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Schools What school is good for my undergrad?

  1. May 22, 2016 #1
    I live in Texas, and I'm going on my senior year of high school. I've come to a problem, I don't know what college/university I should continue my education at. I've already decided what I hope to do when I'm older- qft and quantum gravity, but I don't know what place is good to further ones knowledge in these subjects. In state or out of state doesn't make a huge difference to me (in state would be nice, but I'm not too picky), I'm mostly concerned about two things- quality of education and cost. I'm not what many people would call well off, but I still want to get a good education. Where should I go?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2016 #2
    I think its a 'little' early to 'decide' you want to work on quantum gravity, you need to develop your interests in maths and physics before choosing a area to try break into research in because you dont even know if you will enjoy the maths and physics involved in the topics yet because you wont of covered anything like it most likely (in a formal way I mean not popular science)

    But as for where to go, you want to get into the best instution you can as, at least in the uk (i assume its similar in the US after youve had the first few years), the better the uni is the more advanced topics you can cover in later years (though you wont take a course on string theory at undergrad I imagine)
  4. May 22, 2016 #3
    Well I've taken classes over physics and I've looked up the kind of math involved in quantum physics and relativity and its all things I'm interested in. I've always been interested in going into fields involving mathematics and science, and I've always been good at those subjects. The reason I've decided to work for quantum gravity is I find learning about qft and elementary particle physics great, but I also love learning and studying about gravity and GR, hence quantum gravity.
  5. May 22, 2016 #4


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    UT Austin has a good physics department. I know several people who went there for undergrad, one of whom is doing HET in grad school.
  6. May 22, 2016 #5
    What is the class size like at UT Austin? I understand it's a bigger school, how big would physics classes be?
  7. May 22, 2016 #6


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    I'm not sure about the class size for undergrads, but I do know that people have enjoyed it there and received a very good education. Depending on your family situation (i.e. how much financial aid you would qualify for at private schools), UT Austin could be significantly cheaper. It's a very good instate option to have.
  8. May 22, 2016 #7
    As a high school student, what sort of experience can you possibly have in QFT, GR, etc., that goes beyond a simple conceptual explanation? Keep in mind that you may find the concept interesting, but find the day-to-day work dreadfully boring. The fact is that being so narrow-minded going into university will do nothing but hurt you. Also, if you are interested in staying in-state for university, your best bet is to visit each school.
  9. May 22, 2016 #8
    Of course being in high school isn't the reason for my knowledge these subjects, most of it has been individual study, and I don't believe having goals towards a specific field in science is necessarily a bad thing. I have looked up the concepts, which I DO find very interesting, but I have also researched into the mathematics and other types of research that goes into this field and this position, and I'm not turned off by these things- after all, they're part of the discovery process.
  10. May 22, 2016 #9
    While it isnt a bad thing, you should go into a physics major with an open mind of trying everything you can as there are so so many fields in physics (not saying youre not though)

    Its hard to explain tbh if you havent done some of it but you really have no idea whether or not youre going to enjoy these topics until you get into them more, reading about the topics and the maths behind it is completely different to actually doing it for yourself. Things like quantum mechanics, QFT, string theory, areas of advanced maths etc you dont really know if you will enjoy until you start doing it, I cant really explain it in a way that someone who has had no formal exposure to it will understand but until you're there and actually having a go yourself with all the correct tools needed (the maths) you wont know if you like it or not.

    But hell I dont blame you for thinking the way you do, I think most people go into undergrad thinking QM, QFT, GR, advanced maths etc is going to be amazing but not so many actually do enjoy it in the end, lots end of preferring experimental physics (which they went in thinking they would hate), solid state physics, biophysics, atmospheric physics, medical physics, other areas of condensed matter, QI etc there are so many areas that you wont of heard of til you get there.

    Another thing is as well (others can either agree or disagree), you have to be in the top portion of your cohort to excell in these area youre interested in, not only is it competitive to get a phd in but the topics are just really really really hard and abstract, again you wont know how you take to it until you do some. If the US system is similar for high school as in the UK then you wont really of done anything that is remotely difficult physics wise tbh
  11. May 22, 2016 #10
    Got it, I will keep an open mind while in college. Thanks for the advice!
  12. May 22, 2016 #11
    I think that this point cannot be stressed enough. I did numerical QFT for undergraduate research and specialized in computational physics. I avoided electronics and solid state courses thinking that they would be absolutely HORRIBLE and subject areas that I would never use. I thought that people who did experimental physics were just not skilled enough to do what I considered to be "real physics" (yes, that's seriously what I thought! Now I see that I was nothing but a pompous and uneducated *******). All throughout undergrad I thought I was going to be a high energy physics theorist... that changed quickly when I got to see what real high energy physics was while working at Fermilab. I found the questions that HEP can answer to be fascinating, but the everyday work to be slightly on the boring side... that's my own personal opinion and why I chose not to pursue HEP, obviously others disagree!

    And here I am beginning graduate school working with a condensed matter group. I always thought condensed matter and solid state was boring... using obnoxiously complicated equipment to study mundane features of atoms, with no real applications. But MAN was I wrong... I'm enjoying research now more than ever (although I just started, and barely know how to work a wrench!)

    The point is, I really screwed myself over with my "theory only" focus as an undergraduate. As a result, I joined a research group being SO far behind that it will likely take me years to catch up. I know that this is just a post in a thread, but the best thing I can do is urge you to take this advice seriously.
  13. May 23, 2016 #12
    UT Austin has a strong group working in string theory, gravity and holography. There are two weekly seminars (one organized by theory group and other by mathematics department) which give a good exposure to the current advancements in these fields. Collaboration between theory group and geometry group is very common here. I am not sure about the size of undergrad physics classes, but the labs I TA, consists of 10-25 students. Same goes for the graduate classes (my string theory class had 8 students and statistical mechanics had nearly 20 students).

    To get an idea of tuition bills, you can check http://www.utexas.edu/business/accounting/sar/t_f_rates.html. I have seen many undergraduates working in library and other places to cover their daily expenses.

    My advice is same as others. Make sure you first explore the field you want to work in by attending the seminars and talking to students and professors. There is a major difference in the way quantum gravity is explained in documentaries and the way it is done in real life. To me, it turned out to be much more interesting.
    Last edited: May 23, 2016
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