• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Research opportunities in theoretical/mathematical physics for math undergrad major?

  • Programs
  • Thread starter Andraz Cepic
  • Start date
  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

So I am about to switch to mathematics, as I absolutely adore pure mathematics as well as applied mathematics and I cannot stand learning mathematics without going deep into rigor of it for now(I am aware however that at times one just has to quickly learn sth to proceed with a project). But in the end I really wish to go into mathematical physics or theoretical physics.

As I have studied physics, I have realized that one can get research experience quite easilly. Mostly it takes one to just ask a professor to do some real research to learn scientific research, if not in the first year then in the second. Now most such research is experimental, but it is valuable experience with which one can get theoretical physics internships more easilly in the following years.

I was wondering if a mathematics major can also just ask a professor for any undergrad research project that would be more on the theoretical physics side. I have a lot of experience in programming as well, so I would be able to program a simulation for example. What would be an example for such undergrad research?

P.S. How do mathematics majors gain research experience in general? Another huge reason to switching to math is that I might even do pure math research or CS for example, to have more realistic opportunities for academia.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,139
2,159
So I am about to switch to mathematics, as I absolutely adore pure mathematics as well as applied mathematics and I cannot stand learning mathematics without going deep into rigor of it for now(I am aware however that at times one just has to quickly learn sth to proceed with a project). But in the end I really wish to go into mathematical physics or theoretical physics.

As I have studied physics, I have realized that one can get research experience quite easilly. Mostly it takes one to just ask a professor to do some real research to learn scientific research, if not in the first year then in the second. Now most such research is experimental, but it is valuable experience with which one can get theoretical physics internships more easilly in the following years.

I was wondering if a mathematics major can also just ask a professor for any undergrad research project that would be more on the theoretical physics side. I have a lot of experience in programming as well, so I would be able to program a simulation for example. What would be an example for such undergrad research?

P.S. How do mathematics majors gain research experience in general? Another huge reason to switching to math is that I might even do pure math research or CS for example, to have more realistic opportunities for academia.
A lot depends on the culture and willingness to provide research opportunities by the faculty at your school. At the Air Force Academy, all the math faculty knew my PhD was in Physics, so they gladly pointed math majors with an interest in Physics to me, knowing I'd work hard to provide a project for them. Other schools may not be so accomodating.

In most Physics departments, there are supply and demand issues regarding undergrad research opportunities. In some cases, there are more Physics majors desiring research than the departmental faculty can provide, and those that desire research in theory often lack the tools and training. As a result, they cannot all be provided opportunities. In other cases, there are so few Physics majors desiring research opportunities that all of them can be given a chance. You have to start knocking on doors and talking to faculty at your school to figure it out.
 
  • #3
208
20
You have to start knocking on doors and talking to faculty at your school to figure it out.
This is maybe the best piece of advice on the matter. A lot of people go and search for forms and institutions to get them into research while forgetting the human nature of it. Just go to someone's office knock and tell them about your interests and ambitions. I did the same and I have been in a research team for about two years now.

Also, don't fear rejection. I got rejected a couple of times but most people are really nice about it, telling you that the work is way too difficult or that positions are full at the time. So if you ask, its a win-win situation :)
 
  • #4
208
20
How do mathematics majors gain research experience in general? Another huge reason to switching to math is that I might even do pure math research or CS for example, to have more realistic opportunities for academia.
I have no experience in that matter (pure math research) but I would guess it is the same as the above, just ask. Even if it turns out math research is not done under professors, the professors themselves can guide you to places you can work in.
 

Related Threads on Research opportunities in theoretical/mathematical physics for math undergrad major?

  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
3K
Replies
14
Views
13K
Replies
1
Views
679
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
558
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
0
Views
947
Replies
4
Views
702
Top