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Turning point - currently Biochem major but

  1. Jan 17, 2015 #1
    So I sucked at science and math in high school, therefore my foundation in these subjects sucked. Senior year I had a biology teacher that really allowed me to discover the wonder of science and to ask deeper questions about biology, physics, the universe, etc. So I changed from my economics/history route to a biology one when I entered university.

    Just recently (I'm currently 3rd year in university), I switched to a biochemistry major from biology because I preferred the problem solving of chemistry to the rote memorization of biology.

    And as stupid as it sounds, every time I read science fiction or watch it on TV or in the theaters, the questions that I always like to ask are about physics. I've seen Interstellar like five times because of how fascinating I find these concepts (relativity, black holes, even what some people might consider relatively trivial, like spinning a ship to account for a lack of gravity while traveling).

    So now I'm sort of regretting not doing physics right off the bat. What initially stopped me was my fear of mathematics. Like I said I had a rocky start with math. I had to withdraw from two separate calculus classes before succeeding in the calculus sequence.

    Now that I've finally overcome the mental barrier to mathematics, I feel like it was all just a mentality issue. If I would have been positive and proactive about learning math earlier, I might have discovered that I had the ability to learn physics all along and I wouldn't have been so afraid of it.

    So what I'm considering doing is this.

    1) Finishing my biochemistry degree at University of Denver. This degree gets me a minor in biology. I will get a minor in mathematics and physics because to get these two minors only requires two more classes in each subject. I will spend a 5th year here at DU to get the astrophysics minor.

    2) When I graduate DU with my bachelors in biochemistry, I will switch to CU Boulder and try to get an astronomy major (astrophysics focus for researchers/etc, so basically an astrophysics degree).

    I'm just wondering if this is a stupid decision. I mean, it will set me back 3-4 years again, before I enter higher studies (masters, PhD). I know that a PhD is eventually where I want to end up, doing real research and holding a professorship somewhere.

    What I was thinking was that while I get the astronomy degree, I would just work in various labs for pay or as an intern so that I build up a reservoir of experience and sources of recommendation letters (lol) so that I can actually get into a masters/PhD program that is decent and not lackluster.

    Does this sound like a solid plan? Finances aren't an issue. I've managed debt so far fairly well, and I have a house that is in my name worth about $75,000-$125,000 (depending on the market) that I can sell at any time in case of an emergency, though I plan to rent it out to up to four college students at a time to cover my monthly loan payments, rather than getting a lump-sum out of it.

    I guess the real question is one of... is it worth it? Is waiting an extra 3-4 years to become a scientist worth it so long as the type of scientist I do end up becoming is more rewarding than what I would otherwise become (a biochemist)? How do graduate schools and PhD programs view someone who has been in undergraduate courses that long? Negatively, or does it have the positive effect of giving me time to work in labs to show that I have lots of experience and am prepared for that next level?

    Any advice here is appreciated.


  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2015 #2
    It depends. What physics classes will you have taken when you graduate?
  4. Jan 18, 2015 #3
    Classes are underlined and in bold if you don't want to read the details of what each course offers.

    University Physics I: Kinematics, vectors, force, energy and work, linear momentum, rotation of rigid bodies.

    University Physics II: Gravitation, fluids; oscillatory motion; waves; thermal physics.

    University Physics III: Electrostatics, electric circuits, magnetism and electromagnetism; electromagnetic waves.

    Modern Physics I: Introduction to special relativity; photons, de Broglie wavelength, Heisenberg uncertainty principles, quantum numbers and invariance principles; introduction to quantum physics of atoms, molecules, solids and nuclei; radioactive decay; elementary particles.

    Modern Physics II: Advanced topics in quantum mechanics: particle in a box, tunneling, variational principle, symmetry; introduction to statistical physics and thermodynamics: ensembles, Bose-Einstein condensation, super-fluidity, superconductivity, nano-science; introduction to chaos: maps, stability analysis, bifurcations; introduction to computational physics.

    That will get my physics minor. For astrophysics minor I was thinking of these courses:

    Independent research : summer research at a mountaintop observatory here in Colorado which will account for 4 credit hours (needing 20 for minor).

    Bio-Astronomy of Solar Systems: The nature of our solar system, and those of recently discovered solar systems around other stars, will be examined using the tools of modern physics and astronomy, with a focus on biogenic opportunities in these diverse environments.

    Stellar physics: The physics of stars will be examined using the tools of modern physics and astronomy, with the focus on their structure, interiors, origin and evolution, including single and multiple star systems, white dwarf, neutron stars and black holes.

    Galaxies and Cosmology: Modern discoveries involving galaxies in our universe and cosmological theories based on these and particle physics findings will be examined using the tools of modern physics and astronomy.

    Telescopes and Instrumentation: The student will develop and refine facility and experience with telescopes, software, methods, catalogs, libraries, astronomical instrumentation and assorted contents of the universe, including ground-based and space-based telescopes and detector systems. Observing projects included; use of the Student Astronomy Lab and/or internet telescope(s) for observing projects and variable star monitoring, plus occasional use of the 20 inch Clark/Saegmuller refractor or Mt. Evans reflectors for observing, measuring and practicing public instruction. Math tools include algebra, statistics, Excel, Mathcad, IDL, C++, etc.
  5. Jan 18, 2015 #4
    Are all of these physics courses calculus-based?
  6. Jan 18, 2015 #5
    Yes indeed. They are all for physics majors. The non-major course sequence is General Physics which is, mathematically, easier than the University Physics sequence.

    In addition to those physics classes I will have a math minor upon graduation which includes these classes:

    Calculus I, II, and III

    Multivariable Calculus

    Linear Algebra

    Differential Equations
  7. Jan 18, 2015 #6
    From what I know, physics grad schools typically expect 2 semesters of electromagnetics, 2 semesters of classical mechanics, and 2 semesters of quantum mechanics. I say that, because I'm wondering if there's a way for you to avoid having to get another bachelor's degree. Some departments may offer more remedial courses to get the student up to speed for graduate study. I'd look into those. And talk to professors in the physics department at your university for ideas. It may be a viable option to get a Master's (taking the required classes at your master's program before you begin graduate-level work) and then move on to a Ph.D. But definitely speak to professors at your school, as their advice will be more informed than mine.
  8. Jan 18, 2015 #7
    I'll definitely do that, thanks.
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