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Schools University of Pittsburgh Physics

  1. Dec 8, 2011 #1
    Does anybody know/ is familiar with the quality of the physics (and math) departments at the University of Pittsburgh? Specifically for undergraduates.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2011 #2
    Re: University of Pittsburgh

    Professor Gartside!!! He's the best teacher ever, and his English accent was desirable. He helped me with topology, but I don't know how good he is at teaching calculus, I'd assume the same level. He provides his own proofs and guides his students fairly well. He was great when I went to him for office hours, and seemed very dedicated to his job, unlike many college professors (outside of UPitt of course). Overall UPitt's mathematics courses were very challenging for me. I spent much of my time taking the most difficult classes offered. I'm not quite sure about physics though. The two are certainly closely related, so I would imagine that UPitt's physics department is also strong. :wink:

  4. Dec 8, 2011 #3
    Re: University of Pittsburgh

    both are good imo, and you should have lots of research opportunities at the university, as well as the ability to take diverse electives and graduate courses in both fields.
  5. Dec 10, 2011 #4
    Alright thank you. If anyone else has any experience with this school, please chip in!
  6. Dec 10, 2011 #5
    what else do you want to know?

    might be better if you ask for specifics . . .
  7. Dec 11, 2011 #6
    Were you/are you a student at Pitt? I guess in all honesty I don't really know what to ask about a college, never having been in this situation before. I am much more familiar with my own state school (Ohio State) but now that UPitt is becoming a very real possibility I am wondering how its phys/math departments compare to those at other well-known schools, and how the research opportunities and the teachers/classes are in comparison.
  8. Dec 11, 2011 #7
    I grew up in PA but didn't go to school anywhere remotely close for any of my degrees, but I have a few friends from high school who went to Pitt (since it was kinda close), so I can say they have (as far as I know) decent literature, economics, and physics departments.

    Looking at undergrad is very different from looking at grad school stuff. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't change a single thing, but it's funny that I made of my "correct" choices without really having the knowledge of schools I do now.

    Most undergraduate universities will have pretty generic engineering level math and physics classes (the ones you'll take as a freshman or sophomore). This is because they have to get hundreds if not thousands of students through these courses each year to satisfy university requirements for degrees in engineering, chemistry, biology, math, physics, etc... so most of the time you'll get a cookie cutter class, possibly even in a large lecture hall, taught or co-taught by a TA or two.

    Some universities offer specialized "general engineering math" classes as subsections of those courses taught ... like calculus for pre-meds, or calculus for engineers with a lot of weight on analytical geometry, or calculus for math majors, which would include a few elements of real analysis. I'm not sure if Pitt does any of that, but universities that do have that might make the first year or two in your major a bit more personal rather than you being one of the masses in a 100+ student lecture hall.

    I went to a university that had an "honors college" containing about 100 students per graduating class. What happened there is that every honors student (regardless of major) took their lower level (100 and 200 level) courses through the honors college. So I basically took all my gen eds through the honors college and most of my minors as well as the first two years of my major. When I took my lower level math and science courses and all my electives, I was given more theoretical lectures on the topics with class sizes ranging from 2 to maybe 7 or 8 students. Honors college students were then "reintroduced" to the normal university population when they started taking 300,400, and 500 (graduate) level courses.

    This is another alternative to not being lost in the masses of an undergraduate student body. I had the feel of a very small, private, liberal arts college (which most small liberal arts colleges won't even have a student:teacher ratio of 5:1 like I had during undergrad), but also was able to have access to graduate level courses that wouldn't be available at a private liberal arts college just due to the size and expertise of the faculty at a small school.

    Most good universities that have segregated honors colleges are pretty hard to get into (sometimes harder than ivy league schools) ... I think the average incoming SAT of my honors college graduating class was above a 1560, even though the average SAT of the entire incoming undergraduate class was 1250 - 1300 or something that year.

    So my end words of advice (other than I've never heard anything negative about Pitt's undergrad ... and it's one of my top choices for graduate school BTW), is that there are a few things you should look for if you're really concerned with how good an undergraduate program is: overall reputation, class size (if you're not a self motivator), class specificity (like if they offer sections of the general classes for math majors, for bio majors, etc...), graduate class availability (like when you get to the level, will you have access to taking grad courses or will there be nothing for you but maybe an independent study like if you were at a small liberal arts college), and also if you're interested in grad school eventually, how good are undergrad research opportunities there.

    Good luck, hope I gave you a little bit to think about, you've got this! and update this if you end up going to Pitt, maybe I'll be there next year as a graduate student and can say hi, haha.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  9. Dec 11, 2011 #8
    pitt has so many classes, programs, research, and honors, you will more than likely be able to fulfill your needs -- whatever they may be.

    i think the oakland area where pitt is located is a good urban environment for a college -- there are a lot of things to do / places to go / shopping near by / etc. good public transport to get around etc.

    the research is really first rate if you are interested in that.

    also, a lot of talented / bright students go there as well, for a local state school. so you will get to meet a pretty diverse group of people as well.
  10. Dec 12, 2011 #9


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    I was part of Pitt's REU program for two summers, though I was never a student there.

    I can't give you any advice on their undergraduate degree programs, but the research opportunities you will have there are great!

    Pittsburgh is also a good town. It has a nice mix of city and small town atmospheres. If you are interested in a large, urban campus, then you should check it out Pitt.
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