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Starting out as a physics major: what's this attitude?

  1. Mar 7, 2008 #1
    I'm currently a sophomore in physics, and i'm pretty happy with my choice of major. Part of the reason I liked it was that it seemed like everyone chose it because they genuinely liked physics. I have other reasons too, I can easily see myself doing research later on, but this isn't my point. My issue is with other students' attitudes towards me. When i've talked to junior and senior physics majors, and I said i'm majoring in physics, the most frequent response i've gotten has been something along the lines of "oh, how sure are you?." I know that sophomore year is considered the first hard one, and a lot of people do drop out of the major sometime then, but why would that be the first thing to assume? I've gotten a lot more responses like "for how much longer?" than anything positive. How can anyone feel that they can assume that I can't cut it as a physics major? Does anyone else get questions like this, or do I just come off as a ditz? And why would you even ask this, if you like your major, why don't you want other people to do it also?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2008 #2
    If you have to ask if you're a bit of a ditz, then you're at least a bit of a ditz.

    Don't know about your university, but the level of difficulty in ours between freshman physics for general consumption and the sophomore physics classes targeted for the most part at physics majors is ridiculously large. It will kick your ass if you aren't careful.
  4. Mar 7, 2008 #3
    Here you don't really count as a physics major until you get past 2nd year. First year is a breeze, but second is when it gets hard. After that, 3rd year is actually easier, even though you are taking E&M and QM.

    So I wouldn't say it's you per se that is causing those reactions, it's the curriculum that makes it that way. 1st year makes you think it will be fun, and 2nd year gives you a wake-up call to what it really is like. If you're in 3rd year, then you know that you really like it.
  5. Mar 7, 2008 #4
    Depends on the school and program too, EM and QM we start both those in second year. I definitely found a big jump from 1st to 2nd, and its at fault being naturally pretty smart as you never develop any study skills, and that can kill you when you are unprepared. I agree though it gets easier once you have the new mindset and study/learning skills and third was easier than second and fourth easier than third, in my opinion.
  6. Mar 7, 2008 #5
    Oh no, I wasn't talking about study skills. 2nd year physics is taught by a professor who is HELL. He's a great guy, but a HARD teacher. Lots of material, really fast, and most people aren't used to it.

    So if you pass his classes, the years afterwards are a breeze, since they aren't as fast-paced, but more importantly, you see the same things again. 2nd year is Mathematical Physics, so in 3rd year when you do QM and E&M, you apply most of what you learned to it, so you are reviewing it, instead of learning it the first time, which makes learning the actual physics easier.

    It's definitely not a walk in the park, but by then you've already had a few hard classes, so you are more prepared.
  7. Mar 7, 2008 #6
    lol, Ellis...

    Seriously, not enough undergrad physics programs have *any* attempt at a mathematical physics series to give you the basis you need for the rest of what they want to teach you. But few of the attempts at one are really as "polished" yet as they really could be, so it often ends up being more of a weed-out class than good preparation.
  8. Mar 7, 2008 #7
    Ellis is great, it's the series that still needs tweaking. The consensus among most of the students (and a few of the faculty) I've talked to is that the two-quarter sequence needs to be spread into a three quarter sequence, and probably have a tutorial session tacked on (not counting the 3rd quarter classical mechanics course - which is already underway to be disassociated and relabeled an upper-division class).

    One of the better things about the department is that they seem to be constantly looking to improve the program. I think a few others are that they're changing the text used for the 100-level series, and changing the two quarter QM sequence to a three quarter sequence with an additional intro lead-in course. The people dropping out because of of 227/228 are not really a desired effect...
  9. Mar 8, 2008 #8
    Sorry, I thought my browser wacked out and accidentally made another post. Ignore my second post, please, it's essentially the same thing.

    So... who are you, again? I mean, have we met in real life or did you graduate or what?

    Anyway, the way I heard it, Ellis has been trying to get the class to be 4 credits so there could be a TA section for ages now, but the department doesn't want to hear it. He's also the one who moved the Classical Mechanics class from a 400 level course to a 200 level course. Without adjusting the difficulty... :frown: It sucked being the guinea pig class...

    The department is getting a real overhaul. The year after my class is taking different Modern Physics, different Thermal, different QM, etc. All the material moved around and more stuff added in. Also added in a Particle Physics class, which I think Ellis fought for a lot, him being a particle theorist and all.
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