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Courses Thinking of Ph.D need advice on my desired courses

  1. Apr 30, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone, I'm Eric and I'm looking at Ph.D programs. Looking at MITs page (my dream school) I jotted down the classes I'd want. My questions are:

    1.Is my list thorough enough?too thorough?
    2.How many years will they take?
    3.Dissertation ideas?

    The classes:

    Quantum Theory I+II
    Quantum Field Theory I-III
    Atomic and Optical I+II
    Solids I+II
    Plasma I+II
    High Energy Plasma I+II
    Asrophysics I+II
    Plasma Astrophysics I+II
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Doesn't it make sense to wait until you are accepted to pick your classes?
  4. Apr 30, 2012 #3


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    Also, this is something that you should be discussing with your Academic Advisor, not with strangers on an internet forum!

    But I agree with Vanadium. In terms of putting the cart waaay before the horse, this is definitely one such example.

  5. May 1, 2012 #4
    I lol'd when I saw no Mechanics or Electromagnetism classes.

    Nor any equivalent mathematics classes.
  6. May 1, 2012 #5
    The 1st pair is Mechanics. W/O Electro classes, what kind of dissertation is still doable?
  7. May 1, 2012 #6
    Which first pair? Quantum Theory is certainly not classical mechanics. Also, why are you trying to avoid electrodynamics? Most dissertations will be doable without E&M, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to steer clear of it in your studies. Nearly all PhD programs have qualifying exams that you must pass before beginning your dissertation. One is these exams is typically E&M.

    I'm not sure how old you are, but you seem to have some misconceptions about how the process of obtaining a PhD in physics works. As others have mentioned, you seem to be putting the cart way before the horse. Worry about what you're studying in school now, whatever that may be, and in a few years (or however long), when you're ready to get a PhD, choosing classes will be easy. Best of luck!
  8. May 1, 2012 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    The first pair is not Mechanics. It's Quantum.

    If you don't understand the distinction, it's way, way, way too early to be picking classes.
  9. May 2, 2012 #8
    What you have chosen there may be a perfectly acceptable course sequence assuming you already have a masters degree and took qualifying examinations in mechanics, math, electromagnetic field theory, and statistical mechanics.

    a few things:

    * I don't have actual numbers, but I would imagine MIT receives about 500 applications each year for their PhD physics program. I would also imagine that they admit somewhere around 10. So unless you failed to include that you are already in their program, I wouldn't even bother looking much at their course sequences.

    * almost every single accredited PhD awarding university in the US requires that you pass qualifying exams demonstrating a certain level of mastery (usually equal to a two semester graduate level sequence) of the basic areas of physics: mechanics/dynamics, thermo/statistical mechanics, E&M, and quantum mechanics ... sometimes mathematical methods and general relativity are required quals as well, but not always. So if you were at all trying to avoid areas of weakness you might have, you can come to the realization that it isn't possible at nearly all US universities.

    I am pretty sure a school like MIT requires you to pass all of these within the first year of study if not before you even arrive and begin to take classes, so keep that in mind too with the selection of your remaining undergraduate courses ... aka if you want to be prepared for grad school, you can't just take undergrad courses, you should take the first year of graduate courses in all of the main areas too.

    * you will probably start down the dissertation path sometime near the end of your first or second year (assuming you're doing theory rather than applied physics), it depends on the school when this actually happens. After you've passed all the qualifying exams, have taken a few semesters of graduate level theory courses, and have read some papers, you'll be ready to start talking to advisers about their research. They will probably give you an extensive list of things to read in addition to your formal coursework. By the end of your third year you probably won't be taking formal courses anymore. You will be guided mainly by your thesis adviser, who will tell you what to read, or at least steer you in the right direction. You'll spend the next year or three working on directed readings, and working out problems that will eventually become your thesis. Right now, I doubt you could even understand anything you'll potentially be working on for a dissertation, so giving you ideas now is pointless, not to mention that anything people might suggest here could be solved by the time you get around to working on it.

    * it's good that you're looking at future prospects. Most programs I've seen usually have requirements of 60-78 credits for the PhD. Typically, a minimum of 12 must be your dissertation, and often 6-9 must be taken in departments outside of physics ... so you'll probably pick a few graduate level math or statistics classes, possibly chemistry, maybe electrical engineering or computer science, who knows. Assuming all those required credits, that might mean you need 40-60 credits in formal physics courses for the PhD. You'll probably be ok with a schedule similar to what you looked at from MIT's courses since all that stuff you listed would probably be around 50 credits.

    It's good to look ahead at what you'll eventually be doing, it gives you something to look forward to and inspire you to keep going so you can achieve short and long term goals, but most likely, you will not be at MIT, so in depth planning is a waste of your time.
  10. May 3, 2012 #9
    Thanks SO much Patrick! I read their site, adn the do a diagnostic test upon admission, and two more throughtout the journey.
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