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Undergrad schools

  1. Sep 16, 2006 #1
    What are good undergrad schools for theorical physics, engineering, and math? I still dont know which one I want to major in but I'm only in 9th grade. Also what are pluses(?) and minuses of each as a study?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2006 #2
    well, obviously its MIT, Caltech, RPI, Carnegie Mellon, ... all these u can find on US News i guess..

    be a little more specific then we might be able to pinpoint a small group for ur needs
  4. Sep 16, 2006 #3
    I can't get much more specific with the physics but I like reading about quantum gravity. I can get more specific in the engineering though, I would like to do either chemical, genetic, or computer egineering, and math wise I'm only in higher algebra, which I like, but i haven't tried much else so I'm not sure about that.
  5. Sep 16, 2006 #4
    With regard to specific schools, I don't think you should be worrying about it yet! Concentrate on figuring out what you want to study :smile:.

    With regard to the different subjects:

    In mathematics, you will spend most of your time proving things. A standard undergraduate program will give you courses in analysis (real and complex), algebra, differential equations, topology, probability and combinatorics, number theory, and other subjects. Within a math program you will not get much in the way of applications in core courses.

    Theoretical physics, at least at my school, is not very well-separated from any of the other physics programs. You will have to do a lot of laboratory work. You'll get courses in classical dynamics, electromagnetism, optics, modern physics, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics, as well as courses in single-variable and vector calculus and linear algebra. You'll also likely have a course in mathematical methods, and perhaps another in complex variables, which will cover various tools useful in physics. You won't get to see much of the abstract side of mathematics.

    Engineering programs will focus on applications. Lots of labs, and math classes focused on tools. You will also have physics courses specialized for engineering applications, and "core" engineering courses (as you can probably tell, I'm much less-familiar with engineering programs; you probably don't want to listen to me about this!).

    Currently I'm a fourth-year math-physics double major student in Canada. I have enjoyed the combination immensely; over the summer, I worked at the university doing research in theoretical particle physics, and now I am starting an honours project in analytic number theory (which is about as far as you can get from physics within math!). If you are interested in both fields and willing to do work, then I highly reccomend such programs! It involves laboratory work, and requires you to quickly switch from thinking about physical problems to abstract mathematical problems, but if you are motivated, the fields can complement each other quite nicely. The main disadvantage to such programs is the limitations they force to choices of elective courses in each field (there are some really cool math courses that I don't have time to take!).

    For reference, here is a list of math and physics courses I've taken (and am taking):

    1st year:

    math - single-var calculus, linear algebra
    physics - kinematics & thermodynamics (lab), electromagnetism (lab)

    2nd year:

    math - vector calculus, linear algebra, abstract algebra, ordinary differential equations, mathematical methods, probability & combinatorics
    physics - modern physics (lab), optics (lab), quantum mechanics

    3rd year:

    math - real analysis & intro. to topology, complex analysis, group theory, game theory, differential forms
    physics - classical dynamics, thermodynamics & statistical physics, modern physics ii (lab), lab course

    4th year:

    math - number theory, automata, group theory ii, honours project in number theory
    physics - electrodynamics, quantum mechanics ii & iii, cosmology, particle physics

    Hopefully this will give you some idea of what sort of diversity in courses you will see in the two fields. This includes essentially all of the honours courses in a standard honours physics program, modulo typical math courses, which are replaced with elements from an honours math program. There are a couple of courses missing that are in an honours math program at my school: rings and fields (which you get some of in the second year algebra courses), and some additional math electives.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2006
  6. Sep 17, 2006 #5
    but, u know what? u really shouldnt worry too much on which school it is for undergraduate... juz let it be a technical school and not an arts school.. thats pretty enough... or maybe a liberal arts college could be better as they give u a lot of attention.. its really important as i am a freshman this year. The uni i am in teaches multivariable calculus in first sem (wtf??) yes yes.. and they teach it like its a piece of cake... and one lecture room has around 400 students... liberal arts certainly wouldnt at the very extreme have more than 50..
  7. Sep 18, 2006 #6
    Thank you for your posts.
  8. Sep 18, 2006 #7
    about Liberal Arts

    I agree that liberal Arts school can be better in some cases.
    I go to Loyola University CHicago and am in my first year fo their Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics program. Now the Theoretical Physics isn't too distant form their regualr physics program, but they also offer Physics and Engineering also or Physics and Computer Sciecne. The Department isn't that big, buut you get alot of attention and they really push you to excel and to connect with all the other physics maors. I would reccommend looking at other schools in the Chicago area possibly, IIT or U of Chicago. The location is great if you are looking for internships and seminars to attend because of FermiLab and Argonne being so close. I think U. of Chicago also hosts physics seminars every so often but I could be wrong.
  9. Sep 19, 2006 #8
    I agree with the comments about looking into LACs, they really are top notch. Harvey Mudd is incredibly good at all science, math, and engineering.
  10. Sep 20, 2006 #9
    I think Liberal Art Colleges often go unnoticed. My first choice in school was a state school that was known for being good in science and engineering, however I ended up at a Jesuit liberal arts school studying Physics and Math, and I love every minute of it
  11. Sep 23, 2006 #10
    So what are the best jesuit schools in terms of math and physics. I'm looking for a good safety cause i'm applying to a bunch of top tier, MIT and such. I believe a jesuit school would be easy enough to get into since i go to a jesuit high school. Canisius High School in buffalo, ny that is
  12. Sep 23, 2006 #11
    The OCW courses in physics are okay. They are nothing different from other colleges. The exams are easy.
  13. Sep 28, 2006 #12
    I applied to the top tier with 3 full SAT Subject Test scores, all denied. :cry::frown: Princeton was kind enough to give me an interview. But that maybe becuz I am from Burma (ever heard of this country?).

    I think Vassar and Swarthmore are good at engineering too..

    Oh , yes there are also those 3-2 programs where u can transfer from a LAC to a Uni,.. thats pretty nice too...

  14. Sep 28, 2006 #13
    I agree with going to a smaller school then transfering into the big school. I went to a branch campus at Penn State, my gpa is a 3.9 transfering into my jr. year. Now i'm going to college for free at Penn State Main Campus and am also i'm in the top 8 of my graduating class. It sure does look nice on a resume and branch campuses are so so much easier. It was like highschool almost.

    But when the employers look at your transcripts all they see is Penn State, not that you went to a branch campus for the first 2 years. Unless the campus you go to is not related to the main university. Just an idea
  15. Sep 28, 2006 #14


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    Of course, most employers don't care what your class rank was upon graduation. Most employers don't even care what your GPA was after you've had a few years of work experience.

    - Warren
  16. Sep 29, 2006 #15
    I'm sorry that I do not know exactly what the best jesuit school is in terms of math and science, however I attend Loyola University of Chicago as a Physics and Math major, so far I can say they have a very strong physics dept. They push you to be very active in the dept and want you to get to know all of the faculty and studnets very quickly which is a good thing in my opinion. I don't have as much interaction with the math dept, so I can't tell you much other than I am in Calc 3 and its going well so far.
    I love the school overall, if you like big cities, and don't mind some cold weather, you may want to look into LUC

  17. Aug 6, 2008 #16
    Of course, most employers don't care what your class rank was upon graduation. Most employers don't even care what your GPA was after you've had a few years of work experience.

    But they will care where you went.
  18. Aug 6, 2008 #17


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    Please note this thread was last posted in two years ago before you resurrected it.
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