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Question for upper year physics majors.

  1. Sep 10, 2011 #1
    I'd also appreciate if those who have finished a physics degree would answer.

    How small are your upper year classes relative to the class sizes back in first and second year? If it has reduced significantly, is it because the majority of students were weeded out and could not make it through? After speaking to a few senior and junior physics majors at my school, they all tell me that only about 30-35% of physics majors made it to upper year classes and the rest could not continue and were weeded out. Does the same hold true for your school? Are most physics majors weeded out and they truly never finish?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2011 #2
    For my school the first year physics/math classes have to be taken across ALL science specialties (bio, chem, biochem, etc. etc.). Thus my first year classes had LOTS of students in them. Intro physics had about 400, and intro calc had upwards of 1200 people (split into about 10 different class times though), each class having about 100-150 people in them.

    Now it depends on the class and how cross-disciplinary it is. 3rd year Classical Mechanics has about 30 people in it, where as my 3rd year Partial Differential Equations class (cross-disciplinary to applied math and from what I've heard economics as well) has about 50 people in it. To compare to something extremely specialized I am taking a 4th year gravitational astrophysics course next semester and the current enrolment total is 14 people.

    Comparing back to 2nd year the class sizes for physics specific courses probably hasn't changed. Maybe down a few students, but I'm seeing the same faces as last year. Also, my 2nd year calc class had almost 200 people in it. I don't have a class that big this year.

    The difference in class sizes from 1st to 2nd to 3rd year might not be entirely due to people being 'weeded' out, people might just decide that physics isn't their interest and move to a different program all together. The majority of physics majors who keep with their major will finish, in my experience it is rare for someone to drop out due to the program being too difficult, it is usually due to someone switching to engineering or materials science or some related field. I have only heard of 1 person dropping out due to difficulty and not pursuing a different field. Though this may be different at other schools.
  4. Sep 10, 2011 #3
    First-year physics courses had ~100 people or more in each section (classtime). There were a dozen or more classtimes offered. Mostly engineering students and premed students.

    Upper-level courses had only 1 section offered and it would have 10 people or so at the most, a mix of mostly physics majors with a few engineering majors.
  5. Sep 11, 2011 #4
    Intro physics classes have other majors in there as well and that's the only physics class you can take first semester. When there are different varieties of physics classes then the class sizes naturally split up.
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