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Undergraduate in Physics (need advice)

  1. Nov 2, 2008 #1
    Hello guys!

    Well, where to start? First I want to say that I'm really happy to find a forum like this, I've spend like 2 hours reading the career and academic guidance section, and I realized that I have a lot of questions myself.

    Before I start I apologize for my future grammatical mistakes, I spend 12 years of my life in french school and I learned English recently.

    So here is my story. As mentioned in the title, I'm a 20 year old undergraduate student at Mcgill university. I'm doing a major in physics, and I have completed my U1. I'm taking 4 courses per session so I plan to finish it in 4 years (the whole B.Sc).

    The main problem, and the reason why I need some advice, is my GPA (grades).

    I was at 2.2/4 after my first year, which is not outstanding, I know. Things got better with some B+, and then I failed my first course in U2 (Math course), and now I'm at 2.03. I went to see the advisor and he told me that I can still continue, and that I need to take some «easy» courses (200 level, general interest physic courses).

    Hopefully my GPA will go above 3.0 by the end of my B.Sc.

    I really, really, really love physics. Otherwise I would have switched to something «easier» after my first term (got 4 C+ :/)

    My dream would be to pursue my studies in Thermodynamics, and work in an Aerospace field (or maybe astrophysics?) as a physicist.

    Maybe I need a reality check, I don't know, it's kinda crazy to go head on in a field and be SO uncertain about your future, but physicists are crazy, right? So continue, switch? What do you think?

    And as my second request, I wanted to know how undergrad article publication works, do I have to study by myself and try to develop a mini-idea, since undergrad level courses are too general? Expose the work to a professor and go see him like once per week to talk about the subject? Maybe it's a stupid question but I'm curious!

    That's it...it was shorter than what I've expected, thank you for reading it and thanks for your time!

    P.S : I've made another thread in the Career section, if you want to answer there too I'll thank you even more :D.

    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2008 #2


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    Well, you're really the only one who can decide which direction you want to go in. In all honesty, the course work is only going to get harder. I'm suprised your advisor's (only?) advice was to take some easier courses. Your marks will need to improve if you want to have a shot at graduate school, so the real question is what can you do to improve academically.

    Is this merely a question of improving study habits? Or are you more in love with the idea of being a physicist as opposed to doing physics? Or are you starting to discover that you really have other, stronger passions that distract you from your current line of study - suggesting that perhaps you should switch majors? Or are you just hoping to explore other options as you're not sure what you want right now?

    As for undergraduate papers - it's very difficult for an undergrad to produce work suitable for an academic journal alone. The best way to go about this is to look for opportunities with professors who are working in the fields you're interested in. They can act as guides and mentors, and help you develop the skill sets needed to produce original research.
  4. Nov 2, 2008 #3


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    It's definitely going to be hard work from here on out. Most grad schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0 to apply, and you can only get that by getting all A's from now on - and the intro courses are the easy ones, not the advanced ones. However, a substantial improvement along with some research background might give you a shot at a grad program.

    While working on your own and coming up with something that can be published in a peer-reviewed journal probably isn't feasible at this point, you can try getting a job working with one your profs on their research (I suggest doing this during the summer, so as to not detract from your coursework). Summer research experiences have lead to posters, conference proceedings, even papers for undergrads. Or you could see if your college has an undergrad research journal - that will have much lower standards for publication.
  5. Nov 2, 2008 #4


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    In terms of undergraduate research, since you're going to school in Canada I would recommend looking into NSERC awards for the summer. The applications are usually due in January-ish, but it's something to keep in mind.
  6. Nov 2, 2008 #5
    First of all, thank you all for you answers.

    Yes, I know that all I need from now on it is only A's, with few B's. I'm trying my best to achieve it, and to answer your question, it's more the love of physics rather than just the idea to be a physicist. Let's say it doesn't get better, what would my options be ? Just switch right now to a different program? Or finish the major with whatever grades, so I will have my major in physics (it should count as a plus, right?)

    What do you think is the most reasonable choice ?
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