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Study plan to prepare for graduate school

  1. Dec 6, 2008 #1
    Soon I will be applying to graduate schools. In general, my interests lie in the domain of cosmology/astrophysics--don't know if theoretical or experimental, but I probably don't have the mathematical background for theoretical yet. However, most physics graduate programs do not start until Fall 2009, so I will have a lot of free time until then. I wanted to use this free time to self-study a variety of subjects for the sake of learning and to prepare myself for what lies ahead. My tentative plan is to study a variety of mathematical subjects that I likely will come across in a typical graduate program, because math is the most difficult part in understanding the physics. I would appreciate any feedback on subjects/topics to learn that would help me with these goals. Also feel free to suggest any textbooks that you have used and found to be great learning tools.

    What follows is the tail-end of my current knowledge from recent classes. Based on the content in these courses, I was wondering if it made more sense to continue working through these textbooks, or instead, start working through some graduate texts, like Sakurai (QM) and Jackson (EM) for example.

    * completed classical mechanics (Taylor) up through Ch. 8, which includes the Lagrangian formalism and central forces.
    * completed E&M (Griffiths) up through Ch. 6.
    * completed QM (Griffiths) up through Ch 4, the hydrogen atom and spin.
    * completed an undergraduate math physics course.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2008 #2
    Hello....is there anybody out there?? =)

    Let me try to accomplish my objective in a different manner. For those individuals who completed the courses associated with a typical graduate core curriculum, what are some things that you would have done differently? What mathematical ideas did you find especially difficult for a particular course, and how did you overcome this challenge?
  4. Dec 10, 2008 #3


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    have you read zapper's nthread precisely on how to become a physicist?

    " I have observed that in many schools, a mathematical physics course tends to be offered late in undergraduate program, or even as a graduate course. This, of course, does no good for someone wanting to learn the mathematics before one needs it. If this is the case, I would strongly suggest that you purchase this text: "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Science" by Mary Boas (Wiley). If you are a regular to our IRC channel, you would have seen me recommending (threatening?) this text to several people. This book is meant for someone to start using at the end of the 2nd year, and can be used as a self-study. It doesn't require the mathematical sophistication that other similar books require, such as Arfken. Furthermore, the Students Solution Manual that suppliments the text is a valuable book to have since it shows the details of solving a few of the problems. I would recommend getting both books without the slightest hesitation."
  5. Dec 10, 2008 #4
    Thanks Mathwonk. I have heard of the mathematics for physicists books by Arfken and Boas, and was planning on buying one of them as a reference for a broad range of concepts. I saw ZapperZ's article but have yet to read it.

    What's your opinion on the depth offered by these texts? Do they offer just the basics when it comes to the key ideas (e.g. vector calculus, differential equations) that physicists would use? Let's assume I get in into graduate school and take an E&M course using J.D Jackson's textbook, Classical Dynamics. It seems likely that I must be proficient with partial differential equation boundary value problems; ones that rely on different coordinate systems and complete sets of functions (e.g. Legendre, Bessel). So, do you think Boas would make one proficient as such problems, or would I be wiser to buy a book devoted only to PDEs like "Boundary Value Problem and Partial Differential Equations" by David Powers:

    EDIT: In a quantum mechanics course, when would expect to start learning about group theory?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
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