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Should I drop all lab (2nd/3rd year)?

  1. Jun 30, 2014 #1
    I'm a student of physics at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. I'm going into my third year of a four year bachelors course. I now need to decide whether to continue with an ordinary physics degree or whether to choose the theoretical stream, which involves replacing all remaining experimental courses it with extra maths and theoretical options.

    I don't much enjoy lab work, and I am more interested in theoretical physics. However, I can't help feeling dropping experimental work would handicap me both in my understanding of the subject - I see physics as a natural science before anything else - and in my chances to remain in physics post graduation.

    In addition, I believe I'd gain more in the way of transferable skills were I to continue with experimental work. Data analysis, the hands on nature of designing and carrying out an experiment and report writing are the things which immediately come to mind. I'd gain more mathematical proficiency if I were to take the theoretical stream, but I don't see that making a difference to a potential employer.

    However, I also feel that this is the one time I'll be able to study what most interests me, and that my grades will reflect my enjoyment in what I'm studying. Ultimately, I think that continuing with lab work would be better for me, but maybe less enjoyable.

    Could anyone here offer advice on this dilemma? Is it easier to go from an experimental undergrad to a theoretical grad programme than vice versa?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2014 #2


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    It wouldn't hurt to have at least one solid lab class. Many universities require some kind of senior lab. In undergrad, most of your classes are already theory and lecture, right? There probably isn't a distinction between theoretical and experimental at the undergrad level, so you should try and get some experience in both.
  4. Jul 4, 2014 #3
    Where I study, one can choose the theoretical stream, in which case there is no senior lab at all. I've already taken experimental classes this past year.

    My question was whether it would be harmful to my future were I to take this route.
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