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Should I Drop Mathematical Physics Class?

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    Dear Forum:

    I am a senior chemistry major that has the typical science/engineering background in math - 2 quarters of single variable calculus, 2 quarters of multivariable calculus and vector analysis, 1 quarter of linear algebra and 1 quarter of differential equations.

    I am currently taking a mathematical physics class. The reason I am taking this class is because I would like to go for a MS in Physics, in the area of experimental condensed matter physics.

    The first homework (Boas chapter 11, special functions) was nearly impossible because it had several problems that involved classical mechanics, which I hadn't taken. If it wasn't for having another book and 8 hours to spend, I would have been unable to complete the 2nd problem of the first homework. The rest of the class will be on solving important PDEs (Laplace, diffusion, schrodinger, wave, poisson equations) using chapters 8, 12 and 13 of Boas book.

    My question is 2 fold: Does this class get easier as time goes on? Will there be more things from physics classes I haven't taken yet?

    Secondly, if I drop this class, will it significantly reduce my chances of being accepted to a MS program in Physics?

    Thank you for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2012 #2


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    Your professor can best advise you on the physics content of the rest of the course. Given that it's called mathematical physics, I imagine you will see a lot more physics.

    Your second question is puzzling. A master's in physics will be extremely difficult if you lack a physics background, and your difficulties in this course are just a hint at what will come. A better question is do you have the background or will you need additional courses/time to prepare for an advanced physics degree? Again, I'd think that professors in your physics department can help you assess that.
  4. Jan 16, 2012 #3
    Thank you for your response. I've talked to both professors in my department and at the schools I am applying to regarding the second question and they said that it is no problem for me to take classical mechanics and electromagnetism at the undergrad level before I get started with the graduate versions. Due to my chemistry background, I would be expected to immediately get started on graduate level quantum mechanics and statistical physics. I am taking mathematical physics because they recommended that to strengthen my application it would be best to take as many upper level physics and math classes as possible.

    For the first question, I have downloaded last year's test, and it doesn't seem to be physics heavy. The questions are:

    1. Place this integral into the form of a special function

    2. A molecule's velocity has the probability distribution f(v)= bunch of constants * e^(constants *- v^2). Use an integral to find the total kinetic energy of molecules with velocity v<v0 and express this as an error function.

    3. Solve the heat transfer equation dT/dt = d2T/dx2 as a function T(x,t), with the boundary conditions T(t,x=0) = 1, T(t,x=1) = 2 and the initial condition T(t=0,x) for x between 0 and 1.

    From what the test looks like, it doesn't seem that hard, then again, the homework didn't seem that hard until I got to question 2.
  5. Jan 19, 2012 #4


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    It sounds like you have the advice you needed and a valid way forward. Good luck!
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