvl(calc and non-calc based). i think you'll be fine takign the more advanced physics courses if u've taken the pre-med sequence.

    WHen i redid the calculus based version, i was really disappointed and bored because i did not learn anything new. I repeated the first 2/3 courses and havent doen the 3rd because it'll just be a repeat, so i'll save it for the last class i'llt take for the major and not face boredom immediately.
  6. Apr 3, 2008 #5
    I started out in the life sciences first-year physics courses (algebra-based) before switching to a physics major in the second year. I was always a year ahead in math, so I did not have much of a problem switching over. It looks like you are doing the exact same sequence as I did (three semesters of calculus + 1 linear algebra course, no differential equations) before starting advanced physics courses. If you are comfortable with the material in the math classes you have taken so far, and you did sufficiently well in the algebra-based introductory courses, I doubt you should have to take the introductory calculus-based physics courses.
  7. Apr 3, 2008 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    What are the Department requirements for taking the advanced classes?
  8. Apr 3, 2008 #7


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    I would talk to academic advisors in BOTH your physics department and engineering program. The content and quality of the physics classes offered to life science majors varies quite a lot from school to school, so only they would be able to give you correct advice regarding your question as it pertains to YOUR school and your goals. My general impression is that if you intend to go into engineering as your long-term goal, an algebra-based physics course is going to be inadequate preparation for the advanced coursework in engineering, even if the concepts presented are the same.
  9. Apr 3, 2008 #8


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    That depends on your school's policy, and can only be answered by your school's faculty, administration and/or documentation (Web site etc.). They might indeed require you to take the complete calculus-based intro sequence. They might have a special "bridge" course for people in your situation. They might allow you to take the upper-level courses if you can convince them that you're likely to do OK in them. Where I teach, it's up to each course's instructor to decide whether to tell the registrar to override prerequisites for a particular student.
  10. Apr 3, 2008 #9
    There is no bridge course unfortunately. The official pre-requisites are two semesters of calculus-based intro physics and three semesters of calculus, no DiffEq (but I will be taking it concurrently anyway). I asked the instructor if it is possible to take the class w/o DiffEq and he said yes bc they use the "physicist's method of solution" but I didn't really understand what that meant. Something about providing the solution and seeing that it works.

    I did very well in my algebra-based intro course but I took it two years ago so really what I'm wondering is how well do I need to know it to take more advanced classes assuming I have enough math? By the way, Classical Mechanics is listed as an intermediate course.
  11. Apr 3, 2008 #10
    Do you know what textbook will be used? If it is something like Marion & Thornton you may have some trouble.
  12. Apr 4, 2008 #11
    He uses Fowles and Cassiday. Know anything about it? If its bad maybe I can just buy a different textbook?
  13. Apr 4, 2008 #12
    I've used parts of that book, it's slightly under the level of Marion & Thornton, but not by much. I think what you might want to do is check it out at the library, go through it, and see how difficult you think it is. I have a feeling that since you haven't had physics for two years and even then only had one basic algebra-based physics course (from what I can tell), you may have problems jumping into a more advanced classical mechanics course. Even if you understand the mathematics, not having done physics type problems for two years might give you trouble, but only you can find out for sure.
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