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Rounding out my Physics BS with other classes?

  1. Mar 27, 2014 #1
    Hi, I'm a physics undergrad at a pretty large university in the US. I would specify what year I am; but due to some recent complications in my life and the frustrating cyclical schedule of classes my school uses, (I think it's designed to work mainly for full time students who come in as freshman and take the exact classes suggested) I've had to take some classes out of order, drop others and I really don't know or care what year I am. Now that things have settled down a lot, I have some extra time on my hands to take other classes while waiting to take the classes I need to finish my major.

    I thought, since I plan on going to grad school for physics, I could take some extra upper level physics courses, and possibly take some other non-physics-science or math classes to round out my knowledge. I'm currently about halfway through quantum physics 1, and have taken calc 1,2,3, diff EQ, and linear algebra, if that helps to narrow things down a bit. I'm quite interested in electromagnetism and electrical engineering, music, biology, a lot of things to be honest. Does anyone have some advice as to which classes could be helpful and enriching for someone like me, but without being a waste of time?

    PS: I have been talking to my QM prof. about getting involved with research.

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2014 #2
    I would suggest taking more upper level math courses, and you might even want to look into the requirements for a math minor (that's what I did for undergrad - physics major and math minor). It will probably involve real and/or complex analysis and maybe some stats or, since you are going to be doing research, some computational/modeling type course.

    Have you taken, or are you planning to take, upper level thermo, classical mechanics, and E&M courses? I'm assuming they are required for the physics major...
  4. Mar 29, 2014 #3
    Thanks for your reply. I have already met the requirements for a math minor at my institution, but I'll look into some more math classes they offer for sure! I was thinking maybe it would be good to try my hand at topology? And yes I'm taking all the standard requirements for a physics major. My taking of classical mechanics had to be postponed, which is why I'm in the situation right now where i'll have space for extra classes. Any advice on other classes to take would be greatly appreciated!
  5. Mar 29, 2014 #4
    You didn't tell us what kind of physics interests you? Theoretical physics? Experimental? Quantum? Relativity? Stat Mech? Our answers will probably depend on this information?
  6. Mar 30, 2014 #5
    Actually I did state my interests in the original post!

    Edit:Oh, maybe you want more than just electromagnetism? I suppose QM has been pretty fun as well.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
  7. Mar 30, 2014 #6
    In addition to micromass' advice, I would also look into some computer science courses. Even if you are not computationally minded, it is very difficult to get through graduate school without doing some heavy-duty programming.
  8. Mar 30, 2014 #7
    Rounded out in what way? Employability? Research skill? Since you say you have an interest in electrical engineering, good classes to get the basics are signals and systems, circuit theory, electronics (analog and digital), their associated labs will give you experience with putting circuits together. There's plenty of ways to combine electronics and music such as making circuits based around amplifiers for some musical input signal. EE's are involved in medical instrumentation as well. Programming is a must as well, I suggest learning with Python if you haven't done some language already. A good way to combine circuits and programming together is by playing with microcontrollers (Arduino and the Raspberry Pi are probably the most user friendly, with the Pi you get to learn Linux as well). Speaking of which, I would learn Linux, either dual boot your laptop or use a virtual machine and play with Ubuntu.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
  9. Mar 30, 2014 #8
    If you go for math, I'd say real and complex analysis. Real analysis is kind of the place to start with serious proof-based math, and complex analysis has some good applications to physics. Also, maybe partial diff eq.
  10. Mar 30, 2014 #9
    This is only coming from own experience with partial differential equations in my quantum mechanics and electromagnetism courses, but I would say all physics majors should seriously consider taking a course in that and I would say it's more directly applicable to physics than complex is but that's not saying the skill gained there won't be useful for understanding more advanced material as well.
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