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Studying Steps to take to pursue a Ph.D in Physics with a Math degree

  1. Aug 3, 2016 #1
    Hi all,

    I graduated with a degree in math about a year and a half ago. I've recently become very interested in the idea of Physics. I've always loved physics, but for some reason, probably because I never really did the kind of self-introspection I try to practice now, I majored in Math and Computer Science.

    I would like to try and work towards a Ph.D in Physics. I've ordered an introductory Physics textbook and plan on working through that to reacquaint myself with Physics (took AP Physics in high school, got an A and loved it, and that's the main Physics knowledge I have. I'm certain this text will get me farther in my knowledge than even that class did.)

    After working through that text book, what are your recommendations? Would I need to enroll in a full time university and take a year or two of Physics as a dedicated student? Could I do it part-time? I live in Chicago, so schools are abundant, both full universities and community colleges. Would I even need to take university courses (i.e. could I do it self-study?) I've always been a smart guy, so I have no doubts I could do the self study way if that's feasible, but it may not look good to a program.

    Basically, how would someone with only an AP Physics course, but who's always read physics texts for fun and been interested in it, go about getting the knowledge and experience to pursue a Ph.D in physics?

    Thank you for any answers, I'm excited to see where this new path may take me through the years!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I would checkout the syllabus for an undergrad physics major at a good four year school and see what physics courses they needed to take for their degree and then map it to what you know and go from there. You could contact the department and ask about what books are suggested although others here will give you a good list of undergrad and graduate books to digest.

    Years ago when I got my BS in Physics, I took the following courses
    - introductory physics (2 sem)
    - modern physics (intro to QM and SR)
    - classical mechanics (book by Marion lthough others used Goldstein)
    - E&M Theory
    - quantum mechanics (book by Schiff)
    - stat mechanics
    - physical optics
    - general relativity as an independent study (I know nothing...)

    For math, I covered:
    - Calc I,II,III
    - Linear Algebra
    - Ordinary Diff Eqns
    - Tensor Analysis (as an independent study)
    - Boundary Value problems
    - Advanced Calculus (Complex plane and Vector Calc like Stokes law, Divergence and Curl ...)

    The big courses though are the Classical Mech, Quantum Mech and E & M and possibly Stat Mech that would position you well as a beginning grad student assuming your math is up to par.

    As you can see you'll need to go to a four year school to find / audit or take these courses if you haven't already or if you cant find them online.
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