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Should I add a second major in Math?

  1. Mar 1, 2012 #1
    So I will soon be beginning an undergraduate degree in physics, going to a highly reputable university in Canada. My question is in regards to adding a second major in Math. I know that it's most likely to early for me to decide what area of physics I wan't to specialise in, but through lost of independent learning, and curiosity, I find my self interested in three main areas. High Energy Theory, Condensed Matter Theory, and Quantum Optics (particularly quantum information theory). Adding a second major means a slew of other courses, which I don't particularly mind, but I am concerned weather they will be of any use to me. I can definitely see courses like differential geometry, groups, rings, and complex analysis helping me out, but those are just a small number of courses that the second major would require. All of this got me thinking, so I checked the faculty website, and to my surprise, found that none of the professors in the High Energy theory area, had anything but the typical Bsc in physics. Most of the professors are older, so it could be that now one needs a more extensive background in order to enter those research areas, but I have been told that most if not all the mathematics required, is introduced in mathematical physics courses. What are your thoughts on this matter?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2012 #2
    Depends on what you want to do. There's a wide range of subjects and styles, from very mathematical to fairly non-mathematical.

    I think there are several Nobel Prize winners who got a double major, if I remember right.

    I'm more on the math side. It's my suspicion that getting a double major would help you to understand things better in physics. I took a graduate class in general relativity, and I think it definitely helps there. There are various areas that require PhD level math. String theory, loop quantum gravity, and anyonic condensed matter systems are very closely related to what I'm doing in my math PhD work (topological quantum field theory). Also, maybe it's helpful in terms of learning to think, even if you don't use it directly.

    If complex analysis is relevant, then so is real analysis because it's close enough that it will add to your understanding of complex analysis. That, plus the other stuff you mentioned might cover enough for a degree. Electives like PDE would be helpful as well.

    It's not necessary, but is a viable choice if you want to be more on the mathematical side of physics. The only thing is there might be a trade-off because maybe you could spend more time on physics stuff or doing research.
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