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Sufficient Courses for Physics Grad School

  1. Jun 21, 2013 #1
    Hi, I am going to list the various courses I plan on taking as part of my physics major (though not all the courses are contained in the physics major). I would simply like to know if the following will sufficiently prepare me for graduate school in theoretical physics (focusing on high-energy physics, or general relativity). I just want to ensure that the option for graduate school in physics is still readily available to me after undergrad.
    The physics courses include:(I will not be listing the mathematics courses)

    1st year: Foundations of Physics (Newtonian Mechanics, Electricity/magnetism)

    2nd year:Practical Physics, Mechanics: from oscillations to chaos, Electricity and Magnetism, Intro to quantum physics

    3rd year: Electromagnetic Theory, Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics I

    4th year: Quantum Mechanics II, Relativistic Electrodynamics, and if able General Relativity
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2013 #2
    It would be helpful for you to list the math courses too.

    That is really the bare minimum of a physics degree so in that sense, it is sufficient.
  4. Jun 21, 2013 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    One thing to keep in mind is that with the bare minimum of coursework, the bare minimum of grades, the bare minimum of test scores, etc. it becomes very unlikely one will get in.
  5. Jun 21, 2013 #4
    Its not that I don't want to take more physics courses because I do. But I'm considering completing a double major in physics and actuarial sciences (mainly to heighten employment prospects, along with some interest). So it would be difficult to take more physics courses. I apologize for not mentioning that earlier.
  6. Jun 21, 2013 #5


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    You should also take thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, either as separate courses or combined into a single course. This is one of the "big four" core areas that grad schools look for, along with classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics.
  7. Jun 21, 2013 #6
    The math courses I plan on completing include:

    1st year: Analysis I (proof-based calculus), Algebra I & II (theoretical linear algebra)
    2nd year: Analysis II, Advanced Ordinary Differential Equations, Probability and Statistics
    3rd year: Partial Differential Equations, Intro to differential geometry, Probability
    4th year: Complex analysis, real analysis (if room permits)
  8. Jun 21, 2013 #7
    This seems unrealistic. I'm by no means informed of your mathematical preparation, or your schools requirements, but as a freshman; Analysis is not advisable. At my university, we usually take 3 semesters of calc, and a semester of ODE's and Linear Algebra. Then we move on to analysis and such. In addition, your third year courses (PDE's and Diff Geo.) are more advanced than your fourth year courses.

    Even if this is just a general outline and you plan on completing the foundation courses as well, you need to seriously re-evaluate the order of courses that you'd be taking.
  9. Jun 21, 2013 #8
    His first year of math seems like a great selection of courses - proof based calculus and algebra. Certainly doable.
  10. Jun 21, 2013 #9
    Well, the Analysis I course uses the Spivaks Calculus Textbook. And analysis II uses Spivak on Manifolds. And the only reason I postpone complex and real analysis until 4th year is primarily due to time/space availability. I'm not entirely sure if I'll be taking such courses. On the other-hand, differential geometry is an area of mathematics that deeply interests me.
  11. Jun 21, 2013 #10


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    Physics majors usually take
    quantum mechanics
    more of the above and other physics and related courses
    and remedial physics mathematics (is they are quite unfortunate).
    So it looks like you will have the minimum but it is hard to say if that is sufficient. In the US at least it is usual to take 5-7 year equivalents in physics. Many students take more or less depending on the school and there other interests. If one is on the light side it might or might not cause problems later.

    You have to take fake calculus three times before you get to the real thing? That is unfortunate. It is hard to say if the listed third year courses are more advanced or not from the names, but as already mentioned there are good reasons why courses are taken is different order. I don't know what this foundation course is, but it sounds bad. Is that like set theory and logic or a pretend set theory and logic that is really about induction and the contrapositive?

    In summary the proposed plan is reasonable though the split emphasis limits some opportunities. I would advise being flexible as this plan might need modification later.
  12. Jun 21, 2013 #11
    What you have listed here is very nearly University of Toronto's physics specialist program.

    Judging by that, I imagine you would be ready for grad school.

    Note: I am not a grad student but am part of UofTs undergraduate physics class.
  13. Jun 21, 2013 #12


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    I actually really like your selection of math courses as far as supplement to physics goes. I hope everything goes as planned!
  14. Jun 21, 2013 #13
    I will actually be starting my undergraduate studies at UofT this upcoming fall. Although, I personally consider the specialist program to be fairly exclusive, and limited in its outreach.
  15. Jun 22, 2013 #14
    I second the thermo and statistical mechanics bit.

    When I was an undergrad we had a 2nd year course that had some thermo, stat, and quantum as an intro, and then an upper level course later that was all statistical mechanics. The core 4 courses that my graduate school expected us to know (and tested us on) was mechanics, E&M, quantum, and statistical mechanics.
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