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What to major in besides physics

  1. Dec 24, 2007 #1
    Hi, I am currently an undergraduate student at the sophomore level majoring in physics. I am not absolutely confident in this, but I think that in the future I would be
    interested in going to graduate school doing something related to material science or maybe applied physics. Nanotech and condensed matter physics sound very interesting to me.

    In my university, there isn't a materials science engineering program, nor is there a serious applied physics program, considering UC Santa Cruz specialized primarily in astrophysics and cosmology. What do you guys think would be the best double major for me? I will have plenty of time to get a second major (or minor), and my interests are very general. The majors that I have been considering are chemistry, computer science, math, and electrical engineering ( although not interested in it). This is what santa cruz offers that could potentially be a good double major for me. What do you guys think would be the best out of these as a bridge to doing what I wish to do in grad school? Also, how helpful would a second major in any of these be to a physics major in getting accepted to say a materials science program or applied physics program, or any sort of engineering program, for grad school?

    Any advice would be highly appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2007 #2
    Having received no replies so far, I searched the forums for answers to my question.
    However, after extensive searching I still have not found any specific information about my question, especially regarding the physics and chemistry double major.

    Maybe I should restate my question. I've read that some graduate engineering programs will accept applicants with a physics degree. However I am trying to figure out whether
    double majoring in chemistry (or the other 3 i named) will first of all: help my admission
    chances considering I am not applying with an engineering degree, and lastly, whether it would benefit studies in a materials science/ condensed matter/ applied physics graduate program.

    Also, would an electrical engineering degree be of benefit showing the grad-school engineering department that I not only know physics but can also think like an engineer? Or would this only benefit me if I am going into EE as a graduate student?
  4. Dec 26, 2007 #3
    So is there anything I can do to get somebody to reply to my post?
  5. Dec 26, 2007 #4
    Could you major in physics, and look for a professor who does condensed matter research and work for him? Or are all the prof. just astro and cosmetology?
  6. Dec 26, 2007 #5
    There are plenty of condensed matter researchers and professors at my campus. I definately plan to engage in research in this area as a junior.
  7. Dec 26, 2007 #6
    im just wondering, why do you like condensed matter research so much? I honestly don't knwo anything about it. Im stil ltakign intro courses and math, and they havent covered it. I'm open to the field, btut im curious what sparks ur interest so much?
  8. Dec 26, 2007 #7


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    whether of not it helps your admission chances, it is hard to say. But whether or not you can cope with the materials in the field once you are admitted is another matter. In my opinion, there should be some amount of overlap in the physics program that will help you do your engineering and vice-versa. Of course, if you had lots of knowledge on chemistry, material science/nanotech etc, you would find it easier to jump into a material engineering, fluid/chemcial engineering research, than say if you had studied astrophysics.

    At the end of the day, if you work hard enough, you should be fine either way i think. If still unsure, talk to some current students.
  9. Dec 26, 2007 #8
    What sparks my interest in condensed matter physics is that I think it is very interdisciplinary. I have always been interested in chemistry, and I have enjoyed thinking about things at the atomic scale and how they function. I think that condensed matter physics seems like the most applicable field of physics to this realm, especially to materials science (which is a blend of physics and chemistry). I can really see myself working on creating some new advanced materials as a researcher, maybe doing things at the nano-scale since it seems the future has a lot of advancement to make in that realm. I think that research in condensed matter physics is what really applies to the things I've mentioned.
  10. Dec 26, 2007 #9
    Thanks mjsd. Yes the optimal scenario of course would be if my school had a materials science engineering program, but it doesn't unfortunately. This is why I'm thinking of double majoring or maybe minoring in chemistry and taking a couple graduate level courses on nano-tech, and anything I can find close to materials science.

    Also, you said it is hard to say if a double major in say physics + chemistry will help me get into a materials science graduate program. However, do you think that not having a materials science degree will put me at a disadvantage? I guess what I'm asking is, do they prefer to accept materials science engineering undergraduates, or those from the sciences such as physics or chem? I looked at a few websites, such as cornell's and uiuc's, and noticed that they say they will accept degree's not only from materials science, but from chemistry and physics and some others. However, it doesn't answer my question: holding which degree will give me a better chance to get admitted?
  11. Dec 26, 2007 #10


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    whether they will admit you as a grad student is often a matter for the advisors to decide. You best bet is to email those ppl and ask. It is very hard for me to say one way or the other, since all faculties are different, the advisors there may do slightly different things, some may have projects that do not require a huge amount of background before you start doing something (eg. simulating a type of fluid flow in a special structure... all you need is how to solve differential equations, some programming skills and perhaps a few standard results to get started....).

    Overall, good grades, a few good references from your current professors will be MORE important than having a background in proper material eng in my opinion. But remember do ask around, that's the best way to ascertain answers. cheers
  12. Dec 27, 2007 #11
    Thanks I will give some of the schools I've been looking at a call.
  13. Jan 1, 2008 #12
    Two majors aren't worth it! You'll spend all your time fulfilling requirements, and too little of it taking classes that actually interest you and give you a better picture of materials science. A lot of professors I've talked to seem to recognize this as well. Take several advanced undergrad/grad level classes in chemistry, EE, math, etc. and get a minor or two if it's not too much trouble, and you'll look good to grad schools.

    I'm an MSE major applying to grad school, and I know a physics major who's applying to some MSE programs...it doesn't seem like physics students have much more trouble getting into an MSE program than anyone else, as long as you take classes that show you're interested in condensed matter, and have good research experience. Research is really important - start early.
  14. Jan 1, 2008 #13

    George Jones

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    My wife did a Master's in materials science engineering after getting a Master's and a Bachelor's in physics. She got her degrees from three different universities, and, since she did not consider materials science engineering until after she was in physics grad school, she didn't prepare in any special way.
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