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Switching from medicine to physics

  1. Oct 19, 2006 #1
    Hi guys, I have been excepted into a Jamp program here in Texas which is an early exceptance program to medical school. I have been pursuing a bachelors degree for the past 2 1/2 years in biolgy so I could go to medical school. I like biology and medical science but not as much as theoratical physics. It has taken me the past couple of years to mature and realize that physics is what I truely want to study. So what I plan on doing is droping out of the Jamp program and pursuing an education in physics. I should have pursued physics from the begining but my parents had persuaded me to pursue medicine. My qeustion is what should I do, should I finish my BS in biology and then pursue a grad program in physics or should I stop taking classed for the BS in biology and start working towards a physics degree. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    fournier
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2006 #2

    ZapperZ

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    Why do you think you can just enroll in a "grad program in physics" with a biology degree?

    Zz.
     
  4. Oct 19, 2006 #3
    well, I would advise you to stop with the biology and work toward a physics BS and THEN look into going for a physics Ph.D. You say you're only in your 2 1/2 year so you won't be that behind....how much math and physics have you had? You say you are interested in physics, so interested that you decided on making a drastic career change, so I'd hope you have significant physics and math background already. Keep in mind, real physics is nothing like "pop physics" books, and most physicists don't work as "theoretical physicists", but work as experimental physicists.

    IT may take you a year or two longer to get the BS in physics, but without the BS in physics you'd have a harder time getting into a grad program, and you'd end up taking remedial physics classes before taking grad classes anyways. You'll end up spending the same amount of time either way.

    Go for the physics BS then go to grad school.
     
  5. Oct 19, 2006 #4
    It would be hard to get accepted into a grad program in theoretical physics with an undergrad in bio... is there a chance you can still switch... or better yet... double-major?... Also convincing a physics prof at your undergrad to mentor some research project would help your application... if this is what you want to do. Generally physics programs require you to take some type of extrance exam (either the subject GRE, or their own prelims) and without the requisite coursework... it wouldn't be easy. And, although I'm not a theorist, I'd imagine if you wanted to pursue theory you'd need to take more math than your bio degree has you taking (even strong physics candidates for grad school in experimental work take more math than the phys undergrad degree requires.. which is more than bio.). Go talk to a physics prof at your school...maybe one you had for class... he/she should be able to really help more about what you'll need to do to switch at this point.
     
  6. Oct 19, 2006 #5

    jtbell

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    You're in the middle of your junior year now, right? You've probably already had "freshman physics" as part of your pre-med program, so as of the beginning of next semester you'll be a year and a half behind a normal physics major. I think you should figure on taking another 2.5 years to finish a physics degree starting from where you are now. Maybe 2 years (finishing after 4.5 years total) if you're a fast learner and you can take enough upper-level physics and math courses by then; but 2.5 (total 5 years) is probably a safer goal.

    Unless you really hate biology by now, with 5 years you might be able to finish a double major in biology and physics. Biophysics is an interesting field, I hear. At least you'd have more options and wouldn't be throwing away the biology that you've done so far.
     
  7. Oct 19, 2006 #6

    ZapperZ

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    The only possible problem here is that in many schools, "pre-med physics" is physics with no calculus. Such a class carries no credit towards a physics degree requirement.

    Zz.
     
  8. Oct 19, 2006 #7

    jtbell

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    Good point. In fact, that's true where I teach, right now, although there is apparently some discussion about changing the pre-med physics requirement to our calculus-based course, and adding enough calculus to match.
     
  9. Oct 19, 2006 #8
    I kind of did the same thing as you. Well, kind of.

    I had my mind set on "computers" in college. One day, I picked up one of my dad's Scientific American's, read an article that had to do with I think string theory or something and said to myself "Hey, this stuff's kind of cool. I think I'll do it for a living." (Verbatim) However, real physics is different. Luckily for me, I ended up loving real physics even more than pop physics. But it may not be the case for you. Take a harder physics class before changing your major. Like over the summer or something if you can. Or I guess winter if you're really in a hurry.

    I'm kind of scared, because my first year physics and now thermal physics are both without calculus (and yes count towards my degree 100%). I mean, I know it, but I've never actually had to use it.
     
  10. Oct 19, 2006 #9
    I am a physics major and have never had an algebra based physics course...ever. However, I didn't take any physics classes until my sophomore year. Some schools don't stick you in physics classes at all until you have sufficient math background to properly understand calc based physics. Other schools stick you in algebra based physics courses when you haven't had enough math just to give you SOME exposure to physics. And other schools stick you in calc based physics classes while you're taking calculus your first year. I don't think any one of the curricula are any worse than the others...just different ways of approaching things.

    In my thermal physics class there is TONS ot calculus...especially partial differentiation. That is the language of thermal physics. It's ok they have you in a non-calc based thermo course for now, so long as they get you in a calc based thermo course later on. It can't hurt to get an introductory course on the subject before you get to the meatier stuff.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2006
  11. Oct 19, 2006 #10

    jtbell

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    That's the way we used to do it. We had a single non-calculus General Physics course that almost everybody who needed physics took: prospective physics majors, chem majors, pre-meds, plain old biology majors. The only exception was the education majors, who take our one-semester Descriptive Physics course.

    For the physics majors, we tried to make up for the lack of calculus in that course by making the sophomore mechanics and modern physics courses their introduction to "calculus physics". That was awkward because most books for those courses were at a bit too high a level mathematically, for students who had just learned calculus, and it was hard to do the mechanics course in a way that wasn't basically a rehash of General Physics, with some calculus added.

    So we finally put in a new Physics with Calculus sequence that the majors start with. If they don't have enough math when they arrive, so they can't start right out with calculus, they just wait a year to start physics and take chemistry their first year instead. This is new, so I hope we don't end up losing a bunch of prospective majors to chemistry... :tongue:
     
  12. Oct 19, 2006 #11
    I think, if you have the option, to just skip over the algebra based physics altogether and learn it for the first time the right way, which is with calculus. This might mean you start taking physics classes a little later, but who cares? Use the extra credits you 'save' to take other, more interesting and useful physics classes later on.
     
  13. Oct 20, 2006 #12
    I took my first 2 physics while taking calculus.They were calc based, but very little calculus was used, the algebra was the the hardest. But it made learning calculus meaningful. It depends on the teachers though, and what they want to emphasize. I already had 3 years at college before switching to physics, and only the core classes counted, so it added 3 years to my grad. date. I don't know what made me crazy enough to switch, but I'm glad I did!
     
  14. Oct 20, 2006 #13
    It really comes down to where you think you'll be happiest. If it turns out you don't like a real physics curriculuum, then you've only lost a semester on your old major and can switch back pretty painlessly.
     
  15. Oct 20, 2006 #14
    The 1st year courses are titled "Calculus Based Physics"

    It's all a scam. But like I said, I don't mind. I know calculus, and I know the physics. Mixing them will be a challenge, but I don't think I need to take a whole new course just to learn that.
     
  16. Oct 20, 2006 #15
    Wow, thank you all for the responses. I have taken university physics 1 and 2, i have also taken calculas 1 and 2, and a course in biophysics. So no i geuss I dont have an extensive background in physics and math just yet. I talked to a physics advisor and she said that I could change my major to physics with a biophysics concentration so i could apply some of my bio courses to the physics degree. Im still trying to figure out how long it will take me to finish, hopefully not longer then 2 years. Do you guys think I would be competive for a theoratical physics graduate program if I were to puruse the biophysics degree?
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2006
  17. Oct 21, 2006 #16
    It would probably take you 3 years to get the degree.

    There are 2 years of physics to get your major, the 100 level series (probably physics 1 and 2), but everybody has told me that you need to take graduate courses before you can really get into grad school. Weird, but that's how it works. So count on 3 years, I'd say.
     
  18. Oct 21, 2006 #17
    I'd imagine theirs all sorts of undergrad research oppurtunities for biophysics as well, so that could make up for not taking grad courses.
     
  19. Oct 21, 2006 #18

    eep

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    I wouldn't agree that you need to take grad courses to get into grad school. In fact, many of the professors on the admissions board think that graduate courses are for graduate students and undergrads have no place in them.
     
  20. Oct 21, 2006 #19
    If you say so. My advisor told me that I'd want to take those courses to help with grad school.
     
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