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Too many majors?

  1. Sep 12, 2007 #1
    I trust the PF community to give expert advice, so here's my current ordeal. I'm a soph in college dual-majoring in math and physics (no disadvantages there ill bet) and with a single minor in astronomy. Hopefully, given those credentials and some research under my belt that i'll begin with this year, I'll be on my way. Only, should I be looking into programming as well? I currently do not know whether or not I'll be in the fields of theoretical versus observational or experimental physics, but I assume having a minor in programming (or at least some experience with it other than c++) will be largely beneficial? Problem is, I'm socked in hard enough as it is with two majors and one minor.

    For what purpose does knowing about computer science help a physicist and is it worth adding to a dual major in math and physics and a minor in astronomy, or just added weight?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 12, 2007 #2


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    Programing is a very important thing to know for anyone in the physical sciences, but I don't think it's worth minoring in it just for that reason. I'd say take a course or two in programing and that should be good enough. The trick is to get the basics down using one language. After this you can learn any languages you need on the fly. I have only taken one programming course, but I had to program for my research experience over the summer and I was fine. I now know several programing languages, and probably going to learn another in the near future.

    So, while programming is important, I don't think it's necessary to minor in it. In fact, time would probably be better spent focusing more on the physics and math, in my opinion.
  4. Sep 12, 2007 #3
    you don't need a minor. just take a class or two.
  5. Sep 12, 2007 #4
    you need concept of programming, not a degree of programming.
  6. Sep 12, 2007 #5
    Maybe you can even find a summer job that will allow you to develop your programming skills!
  7. Sep 12, 2007 #6
    I agree with what everyone else said...
    If you arn't competively trying to get a job as a programmer you don't have to know alot of languages, just get good with one and the rest will follow.

    I suggest learning either C++ or Java, so you can still get into Object Oriented Design so your programs don't look like trash.

    If you already know C++, then I doubt you would need to learn another language to do all you would need to do in Physics.

    Java would make life easier to debug with them enforcing exception handling which makes coding a lot more productive.
  8. Sep 12, 2007 #7


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    I started with Java and I agree, that or C++ are great choices to start with. Once I got those two down, the other languages I had to learn came easy.
  9. Sep 13, 2007 #8

    I agree with what everyone else has said, and have a couple things to add.

    First of all, I only took one "real" computer programming class in my undergraduate, and that was a basic C++ class. The next two summers, I had REU jobs, and both involved programming. I had no trouble learning it "on the job" and doing fine with my projects. I don't think more programming would have helped me much at all. Lab programming is kind of it's own thing in a way.

    Second, I would suggest looking at your Math department to see if they offer a math programming course or something similar. I took a class in this, and it was a really great experience. Sometimes they're even offered through the computer science department. The class I took taught me some ways to use programming language to solve advanced problems, and taught some algorithms and basic ideas to use. That class was very beneficial to me. I think though that between that class and the intro C++ class, that was more than enough (I'm a current graduate student). If you get research experience in it as an undergraduate as well, you'll be fine.

    If it interests you, and you have time, you might look at a minor... but as you approach the end of your undergraduate career, things will probably get hectic (graduate school applications, GRE (general and subject) among other things, and if you have too much on your plate it may impact your ability to do your best on those things, which are really important.

    Hope that helps! Good luck!
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