• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Theoretical Physics vs Maths/Physics Undergrad Degree

  • Programs
  • Thread starter tarnhelm
  • Start date
  • #1
17
0

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm studying for a Theoretical Physics degree in the UK, and I have to decide this year if I should stick with that or switch over to a Joint Degree in Maths/Physics. So far, in Maths, I've done calculus up to multivariable and vector calculus, linear algebra, intro do real analysis, intro to pure maths (number theory, groups etc). If I stick with Theoretical Physics, the Maths content of the remainder of my degree will be two Mathematical Methods courses, covering PDEs, ODEs, a small amount of Complex Analysis etc; and a Numerical Methods course.

I really don't think this is enough! There's not much flexibility but I may be able to convince them to let take some courses in the Maths department: a more advanced Analysis course, Intro to Complex Analysis, Dynamical Systems, and either Abstract Algebra or Intro to Topology and Metric Spaces.

The other option is to do a joint degree, in which case I can add more Maths courses still like Differential Geometry, more differential equations courses, and more advanced Analysis, but I'll have to drop a second advanced QM course, General Relativity and a physics course called Groups and Symmetries.

So my questions are:
Given that I'm interested in going into Theoretical Physics as a Phd, which is the better option (especially if they tell me I can't study all the maths courses outlined in the second paragraph)? E.g. would it be better to do Topology and Differential Geometry in Maths, than to do undergraduate GR which would probably have less advanced Maths than the Differential Geometry course? Basically, should I focus on getting good at advanced Maths now, or at doing more advanced courses from a Physics perspective?
And if I do study the Maths courses in the second paragraph, would it be better to do Abstract Algebra or Intro to Topology and Metric Spaces?

Thanks for any advice!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
1,199
25
Sounds like enough mathematics to me, unless you *really* want to become a mathematician! If not, any more mathematics you might need for you theoretical physics PhD you can learn when you're doing your PhD.

I did a joint degree in Maths/Physics, and it was a big mistake. The maths had little relation to the physics and vice versa, so the course felt very disjointed - as you have recognised (!) you might end up doing differential geometry, and then GR at a lower level. So you end up confused & frustrated, missing an Advanced QM course, and not so well prepared for the next stage in your theoretical physics career...
 
Last edited:
  • #3
323
0
I'm studying for a Theoretical Physics degree in the UK, and I have to decide this year if I should stick with that or switch over to a Joint Degree in Maths/Physics. So far, in Maths, I've done calculus up to multivariable and vector calculus, linear algebra, intro do real analysis, intro to pure maths (number theory, groups etc). If I stick with Theoretical Physics, the Maths content of the remainder of my degree will be two Mathematical Methods courses, covering PDEs, ODEs, a small amount of Complex Analysis etc; and a Numerical Methods course.

I really don't think this is enough! There's not much flexibility but I may be able to convince them to let take some courses in the Maths department: a more advanced Analysis course, Intro to Complex Analysis, Dynamical Systems, and either Abstract Algebra or Intro to Topology and Metric Spaces.

The other option is to do a joint degree, in which case I can add more Maths courses still like Differential Geometry, more differential equations courses, and more advanced Analysis, but I'll have to drop a second advanced QM course, General Relativity and a physics course called Groups and Symmetries.

So my questions are:
Given that I'm interested in going into Theoretical Physics as a Phd, which is the better option (especially if they tell me I can't study all the maths courses outlined in the second paragraph)? E.g. would it be better to do Topology and Differential Geometry in Maths, than to do undergraduate GR which would probably have less advanced Maths than the Differential Geometry course? Basically, should I focus on getting good at advanced Maths now, or at doing more advanced courses from a Physics perspective?
And if I do study the Maths courses in the second paragraph, would it be better to do Abstract Algebra or Intro to Topology and Metric Spaces?

Thanks for any advice!
I would stick with just Theoretical Physics. I don't think they would have designed that degree where it wouldn't prepare you for future studies in theoretical physics.

If I had that option at my school, I would probably do it, but instead I am going with a double major in physics and math. The thing you really have to remember is, physics courses are the most important for your career in physics. A lot of times, they end up teaching you the math you really need to know in the physics courses you are in. I would never substitute a math course applicable to physics over a core physics course such as QM.
 
  • #4
a naive suggestion for you,you can learn those courses alone.actually to learn mathematics is to discuss with yourself and it's better if you are alone.academy cannot teach mathematics,i think.
 

Related Threads for: Theoretical Physics vs Maths/Physics Undergrad Degree

Replies
1
Views
668
Replies
0
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
9K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
851
Top