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What should I do with my summer?

  1. Jun 5, 2013 #1
    Hello all. I recently graduated from high school, and will be attending Penn State (not the Ivy League school, that's UPenn) in the fall. I plan to major in physics with the intent to pursue a PhD. During my senior year, I took an honors physics course and I received a B+ final average. However, I'm not sure that my capabilities were accurately measured, seeing as I got off to a rocky start in the class and improved progressively. Nevertheless, I am delighted to say that with much hard work, I scored an A+ on the final!

    Anyways, I was wondering what would be most beneficial to the success of my plans in the long run. One should note that I am behind in my study of mathematics; I took precalculus my senior year (94 final average), however, I have yet to learn any calculus. My physics course covered mechanics and some E&M (my understanding of this field is tenuous since my teacher covered those chapters in a rush). Originally, I was planning on studying Single Variable Calculus this summer from MIT's open course ware although that would only be one semester of math. The other options are to study the Mechanics I course taught by prof. Lewin (again, MIT OCW), or to learn as much physics as I can from Susskind's theoreticalminimum.com which aims to instill a fundamental understanding of the areas of modern physics and its mathematics. Granted, I am not limited to these options so if you feel there is a choice that would benefit me more in the long run - by all means, please let me know.

    Also, if you have any advice that pertains to achieving a PhD, or careers in research/academia please enlighten me. Any and all help is appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2013 #2

    CAF123

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    When I was in the same situation as you (just finished high school and starting first year after the summer), I went through Prof. Lewin's Classical Mechanics lectures. A lot of the material in his introductory mechanics course will give you a head start when you begin and I recognised many demonstrations that he did which were in my course (such as the monkey and arrow expt, although WL's attempt was far superior, I have to admit).
     
  4. Jun 6, 2013 #3
    Susskind's Theoretical Minimum it just that, the minimum. It's good for hobbyists but may only serve to confuse when you take real physics in college.

    My advice would be to learn math, being familiar with calculus before your first semester is assumed at my school, and will prove immensely valuable overall. You need not pick up a rigorous analysis text, just learn from MITOCW and from a book for exercises and clarity. I would recommend https://www.amazon.com/Schaums-Outline-Beginning-Calculus-ebook/dp/B00ARUHR86/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp . It's cheap, gives a lot of problems and is a decent starting place.

    If you want to start actual physics in the summer, I would suggest you get through calculus first.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jun 6, 2013 #4
    I can only recommend that you relax. That is something you will not have time to do for the next several years if you want to seriously pursue physics.
     
  6. Jun 6, 2013 #5
    Have fun. Enjoy your hobbies or develop some.
     
  7. Jun 10, 2013 #6
    Yes, I was already planning on having some fun, and enjoying my summer but I also want it to get something valuable out of it.

    I will keep this in mind if I still have time after learning some Calculus.

    Yeah, I think this makes the most sense because I am fairly certain that my starting physics course will use calculus. Then I won't have to learn along the way and I'll be ahead in my calculus class.


    What would (anyone) recommend reading to get a basic understanding of modern physics? Is there anything like Susskind's theoretical minimum that might give me a strong understanding of modern physics' fundamentals? For instance, I'm interested in learning of particle physics and was lucky enough to find this: http://www.lepp.cornell.edu/Education/rsrc/LEPP/Education/TeacherResources/Brief_Intro_to_HEP1.pdf
    I know it is just a brief introduction, but at the moment I am just looking to read books, articles, etc. that will satisfy my curiosity for physics.

    And thanks to all who gave their input.
     
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