Self Taught Student Seeks Professional Advice

In summary, the individual is seeking guidance on purchasing textbooks for future education. They are looking for recommendations on textbooks and any other guidance on becoming well rounded in science. They are interested in engaging in citizen science and would like to know if there are any organizations in their area that would be interested in having them participate.
  • #1
Eric Espinoza
4
0
Hello everyone,

This is my first post and I would like to briefly introduce myself and my situation. I'm 27 years old and a high school drop out, former drug addict, and three time college drop out. I have severe ADHD and insecurities which have made academia too difficult for me to pursue. I am currently about to become an over the road truck driver and plan on thoroughly educating myself in my free time. I am not pursing a college degree, career, improved social status, or anything of that nature. I want to educate myself because I want to make a difference in the little time I have on this planet. Put simply, I want to contribute to the scientific endeavor on MY TIME and not anyone elses.

All of that being said, I need guidance with textbooks to purchase in the future. Currently I have a Campbell's Biology textbook 13th edition ( I think it's 13th), as well as Chemistry: The Natural Science. I'm still working my way up to teaching myself Calculus through Khan Academy, and subsequently am unable to dip my toe in anything physics yet. I was wondering if the reader could provide me with an Organic Chemistry book to purchase, whatever Biology textbook comes later in Academia, A Calculus based introductory Physics textbook as well as Quantum Mechanics (etc), Calculus textbooks, and just anything you feel like I will need to become well rounded enough to make a difference.

I realize that I'm trying to learn all branches of science thoroughly, and to some this may seem too daunting of a task and down right foolish. However, I've quite literally dedicated all of my free time to this pursuit and I have the rest of my life to teach it to myself. So I don't think it's unobtainable. Regardless, I think it's the only way that I can actually make a difference, seeing as how I will never have colleagues or a well versed team.

Ps. I apologize if the organization of my thoughts are lacking. I'm not good at expressing my thoughts in an organized, coherent manner. Please make sense of what you can. Thank you.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
I will let others more knowledgeable about instruction and textbooks comment on your request.

However, I am intrigued by your statement that you "want to contribute to the scientific endeavor on MY TIME."

I would encourage you to contact your local Audubon society and any state or national wildlife refuges near where you live. They are always looking for volunteers and you can engage in citizen science that is not just valuable but highly satisfying to participate in. For example, every winter, my son and I participate in the Audubon Great Christmas Bird Count, where we spend the day walking around in a specified area, counting birds. This is then tallied and gives biologists and conservationists a great idea of how wildlife is faring from one year to the next. I am sure other organizations that, for example, monitor river ecosystems, or the ocean, etc. would love to get help from motivated amateurs. I realize that this is straying away from your original question, but physics is a difficult area to do citizen science and CONTRIBUTING (taking your world literally) is hard without training. Of course, studying and learning the subject for personal fulfillment is a perfectly worthy thing to do and I would recommend it highly.
 
  • Like
Likes Mitchel Haas, bhobba, Eric Espinoza and 1 other person
  • #3
I'm with Scrumhalf. Self-studying 4-5 years worth of college level material is incredibly difficult. Especially if you have ADHD or another similar disorder.
That being said, here are a few book recommendations to help get you started. Buy old editions whenever possible to potentially save hundreds of dollars:

Algebra
Pre-calculus
(Foundational math is immensely important. I don't care how many Khan academy videos you've watched. Unless you've done an amount of basic math work equivalent to at least half of the problems in the above two books, then you haven't done enough. And you will suffer for it if you don't. Trust me, I know from experience.)
Calculus + Diff. Eq.
Physics
 
  • Like
Likes Mitchel Haas and Eric Espinoza
  • #4
Here is a site to look around on, if citizen science is something you would like to engage in.

https://www.volunteer.gov/

I just put "science" into the Interests box. Some intriguing items popped up. For example, Point Reyes National Seashore is looking for volunteers to hike out and monitor harbor seals. Sounds really interesting and probably something that I wouldn't mind doing myself if I lived in the area.

Another one, this one at Joshua Tree National Park:

PHYSICAL SCIENCE VOLUNTEER(S) Joshua Tree National Park is looking for several dedicated volunteers to participate in a variety of projects to include air quality monitoring, abandoned mineral lands monitoring, night sky quality monitoring, well level and oasis monitoring and well as night sky quality and soundscape monitoring. Tasks range from easy to strenuous in nature and volunteers can participate in more than one project. Necessary training and equipment will be provided.

My point is that engaging in science and actually contributing in a meaningful way can be done in a variety of ways, many of which may be more accessible and realistic to an amateur.
 
  • #5
Thank you for your advice. I may have misconstrued things a little. I don't have a problem learning. I actually learn material very easily. What I have a problem with is being in a public environment (and I always have). I'm the textbook definition of introverted, and when I get into social environments I can't ever focus on the actual material being presented, just what's going on around me. I have the utmost confidence in myself that I can learn this material and bring myself up to par.

That being said, I do agree that I will lack formal training in a laboratory setting. I'm thinking if I reach out to colleges, show them what I'm capable of after I'm taught, that maybe they will give me special parameters to which I can work with. For instance, I won't have to take any of the liberal arts classes, I can just be allowed to take science courses. That's probably just wishful thinking though. If I'm just after the education though, and not the degree, I don't see why this would be a problem in a practical sense. Who knows. Maybe I can ever find a professor at the university who is willing to teach me on the side, and bypass academia in general. We'll see when the time comes.

I really want to learn advanced material though. I have since I was as young as thirteen. It's just the requirement to learn in a social atmosphere that's hindered any progression I've ever attempted to make in academia. I've found that online lectures and resources satisfy my curiosity nicely, but I'm ready to abandon academia, and the fallacy that you need it, and evolve myself in the person I've been wanting to become.
 
  • #6
I don't want to be a some average scientist, y'all. Though I think volunteering is definitely something for me to consider. However, I have high expectations for myself and want to make the next breakthrough. I realize this seems to be too large of a feat to attain. I'm only alive once though. Once. I can't lower my exceptions for myself because of this. To be completely specific. I want to solve the problem of survival. Because I believe that if I can do that, then I can work on the problem of bringing people back.

And just to further elaborate on my "plan". After a few years of trucking I'll be retiring from the work force, moving off the grid, and living a self sustainable life. This will allow me to focus solely on my studies and research, and give me the freedom to work on MY TIME (like I said earlier haha). This is what I want in life, and If I die trying so be it.

Thank you for listening by the way. I don't have any friends or family that understand. It's nice to have like minded people to talk to for once.
 
  • #7
You can take classes online these days. I am sure there are others more knowledgeable on this site about this, but in this day of the internet, I am pretty sure you can attend lectures over Skype or something similar, turn in your work and get credit for classes. These kinds of online classes may not be looked upon favorably if you are say, applying to grad school, but for learning, they may be exactly what you are looking for - rigor without the stress of sitting in a room full of people.
 
  • #8
Scrumhalf said:
You can take classes online these days. I am sure there are others more knowledgeable on this site about this, but in this day of the internet, I am pretty sure you can attend lectures over Skype or something similar, turn in your work and get credit for classes. These kinds of online classes may not be looked upon favorably if you are say, applying to grad school, but for learning, they may be exactly what you are looking for - rigor without the stress of sitting in a room full of people.

I've definitely been considering that. It's just the accumulated debt though. It's simpler for me to just teach myself. However, maybe I'm under estimating an education from University. I will further take this into consideration. Thank you for your advice. I really do appreciate it more than you know.
 
  • #9
Eric Espinoza said:
I don't want to be a some average scientist, y'all. Though I think volunteering is definitely something for me to consider. However, I have high expectations for myself and want to make the next breakthrough.

I'm sorry to say, but making a significant breakthrough without going through undergraduate and graduate level schooling is essentially not going to happen. Even if you're able to learn the same material all on your own, the lack of experience and contacts, and even the degree itself, are all factors that matter.

If what you say about your learning ability is true, then I don't really see the problem of going to school for a couple of classes a semester. Two classes at a time would only require about 5 - 8 hours a week in a classroom. The rest of the time you'd be on your own, free to study and do your work anywhere you'd like. At worst, you'd waste a few hours but still learn the material anyways. You're seriously degrading your chances at doing anything meaningful in science by not going to college.
 
  • Like
Likes bhobba
  • #10
Eric Espinoza said:
I'm thinking if I reach out to colleges, show them what I'm capable of after I'm taught, that maybe they will give me special parameters to which I can work with.
Do a Google search for the phrase "non degree seeking students". Many colleges and universities admit students to take individual courses without working towards a degree. You have to pay tuition and fees, but you won't have to take "unnecessary" courses. However, I think using that academic credit to start a scientific career is likely to be more difficult than with a standard degree, because you won't fit into a neat category compared to other people. You'd have to do more work to "sell" yourself. I've never been involved with hiring or working with such people, so I can't speak from personal experience.
 
  • #11
Depending on what level you are starting at, a few courses at a community college may be a way to control costs and still transfer credit to a 4-year college down the road.
 
  • Like
Likes Drakkith
  • #12
Scrumhalf said:
Depending on what level you are starting at, a few courses at a community college may be a way to control costs and still transfer credit to a 4-year college down the road.

Yes. I highly recommend this if your unsure of how well you might do at a university. My local community college is less than half the price of the university in town.
 
  • Like
Likes bhobba
  • #13
Eric Espinoza said:
I've definitely been considering that. It's just the accumulated debt though. It's simpler for me to just teach myself. However, maybe I'm under estimating an education from University. I will further take this into consideration. Thank you for your advice. I really do appreciate it more than you know.
Here's a collection of insight articles about the topic and a link where to find free books which can be recommended:
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/self-teaching-gcse-and-a-level-maths.933639/#post-5896947

The articles should at least give you an impression on what to expect, and the books are a good basis to start with. For higher mathematics, AMS is currently building a similar database: https://www.ams.org/open-math-notes
 
  • #14
Drakkith said:
I'm sorry to say, but making a significant breakthrough without going through undergraduate and graduate level schooling is essentially not going to happen.

True

BUT - it is entirely feasible to learn enough to understand the profound truths that because of the math involved are not talked about much in popularization's - or if they are are so mangled its probably not even worthwhile reading. That would be things like Noether's theorem. Typically in a class that teaches it the class just sits there in dumbfounded silence as its importance, and what it says about nature, sinks in.

First though, as you probably have guessed, you need calculus - but believe it or not its not too hard at the intuitive level needed for doing physics - the following will suffice:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0471827223/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Then Susskind's books and lectrues:
http://theoreticalminimum.com/
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/046502811X/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0465036678/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0465093345/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Then I think you can undertake a truly life changing book, it was for me anyway - Landau - Mechanics:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0750628960/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Some say it's not an easy read. I disagree - it's just the more you know the more you get from it - you only need to know a bit of calculus to read it - doing the above will give you the background necessary. However - well the following from the reviews explains it perfectly:
'If physicists could weep, they would weep over this book. The book is devastingly brief whilst deriving, in its few pages, all the great results of classical mechanics. Results that in other books take take up many more pages. I first came across Landau's mechanics many years ago as a brash undergrad. My prof at the time had given me this book but warned me that it's the kind of book that ages like wine. I've read this book several times since and I have found that indeed, each time is more rewarding than the last. The reason for the brevity is that, as pointed out by previous reviewers, Landau derives mechanics from symmetry. Historically, it was long after the main bulk of mechanics was developed that Emmy Noether proved that symmetries underly every important quantity in physics. So instead of starting from concrete mechanical case-studies and generalising to the formal machinery of the Hamilton equations, Landau starts out from the most generic symmetry and dervies the mechanics. The 2nd laws of mechanics, for example, is derived as a consequence of the uniqueness of trajectories in the Lagragian. For some, this may seem too "mathematical" but in reality, it is a sign of sophisitication in physics if one can identify the underlying symmetries in a mechanical system. Thus this book represents the height of theoretical sophistication in that symmetries are used to derive so many physical results.'

It will change your life as it did mine.

Beyond that - write back for some further suggestions.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • Like
Likes Mitchel Haas
  • #15
bhobba said:
True

BUT - it is entirely feasible to learn enough to understand the profound truths that because of the math involved are not talked about much in popularization's - or if they are are so mangled its probably not even worthwhile reading. That would be things like Noether's theorem. Typically in a class that teaches it the class just sits there in dumbfounded silence as its importance, and what it says about nature, sinks in.

But this isn't what the OP is aiming for. Learning about the material is only a means for the OP to actually, from what I can gather, produce scientific work of significance. That is what he/she intends to do.

So the question is, is that realistic given the path that the OP intends to take? Do you know of anyone who has done something similar and managed to "... contribute to the scientific endeavor... "[1]?

There is a fallacy that many people who haven't gone through the process seem to have, that simply learning the material is sufficient to be able to make "scientific contribution" that can advance our body of knowledge. While having knowledge is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient condition. Someone without access to (i) experts in a particular field and (ii) publications in that particular field, will be ignorant of what have already been known, studied, and understood, versus what are now being studied, not that well-known, not fully understood, and more importantly, what are the hottest topics in that field. Very little science is done in isolation, and when I say "isolation", I do not just mean being physically alone. Even papers with single author will have acknowledgments of contributions and discussions with others.

These types of environment seem to be something that the OP has an adverse reaction to, and not only that, the path the the OP seems to be choosing will isolate him/herself from having easy access to (i) and (ii). The educational system that we have today inherently (sometime even accidentally) will provide those, and also a built-in network of contacts and colleagues that often become invaluable in such a career. It is why as graduate students, we go to workshops, conferences, attend colloquium and seminars, etc. Not only do scientific discoveries and advancements often require collaborations, but it is not uncommon that many important insights and ideas come out of unexpected situations during casual interactions. Serendipitous moments often are born out of those situations. One of my PRL paper came out of a discussion during a coffee break in between workshop sessions!

These are the opportunities and environment that the OP will not be exposed to. So what are the odds of being able to make a significant contribution to "... scientific endeavor ..."? There is a difference between learning physics, and being a physicist. One can do the former by reading all the material in the world, but that is not a sufficient condition to be the latter, especially in being able to significantly contribute to the body of knowledge.

Zz.

[1] I define this statement as being able to produce something significant enough to be published in a respected peer-reviewed journal.
 
  • Like
Likes jtbell and bhobba
  • #16
ZapperZ said:
So the question is, is that realistic given the path that the OP intends to take? Do you know of anyone who has done something similar and managed to "... contribute to the scientific endeavor... "[1]?

No - a thousand times no - and I apologize if anything I said suggested otherwise.

What I was suggesting is what is possible - it is possible to gain a much deeper appreciation of physics and the profound truths it has revealed.

Thanks
Bill
 

Related to Self Taught Student Seeks Professional Advice

1. What are the benefits of being a self-taught student?

Self-taught students often have a strong drive and motivation to learn, and are able to tailor their education to their individual needs and interests. They also have the opportunity to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as a strong sense of self-discipline and independence.

2. What challenges do self-taught students face?

Self-taught students may face challenges such as lack of structure and guidance, difficulty finding resources and support, and potential gaps in their knowledge. They may also struggle with self-motivation and staying on track without external accountability.

3. How can I find professional advice as a self-taught student?

There are many resources available for self-taught students seeking professional advice. You can reach out to mentors, join online communities or forums, attend workshops or conferences, or even consider hiring a tutor or taking a class in your area of interest.

4. What skills are important for self-taught students to develop?

Some key skills for self-taught students include self-motivation, time management, critical thinking, and research skills. It's also important to be able to effectively communicate your knowledge and ideas to others.

5. How can I ensure that my self-taught education is as valuable as a traditional education?

To ensure the value of your self-taught education, it's important to set clear goals, seek feedback and guidance from experts in your field, and continuously challenge yourself to learn and improve. It's also helpful to document your learning and accomplishments, whether through a portfolio, certifications, or other means.

Similar threads

Replies
1
Views
594
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
14
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
16
Views
562
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
13
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
5
Views
967
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
22
Views
4K
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
1
Views
614
Back
Top