- #1

BalinesePhysicist

- 4

- 2

As the title says, I am now in a Coronavirus induced gap year. I have been accepted at a university, which for some reason requires us to do a double major. Hence I chose math as my second major alongside Physics since it has the most overlap, and I'm also very interested in theory. In school, I have learned some single variable calculus, up to integration techniques. For those who are familiar with it, I did the A level Mathematics curicullum. However, having spent a month or two not dong anything in particular and just enjoying free time, my math skills is a bit rusty. I enter college March 2022, so I basically have a year to do anything I want.

What should I do now in order to prepare for college so that I could excel? I want to become a researcher in theoretical physics, and I have heard that it is incredibly competitive. So what can I do with my time now to maximize my chances of enterring this career?

I have read So You Want To Be A Physicist - but only Part I as that is the information most relevant to my current situation. I will read more in the future. Their suggestion is to master basic mathematics (algebra, geometry, trig), which I have already done in school.

A common advice that I have heard is to learn calculus, which I plan to do. I have copies of multiple calculus books. The books that I am interested in doing are Thomas' Calculus (12th edition, if that makes any difference) as well as Spivak's calculus. I know Spivak is recommended here a lot, but my impression is that it is more meant for those interested in pure mathematics as it has little to no applications, and a lot of proofs. Books like Stewart and Thomas gets a bad rep here for being plug and chug with no theory, but I've read the reviews for my edition of Thomas online and there were a bunch of engineers who complained that it had too much proofs and theory in it, so it may be perfect for an aspiring physicist like me, as a cursory glance tells me it also has a lot of applications.

Plus, while I have learned Calculus in school, I haven't masterred all the computations yet. If you asked me to do an integral by trigonometric substitution, i probably can't do that, and I don't remember the derivatives/integrals of trigonometric functions by heart. Plus the A level curicullum doesn't teach limits. I've heard that it's better to get a good background in Calculus first before embarking in Spivak. Your advice would be appreciated here. Furthermore, the first chapter of Thomas includes a review of algebra and trigonometry, and while I'm already confident in my abilities on basic math, this should sharpen my skills.

Other than this, what else should I do? Learn programming? If so, what language? I already know python. I also have an online copy of University Physics with Modern Physics, so maybe I should start working on that. Honestly though I'm afraid what I'm learning now will be redundant since I will be relearning it later at college, but on the other hand I would have to spend less time studying later on and probably get better grades. Again, your advice will be appreciated.

Thank you.

What should I do now in order to prepare for college so that I could excel? I want to become a researcher in theoretical physics, and I have heard that it is incredibly competitive. So what can I do with my time now to maximize my chances of enterring this career?

I have read So You Want To Be A Physicist - but only Part I as that is the information most relevant to my current situation. I will read more in the future. Their suggestion is to master basic mathematics (algebra, geometry, trig), which I have already done in school.

A common advice that I have heard is to learn calculus, which I plan to do. I have copies of multiple calculus books. The books that I am interested in doing are Thomas' Calculus (12th edition, if that makes any difference) as well as Spivak's calculus. I know Spivak is recommended here a lot, but my impression is that it is more meant for those interested in pure mathematics as it has little to no applications, and a lot of proofs. Books like Stewart and Thomas gets a bad rep here for being plug and chug with no theory, but I've read the reviews for my edition of Thomas online and there were a bunch of engineers who complained that it had too much proofs and theory in it, so it may be perfect for an aspiring physicist like me, as a cursory glance tells me it also has a lot of applications.

Plus, while I have learned Calculus in school, I haven't masterred all the computations yet. If you asked me to do an integral by trigonometric substitution, i probably can't do that, and I don't remember the derivatives/integrals of trigonometric functions by heart. Plus the A level curicullum doesn't teach limits. I've heard that it's better to get a good background in Calculus first before embarking in Spivak. Your advice would be appreciated here. Furthermore, the first chapter of Thomas includes a review of algebra and trigonometry, and while I'm already confident in my abilities on basic math, this should sharpen my skills.

Other than this, what else should I do? Learn programming? If so, what language? I already know python. I also have an online copy of University Physics with Modern Physics, so maybe I should start working on that. Honestly though I'm afraid what I'm learning now will be redundant since I will be relearning it later at college, but on the other hand I would have to spend less time studying later on and probably get better grades. Again, your advice will be appreciated.

Thank you.

Last edited: