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What classes to take?

  1. Apr 5, 2005 #1
    I would like to go to medschool. but for now, i am interested in being a math major. Also i need to do some research, not this summer, but the next, which would be after my junior year. I'd like to do research in something computational, but related to biology. What could you tell me about physics? I hate physics and i only took the 2 semesters of general physics. but i saw 1 project in 'biophysics' at my school and there it seems the professor wants you to have a background in optics(he teaches that course), but i wonder if in order to learn anything in that field, 1 would also need to take courses like magnetism and/or quantum physics?

    also im thinking of taking the following courses next fall:
    algebra3(group theory)
    combinatorics(as the name implies and also graph theory)

    i wonder if those courses will be too tough. i asked my father about pde in a casual conversation adn he said that course may be tough for me. and i also refrained from telling my father about how im doing in an algebra2 course, and he thinks im getting an easy A, but in fact im struggling, and if i do get an A, it's with a lot of effort.

    and i wonder if those courses are all useful, if 1 wants to do computational research, i.e. either modelling biological networks, or doing 'biophysics'?

    sorry that my writing is incomprehensible now, i will clarify any questions later, if you start answering(right now it would be interesting what those 5 courses i listed are useful for?)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2005 #2
    Post the thread as small as possible so that everyone will try to read it. I am not criticising u, but it's a advice.
  4. Apr 6, 2005 #3
    I really don't know which courses are required to take optics. I think that you should inquire with someone at your University. But, a basic understanding of optics can be achived without studing Electromagnetism and Quantum Physics. For an in-depth understaing of optics one would probably require knowledge of Quantum Physics and most definetly Electromagnetism.

    Only you can be the judge of that. See this page:


    Search a little about the subjects in question, to get things into perspective.

    group theory -Physics (don't know about biophysics, though)
    combinatorics - Statistics
    pde -virtually any mathematical science
    probability - Physics (mostly statistical and quantum) physics and, of course, statistics
    analysis1 - I have no idea what that is.
  5. Apr 6, 2005 #4

    so, in order to do 'research in biophysics', i would need to take optics, but for that i would need to take quantum physics and electromagnetism. i.e. next fall i would have to sign up for e&m1 and quantum physics1.

    but i wanted to take those 5 math courses! and i am not really into physics.

    here are my reasons for wanting to take the following math courses:
    group theory-i seem to be doing well in algebra 2, and this is a course with lots of proofs, so i think it is appropriate
    combinatorics-this too is a very challenging course, so taking it out of interest
    pde-im afraid this course is too applied, but as you said it is important in all the mathematical sciences and it is required for math majors
    probability-it is a prerequisite for measure theory, and also i think if i want to do any computational research, it too is helpful
    analysis1-this too is a required math course, it is just like calculus1 but with proofs.

    but then i have no room to take any science courses, such as physics or biology! and even without them, i am afraid 5 math courses in 1 semester would be real tough.
  6. Apr 6, 2005 #5
    i want to get experience in some form of undergraduate research, before starting my senior year(right now im finishing my sophomore year). but im not even sure in which subject: math,bio, or physics? i already had some experience in bio, but i would prefer something computational/theoretical, not sitting at the microscope all day...

    and im afraid pure math research has no relevance to medschool admissions! but for anything like physics, im afraid i dont have the background, since it seems im not going to take any quantum physics..
  7. Apr 6, 2005 #6
    Do a search on REU's (I'm assuming you're in the States) and you can find some programs that will fit what you want to do perfectly.

    I'm really scared that you're saying pde's would be "too applied", when you want to do research in the sciences. Like, seriously. pde is probably the most important course that you list up there. Differential equations are enormously important for science.

    Group theory and combinatorics would have very little to do with what you are interested in. Both live in their own little "worlds", so to speak.

    Analysis is a good course just because it's a great introduction to rigorous mathematics. I'd say probability would be good if you want to make any sort of empirical models for your research, or stuff like that.
  8. Apr 7, 2005 #7
    philosoph, actually im in canada. that presents another problem. im a u.s. citizen, therefore not eligible for canadian nserc, but i wonder if im eligible for reu's, if im not studying in a u.s. university? also a question about reu's, monetary stipend aside, would that experience be better than just finding some professor at my own school to work for, with an intent to continue working for him throughout the school year? i.e. how are they better than what is offered at one's local institution?

    and i take it for reu's, i could only do math, since i dont have much background or interest in physics...

    i agree, that pde is the most important course for modelling of various biological systems(from reading a few articles, i noticed thats mostly what they use).

    but i heard that pde is challenging! in that case i dont know about what courses to take next year. as group theory, combinatorics, and probability, are supposed to be even more challenging!
  9. Apr 7, 2005 #8
    i wanted to take group theory and combinatorics because i noticed that on the test, putnam, a lot of the questions come from those courses. and so i figure those courses are just like analysis, 'just because.. rigorous mathematics'.

    i am afraid that taking all 5 courses will be too challenging for me. the most rigorous course that im taking now is 'linear(abstract) algebra'. i heard it is similar in the level of difficulty to analysis1, while group theory and probability are a level above...

    i asked my father only about pde,group theory, and analysis1. he said that group theory is completely useless for me(as it's only used in solid-state and nuclear physics), but that i should be able to handle it, if i get an A in my lin. alg. course. on the other hand he said that 'pde definitely won't be easy for you, it is nothing like ode or vector calc'.
    i didnt ask him about probablity and combinatorics, because i dont meet the prereqs for those courses, so he obviously would disapprove of them(analysis2 for probability and 'mathematical maturity' for combinatorics).

    but i dont know what other courses i can take. for example, things like electromagnetism or quantum mechanics will not be easier for me, so i will not be taking them! and all those courses i listed are required for honours math majors.

    my initial plan was to take those 5 courses in the fall, and in the spring take more math courses and an 'optics' course(from physics dept), and then try to do research in biophysics during the following summer. but now i have doubts. either i'll struggle too much through optics without having taken e&m and quantum mechanics courses, like the physics students, or even if i do take it, i still wont have sufficient background to do any interesting biophysics research in the summer.
  10. Apr 12, 2005 #9


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I can't advise you on the computer side of things, but what's your background at this point in biology and chemistry? If you want to attend med school, make sure you're meeting the pre-med requirements. Even though biochemistry isn't always required, take a biochem class anyway. Why, by the way, if you're interested in computational biology, do you want to go to med school? If you're interested in modeling biological networks, which I assume you mean neural networks (?), take a class in neuroscience if your school offers it (look for cross-listed programs in biology and psychology; it could be offered by either department depending on where your university's research strengths are in that field).

    If computational biology is what's interesting to you, I hope you'll consider graduate school as a possible alternative to medical school.
  11. Apr 15, 2005 #10
    hey, nothing is interesting to me. i today wrote a linear algebra final. and the easiest question, i got wrong, just because it wasnt the same as what i already did for hw. im just stupid.
  12. Apr 15, 2005 #11
    Put on a happy face. :smile: How do you think you did on the final?
  13. Apr 15, 2005 #12


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    As my advisor once told me about how to prepare for a research invitation, "they are not interested in what you have done or published, they are interested in you".

    At some point someone is going to be interested in you, i.e. what you can bring to the table. At that point all that you have learned and understand will matter. Your record will not.
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