Taking statistics courses as a physics major

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi,
I am currently a second year physics major. I have recently thought about taking statistics/probability courses as electives for the upcoming semester. However, I don't know what types of statistics/probability classes will help me in my physics education. I am not particularly interested in statistics but I will take it if it considerably makes a difference and helps me in my undergraduate physics courses. The university I go to does not recommend any statistics courses. Do I have to free some room for statistics and probability courses, even if it means limiting the number of extra physics courses I can take?

Please help, I look forward to your comments.

Cheers.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Vanadium 50
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Do I have to free some room for statistics and probability courses, even if it means limiting the number of extra physics courses I can take?
Impossible to tell without knowing your university. And when you asked your academic advisor, what did he or she say?
 
  • #3
Hi,
I'm studying at the University of Toronto. We are currently in an exam season and the advisors respond a little late. I haven't heard from them yet.
 
  • #5
WWGD
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From a purely practical perspective, if you know programming and entry-level database, you can get an entry-level job as data analyst. If you tack some knowledge of Statistics, you may start slightly higher than that. I don't know if you were looking from this perspective too.
 
  • #6
gleem
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Statistics is applied probability so one should take probability first or maybe a combined course if available. I found probability useful but statistics less so in physics. That said physicists often find themselves as data analysts where a good knowledge of statistics is necessary.
 
  • #7
StatGuy2000
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@AryaKimiaghalam , as someone who graduated from the University of Toronto, I can attest to the fact that the physics department does not recommend any specific statistics courses, in contrast to those who major in the various biology programs, who are required to take specific statistics courses geared to the biological sciences (these would be STA 220 or STA 221).

I am aware that some aspects of data analysis are covered among your physics labs courses, so I would recommend that you at least start off the following courses:

STA 130H - An Introduction to Statistical Reasoning and Data Science

followed by these courses:

Either (1) STA 237H & 238H - Probability, Statistics, and Data Science I & II

or

(2) STA 257H & 261H - Probability and Statistics I & II

You can see a list of course descriptions in the following link below:

https://fas.calendar.utoronto.ca/section/Statistical-Sciences#courses
 
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  • #8
DEvens
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The courses you take depend on the emphasis you will have in 3rd year, and especially 4th year. Some sorts of physics will benefit very much from statistics. Some will be indifferent to it, and you would be better served taking something else.

Take a look at the course calendar for your 3rd and 4th year classes. Start out with too many courses on your list and start to cut it back until you have something manageable. Look for things like a 4th year class that has a pre-requisite listed and be sure you have both of them lined up.

Read those course descriptions. See if the classes you find most interesting will benefit from stats.

But it's not automatic. For example, statistical mechanics does stats, but it's not the kind of statistics you will find in a math department statistics course. Quantum mechanics courses in general will *look* like they do stats, but again, not the kind of stats you get in the math department stats courses.

Look at the stats course descriptions as well. See what applications they suggest go with the stats they will teach. Are you planning to do anything similar to those applications?

I'm going to think that most of the classes in 3rd and 4th year undergrad physics will not need much more than how to do a generalized linear regression. If you can do that, you probably won't much need stats inside the physics department. You might scout around to see if somebody does Monte Carlo methods, which can be very useful in quantum, high energy, and nuclear.
 

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