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Theoretical Physics University

  1. Jun 9, 2013 #1
    Hello forum , so I've ventured to start searching for universities I plan on applying to...
    (Im still in highschool ) and I would like to know what some of the best universities for Theoretical Physics are? How should one plan things out when choosing a University? Apart from Ranking and (ofc Cost) What other KEY factors should one look at? Help !
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  3. Jun 9, 2013 #2
    I know nothing about theoretical physics besides its Wikipedia description. I'm still at a very basic math level (Calc. III, DE, LA etc..) relative to what you aspire to accomplish, but my first guess is that you would have to be extremely math/physics and perhaps chemistry prone or at least highly fascinated in all three. On top of that the breadth of the subject seems so vast that you might need to specialize in a certain subject-area in order to tailor your skills to the needs of employers and adapt in a volatile real-world environment.

    For starters, I'm assuming you are not familiar with graduate-level math and physics topics yet (although you never know, some brilliant HS students are!). Why not surf the web for topics that interest you and look at a lot of the fascinating problems/threads that other users on this forum have posted?
  4. Jun 9, 2013 #3
    As long as the university has a physics major it shouldn't really matter...you wouldn't actually be specializing in a specific area of physics until graduate school.
  5. Jun 9, 2013 #4


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    Any reasonably sized physics department will have theoretical physicists. So, the "best places to do theoretical physics" are generally going to be the same as the "best places to do experimental physics".

    Some places may have institutes devoted to theoretical physics, such as the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara (as well as some more specifically-themed Kavli institutes at some other universities) or the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

    However, you really don't have to worry about theoretical physics institutes at the undergraduate level (even at the graduate level you're not really conferred any large advantage by being somewhere close to one of these institutes). Whatever school you end up at you may have the opportunity to do theoretical research (or computational research, which more likely when getting started at the undergraduate level).
  6. Jun 9, 2013 #5


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    DrPhoton, have you seen this thread? It is about the mathematical prerequisites for String Theory, a pretty recent theory as you know but one that seems now to be utterly dead, but it gives a good picture of the vast amount of math that such theories can need. I think the lesson is, no one theory is more important than another, they come and go and theoretical physicists are, I guess, there to find better alternatives when they can to the current knowledge, or to develop the implications of the current theories so as to expire them :).

    Here are two interesting links: Big Bang cosmology, Alternative theories.

    I apologize in advance in respect of the policy here of not proposing/discussing alternate theories without scientific consensus. In mitigation, I have only given pointers without favouring any such theory, and only to nurture the curiosity of the young.
  7. Jun 9, 2013 #6


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    What country are you in? In the US, your degree would just be in physics. We don't offer undergraduate (or even graduate) degrees that say 'theoretical physics'. At the undergrad level, you'd be studying all areas of physics. Theory is a way of approaching physics, it's not a field of physics. As for the school, your local state university is usually your best choice for many reasons.
  8. Jun 10, 2013 #7
    I think it's NOT a good idea to get into theoretical physics without really experiencing it. Learn the math (derrivatives, integrals, vector calc, differential equations) and then grab a book and see if you like it. In fact, if you have no calculus background whatsoever and still want to do some calculus material pick up
    "Classical Mechanics" by Taylor (it's a red book with a pun cover) and if you are willing to workout every problem, you would probably learn what you need along the way. These things are not difficult, but they are time consuming. Very time consuming. Good luck.
  9. Jun 14, 2013 #8
    Thank you all for the responses ! It may not have shown me a clear path but at least it's a step in the right direction :)
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