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Thinking of the future

  1. Jul 19, 2010 #1
    Hello, I am a Canadian student, currently studying Mathematical Physics at the University of Waterloo. I finished my first year and I can safely say that I enjoyed my program. I performed relatively well on my Math courses, getting 80s however, my physics marks were sub-par, scraping 76 in Physics 121 (physics I) and a 68 in phys 122 (physics II). While I am not the one for excuses, I can say that taking a CS-major computer science course as an elective without any such background in comp sci was time consuming and took away from focusing on physics. Yet, I feel I do exceptional when I focus on physics (and I love it); for example, I brought my mark up from a 56 to a 76 in physics 1, after the exam.

    Basically, my problem has always been that I am scared of bad marks because I know that the competition is extreme in academia, especially in a field like physics where barely 20 students graduate in 4th year when 150 were accepted in the first year. So I was on the verge of changing my major to biology but I realized that it was too boring for me and I essentially had ZERO motivation to study. So, I looked myself in the mirror and said "Buddy, just work your @ss off in mathematical physics." And while it is easy to say that, I still am quite nervous but at the same time very excited and looking forward to my 2nd year courses when I take Calc 3, Lin Alge 2, Differential Eq, Quantum Physics and E&M.

    Also, I took a Modern ALgebra class as an elective and really enjoyed it and thought I'd try a few pure math courses (and I know its brutal). But I also have developed an interest in engineering because it obviously related to physics. So I decided I am going to attend an electrical engineering class just to learn the course material.
    After this rant, I was just wondering if it is possible to pursue engineering in graduate school (perhaps masters) and then go back to physics, and also somehow fit in math in there. I know I'm thinking ahead but perhaps some wisemen can help me out here.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2010 #2
    It depends what you mean. A physicist can certainly go into engineering positions and would fit well. By 'go back to physics' you presumably mean in some sort of academic capacity? That would all depend on what type of engineering you did. It would be unusual for someone to plan to leave a field then come back to it in any case. And if you're working in engineering or physics you'll be using math anyway.

    Lastly, that's a tough schedule for your second year (well, 'important' is a better word) - presumably QM and EM are in the latter parts of the year. Make sure you nail those 3 math courses - they'll become extremely important for your physics and will make a huge difference for EM especially. When I was at university, I found that the complexity of the mathematics in a math course was always a touch above the complexity that was required in physics (which makes sense, since in physics you need to deal with the concepts as well). This means that if you understand your differential equations course inside out, you'll have much more room to work on pure understanding in the physics applications.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
  4. Jul 20, 2010 #3
    Thanks for the input. I'm planning to attend a few electrical engineering classes because I think out of all the other engineering subjects it would be the most interesting (mechanical engineering = fluids, forces, motion correct me if I'm wrong. chemeng = NO GOD NO CHEM). And I was thinking if I can pursue something in either EE or Engineering physics in the future, I would be able to use both the theory learned in physics as well as the applications learned in engineering. Also, UW is affiliated with Institute of Quantum Computing; from what I understand, Quantum computing and information processing is both interesting and marketable. It bothers me that there's so much out there but my lack of electives won't let me take half of the courses which I want to take =( . To be honest, I am more scared of the physics courses then the math courses, since they are just a build up calculus, which I think is algorithmic once you do a few practice problems. Of course, correct me if I'm wrong.
    Nonetheless, thank you :D
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