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Undergrad Education

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  • Thread starter SpaceRocks
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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi,

How important is undergraduate education in terms of following a specific physics directory? Right now I am on track to take 3-4 upper division classes that will allow me to earn a B.S. in astrophysics. What if I wanted to focus on theoretical or quantum physics for a PhD (assuming I get that far)? Does undergrad elective courses really matter in this instance?

Thanks
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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That depends, do those undergrad elective courses cover the standard selection of courses (upper-level quantum, E&M, math methods, etc.)?
 
  • #3
Dr. Courtney
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Hi,

How important is undergraduate education in terms of following a specific physics directory? Right now I am on track to take 3-4 upper division classes that will allow me to earn a B.S. in astrophysics. What if I wanted to focus on theoretical or quantum physics for a PhD (assuming I get that far)? Does undergrad elective courses really matter in this instance?

Thanks
I recommend sitting down with an adviser at your home institution and discussing this question. A prof in your department will understand how well the courses you have will prepare you for a PhD program of the kind you seek. Even if we had a full listing of all the courses on your transcript, we would not be sure of what they cover or at what level of rigor they are taught.
 
  • #4
Choppy
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Generally speaking, the important thing is to cover the core physics curriculum in your undergraduate degree. You need to be in a position where your education will have given you the foundation to pass the qualifying exam in your graduate program. You can build on that foundation once you get to graduate school by taking more sub-field specific courses.

That said, there are some advantages to taking sub-field specific courses as electives or options while you are still an undergraduate. One big one is formal exposure to the field. It's difficult to know if a particular sub-field is right for you if you've never taken a course in it. It's difficult to learn the jargon, or to identify the big problems and what people are doing to work on them. With undergraduate coursework you are "less blind" than without it. Another big one is that having specific coursework under your belt can make you more competitive for the limited number of positions.
 
  • #5
That depends, do those undergrad elective courses cover the standard selection of courses (upper-level quantum, E&M, math methods, etc.)?
Yes they do!
 
  • #6
Generally speaking, the important thing is to cover the core physics curriculum in your undergraduate degree. You need to be in a position where your education will have given you the foundation to pass the qualifying exam in your graduate program. You can build on that foundation once you get to graduate school by taking more sub-field specific courses.

That said, there are some advantages to taking sub-field specific courses as electives or options while you are still an undergraduate. One big one is formal exposure to the field. It's difficult to know if a particular sub-field is right for you if you've never taken a course in it. It's difficult to learn the jargon, or to identify the big problems and what people are doing to work on them. With undergraduate coursework you are "less blind" than without it. Another big one is that having specific coursework under your belt can make you more competitive for the limited number of positions.
Excellent, thank you.
 

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