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Theoretical Physics in Grad school

  1. Aug 3, 2005 #1
    Say an imaginary person named Smith wanted to go to MIT (or some renowned university) for grad school in Theoretical Physics. He finishes college in 5 years earning him a MA/BS ECE degree (electrical and computer engineering) as well as a Physics BA and a minor in Mathematics. He begins to work for Intel designing microprocessors and doing CPU architecture design. Meanwhile, he applies for MIT as a theory student. Smith’s gotten fairly good grades (say... 3.5 GPA), did decently well on the GRE. Do you think that MIT would reject Smith because he only got a BA in physics? As in, will the BA be insufficient so that Smith will be less qualified than someone with a BS in physics? Smith however did get a MA in 5 years in ECE. Any comments?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2005 #2
    :tongue2: :bugeye: a BA in physics, a BS and MA in ECE and a math minor?? wow...

    Anyway, I would say Smith has a decent chance at MIT, depending on how decent he did on the GRE, how much undergraduate research he has done and the quality and quantity of his letters of recommendation. A great application statement doesn't hurt either.

    Also, Smith should look in his college's course catalog to see what exactly the difference is between the BA and BS in physics. If he did go to MIT, he would likely have to take a couple catch up courses to get up to speed, but nothing too bad I am sure. :biggrin:
  4. Aug 3, 2005 #3
    So really, a BA in physics wouldnt hinder Smith's goal to enter a good grad school for Theoretical Physics compared to someone with a BS in physics? (considering that Smith has the MA/BS in ECE)
  5. Aug 3, 2005 #4
    It depends on WHAT the difference is between two degrees, which varies from school to school, what other research you've done, how you did on the GRE, and your letters of recommendation...
  6. Aug 3, 2005 #5
    there is a 4 course difference.
    Missing out on:

    Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
    Quantum Theory
    Advanced Experimental Techniques
    Intro Condensed Matter Physics

    are these important courses that will be useful into getting accepted into theory physics?
  7. Aug 3, 2005 #6


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    What kind of "theory" is Smith looking to do (which might be featured in Smith's essay)? Is it in one of the courses listed above? If Smith wants to do theory, I'd suggest that Smith learn Quantum ASAP.
  8. Aug 3, 2005 #7
    Smith is looking at doing theoretical high energy research
  9. Aug 3, 2005 #8


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    In my opinion, for theoretical HEP, Smith is at a [slight?] disadvantage by not having taken Quantum.

    Smith should start trying to study at least the first of these and be aware of the remaining
    http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/8-04Quantum-Physics-ISpring2003/Syllabus/index.htm [Broken] (note the Download this Course link)
    http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/8-05Quantum-Physics-IIFall2002/Syllabus/index.htm [Broken]
    http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/8-06Quantum-Physics-IIISpring2003/Syllabus/index.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  10. Aug 3, 2005 #9
    admit it, urban...

    SMITH IS YOU! :biggrin:
  11. Aug 4, 2005 #10
    haha :rofl:

    Brad, I am not Smith, however, I might be in Smith's position in the future :yuck:

    I still have not started college yet! :tongue:
  12. Aug 4, 2005 #11

    well, if you are really committed to theoretical physics...then why not just major in physics in college?
  13. Aug 4, 2005 #12
    Well, a lot of people like to have something to fall back o so they go for an EE degree of something before going to grad school in physics...but in Smith's case, he got both a BA in physics and a BA/MA in EE. So, why not just switch the BA to a BS in physics? There might be a little less overlap between a BS in physics and a BS in EE, but not much less....
  14. Aug 4, 2005 #13
    Also, could you post the course desciption of the advanced experimental techniques course?

    the other 3 courses you'd be missing are all pretty damned important for physics graduate school. MAYBE you can teach yourself those topics if you're smart, because you will need to know about them to do well on the GRE, and pass the qualifier.
  15. Aug 4, 2005 #14
    Leright, that's exactly what Smith was thinking before he went to college. However, Smith's college has humanities and social science courses that has to be taken as well. Fitting four more courses might prove to be difficult. There is only one overlap course in either BA or BS physics that can be used for ECE
  16. Aug 4, 2005 #15
    "Students work in pairs and each team is expected to do three or four experiments from a variety of available setups such as Berry's phase with light,Universal chaos, lifetime of cosmic ray muons, optical pumping, electron diffraction's etc. This is a hands-on laboratory with most experiments under computer control."

    Thanks for the advice leright.
  17. Aug 4, 2005 #16
    If you do well on the GRE and show that you know the material even though you didn't take the classes, then you're ok I would think. I'm only an undergraduate right now, so don't rely too heavily on my advice!
  18. Aug 4, 2005 #17


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    Let me guess: University of Rochester. :tongue2:
  19. Aug 5, 2005 #18
    job security, shmob shmemurity. :tongue:
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