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Tips for switching into physics with mediocre math scores

  1. Jul 13, 2015 #1
    Hello all!

    I've been on and off this forum for a little bit now.

    Background: Graduated from top 50 (US News, as if that means anything) school with a degree in applied chemistry with a 3.2 gpa. I had two papers published in organic chemistry, one poster in analytical and did research abroad in inorganic as well. However, because I wasn't in chemistry originally, I took short calculus and didn't spend a lot of time studying my math and thus got mostly Cs and a B. Not to mention that math has always been a bit of a weak point for me (I'm working on it!).

    I took general physics, which was more theoretical and less math based (dubious at best, right?) and I aced those classes. Also, I did mostly well in engineering physical chemistry (esp. group theory and QM). It was mostly because of these courses that I began to understand a lot of the math I had completely brushed off earlier, and at that time, I was already a third year and thus it was somewhat unreasonable for me to go back and retake math (Plus, my school generally didn't allow unless you got a C- or below).

    I've since become interested in astrochemistry, but with so few schools offering graduate degrees in that, I'm not sure how to go about this--should I try to get a physics masters before an astrophysics PhD? Should I retake engineering/sciences calculus at a community college to "prove" myself? And if so, what grades should I really be looking for--I.e., if I don't get an A in calculus, I ought to switch my career path.

    What I'm looking for: What sorts of grades did you get before getting into a graduate program? How can I prove to myself and schools that I'm able to hold stand up to the rigors of a physics degree? Or should I really pursue something else?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2015 #2
    If you have already graduated from an accredited school, it should be easy, to learn skills on your own. If you have not acquired this skill from you're degree training, then you have learned nothing at all, instead you graduated from the system by memorizing and training for a test. Calculus is extremely fundamental and you should be able to learn it on your. Wasting time and money at a community college is not a great idea.
  4. Jul 15, 2015 #3


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    1. Start by reading this thread and do your own self-evaluation:


    2. If you think you are weak in mathematics, start your own self-study. Pick up Mary Boas's "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Science" and the Students Solution Manual that accompanies that text.

  5. Jul 15, 2015 #4


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    If you liked and did well in physical and quantum chemistry, and seemingly have done quite a bit of research in chemistry, why not go to graduate school in physical/quantum chemistry? I looked at astrochemistry before and I think it mostly uses methods from physical and quantum chemistry.
  6. Jul 15, 2015 #5
    Coursera (on-line) has courses in Calc 1 and Calc 2. They are not thorough, but they are correct for what they include.
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