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Undergraduate Physics & Computer Science Advice

  1. Sep 2, 2008 #1
    Hey guys, I am currently taking Physics 2 with Calculus at my local community college and transferring to the university as a Physics major in Spring 2009. Furthermore, I am also taking COP2220 (C+ Programming) as a requirement for any transfer student seeking admission into the university's engineering or physics programs. I plan on completing my Bachelor's of Science in Physics and being admitted to graduate school to focus on Astrophysics.

    Anyways, my dilemma is the COP2220 course. I took COP2220 in the summer, but had to withdraw because I did not understand the material nor the teacher (40% withdrawal rate). Anyhow, I am taking COP2220 with the same teacher I took for COP1000 (intro course) in Spring 2008, however, we used Python Programming Language in my COP1000 course. In COP2220, we are using C+ programming language. I have noticed that I understand the concepts when reading my COP2220 and understand about 75% of the programming codes for a given written software, however, I still seem to be having a hard time being able to translate the conceptual material into a workable programming code. If someone shows me the right process, then I can pretty much formulate the rest of the codes necessary for a workable program, but coming up with it on my own is tough. Is this pretty common for a physics major?

    I must admit that being a physics major means that you probably have more intelligence than the average person, however, does that also mean that we should know everything or that everything is easy for us to learn? It just seems to baffle me because I can handle calculus, physics, chemistry, biology and almost any other science subject thrown my way, but computer science seems to be one field I just cannot grasp as easily - is this normal? Has anyone ever had this type of problem?

    Also, how relevant is computer programming in the upper-level physics courses for the Bachelor's Degree and also that of Astrophysics in the graduate level courses?

    Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2008 #2


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    I'm doing my PhD in physics (high energy astrophysics) and I do quite a bit of programming - reducing data, modeling, statistics. It takes a while to catch on, but eventually you'll have enough background to know how to approach a problem. I'm currently teaching a few undergrads the basics of programming, and it's reminding me how this didn't come naturally at first - while it's so easy now, it wasn't always that way!
  4. Sep 3, 2008 #3
    Yeah, I had this problem but ended up having a long career in programming :-)

    By the way, did you mean C++ rather than C+? I've heard of (and programmed in some of...) C, C#, Objective-C and C+- languages. But I have never heard of C+. So make sure you're reading books on the right variant!

    A 40% failure rate means it's the teacher's fault, not yours! Still your stuck with it, so let's see if we can find out what he's doing wrong. Is he throwing you in the deep end without easing you in with simple examples? If so:

    Start by writing lots of very small simple programs. And I mean *really* simple. The classic is to get the program to print out "hello world". The next one would be to add 2 + 2 and print out the result. This is mainly, to get used to using the programming environment and all those strange brackets and programming constructs.

    One of my many jobs was to help decide on an initial object oriented programming language for a beginner's course. We rejected C++, and chose Smalltalk, because C++ has that 25% of "tricky constructs" that make it difficult even to get a simple working program up and going.

    Any problems you have are likely to be due to a simple trick that your teacher *should* be able to sort out. So bother him (or his boss!) if you have any problems, however minor or trivial they may seem. They deserve a lot of hassle for setting up a course with a failure rate like that!
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