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Programs What to study if I like both physics and biology?

  1. Feb 8, 2017 #1
    To be more precise I like marine sciences but I also like to learn physics.

    However I just don't want to go all in in either one of them because physics is mostly about programming which I do not like due to hard it is and marine sciences seem to have way too little physics/mathematics unless I specialise in Oceanography which in itself doesn't sound too bad, still not sure if it is something I'm interested in.

    What do I do in this case? I live in Sweden and I'm certain there are no introductionary courses so you get a "better feel" as of what you want to do. Unless you're already studying a program.

    What I like about physics is how detailed it can be used to describe the world, basically with mathematics. Very interesting.

    What I like about marine sciences/biology is simply because it is facinating to learn about all the types of species in the ocean and how do work from a biological standpoint. Still disappointed because it seems to me that statistical mathematics is the only form of maths here.

    Tl,dr: What can I study if I enjoy both Physics and Marine sciences/Biology?
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  3. Feb 8, 2017 #2

    Andy Resnick

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  4. Feb 8, 2017 #3


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    Wait... what?!!

  5. Feb 8, 2017 #4
    Sorry what I meant was in the physics program there's a lot of programming after we've gone through the physics. E.g. programming in mechanics, thermodynamics etc...
  6. Feb 8, 2017 #5
    Doesn't sound like something I would enjoy.

    Would perhaps molekular biology be inbetween? I don't mind having more chemistry instead of physics since I sort of enjoy both.

    Also does Marine sciences actually have a lot of math?
  7. Feb 8, 2017 #6


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    Can you point to me the physics program that has what you have described? This is because this is not true at all in the physics undergraduate programs in the US. I want to see if it is THAT different in Sweden.

  8. Feb 8, 2017 #7
    Well it's a physics program in the university of Gothenburg. Might be different compared to the US, but we did a fair bit of programming and the teachers were quite strict about it for some reason, like failing 1 question results in failed the entire course even though it's introductionary. Not sure if programming would be used in all aspects of physics, but during the first year there was a great deal of it.
  9. Feb 9, 2017 #8
    Study physics. Biology is much easier to pick up on the fly.

    Lots of trained physicists have done solid work in biology. Very few biologists have done solid work in physics.

    In the US, there is a recognized need for more students and professionals with solid backgrounds in the physical sciences to go into the marine sciences. Too many biologists, not enough physical scientists.
  10. Feb 9, 2017 #9


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    Dr. Courtney, I'm curious about something. I am aware of physicists (both biophysicists specifically, but even those with backgrounds in areas like condensed matter or optics) making important contributions to problems in molecular biology and genetics. And I am of course aware of medical physics.

    I'm not specifically aware, though, in what particular way those with a background in physics or physical sciences more generally would contribute to the marine sciences (or more specifically marine biology). Could you point to specific examples of research in this area?
  11. Feb 9, 2017 #10


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  12. Feb 9, 2017 #11


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  13. Feb 9, 2017 #12
    If you peruse the faculty sites of marine science departments at places like University of Georgia and Texas A&M, you will find degrees in physics are well represented.

    I would not put my own marine biology contributions at the same level as peers in those departments, but colleagues and I have made some contributions on magnetoreception in fish, nutrient loading in the Gulf of Mexico, red snapper, fish as bioindicators of ecosystem condition, oyster contributions to production, and some other things. Right now we're working on new mathematical methods for quantifying marine food webs.
  14. Feb 9, 2017 #13
    I'm confused now as there are so many suggestions...

    All I want to do is incorporate physics into marine biology alternatively molecular biology, here is the list i've been able to create so far:
    • Physical Oceanography --> I'm not sure I would actually be interested in the ocean itself
    • Biophysics
    • Physiology
    • Marine Scientist
    My desires in the future:
    I want to work with marine lifeforms and basically do research about them. Why do they look the way they do? How does it camouflage itself? What components are needed for a squid to camouflage itself and what are their connections? etc...

    I just want to learn more about lifeforms and get into the level where a lot of physics and molecular biology would take place. The problem is this is probably a very specific job and I'm not sure there are any that fits what I want to do.

    Any suggestions? I want to work with biology that transitions over to heavy chemistry and physics.
  15. Feb 10, 2017 #14
    Forgot to add in that there's only one biophysics program here in Sweden so I probably can't pick it.
  16. Feb 10, 2017 #15
    I think you should revisit the point Dr. Courtney made earlier:

    I think you are overly concerned with how physics is "used" specifically in marine science and I think this is missing the point. The point is that a degree like physics (or even math or statistics) is very broad and will teach you to think in a particular way. It is common for physicists and mathematicians to do research in biology, and less common the other way around.

    [/PLAIN] [Broken]
    The joke here is that all sciences are a "special case" of physics (which is spoken in the language of mathematics!)

    -Dave K
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  17. Feb 10, 2017 #16
    Also - in terms of opportunity. If you major in physics, but have some interest in (marine) biology you will open up a lot more research opportunities. I could easily see a physics student doing a summer research project in biology or marine biology - not so much the other way around.

    -Dave K
  18. Feb 10, 2017 #17
    Problem is I don't want to study a physics program because I don't like the programming. It's too difficult to understand, even more so than physics for some reason.
  19. Feb 10, 2017 #18
    Well, too bad! o0) You sometimes have to do some things you don't like. You also can't rule out programming as a skill you will need down the line, no matter what it is you are picturing yourself doing right now. I know a lot of people including myself that wish they had more of a programming background. Programming these days is almost as basic as literacy if you are in a scientific field. Also, like mathematics, programming teaches a certain kind of thinking.

    Also, Is it really that much programming? Can you list the program(s) that is(are) available to you so we can see?

    -Dave K
  20. Feb 10, 2017 #19
    It's in Sweden. Here is the list of courses in the program:

    Year 1:
    • Introduction to physics (mostly programming)
    • Mechanics
    • Analysis and linear algebra
    • Thermodynamics
    • Wave motion
    • etc...
    It's in Swedish so you might have trouble reading that, but the programming is as far as I know at the end of each course. Doesn't apply to all of them. Reason why I don't want to return to pure physics is because of programming. I don't want to fail a course just for getting one question out of 30 wrong.
  21. Feb 10, 2017 #20
    I used google translate so it wasn't so bad. I do see some programming courses and I see that the physics class, as you said, uses matlab at the end.

    I don't know about this school, but I know in general that if a programming language is used as part of a non-programming class that it's not really that bad. I'm not sure what you're talking about failing a course for getting one question wrong on one test. I think this is an slightly irrational fear based on some experience you've had and you need to address this. It's a really bad reason not to choose a program.

    Matlab is used by a lot of scientists including marine biologists - I don't think you're going to get away from it.

    Here's an article So you want to be a Marine Biologist which makes the point:

    There is also some discussion in the comments about matlab vs. R. (Typical programming debate stuff).

    -Dave K
  22. Feb 10, 2017 #21
    Here is the program for marine sciences:

    In order for me to research marine lifeforms, is it advicable to study both physics and then marine science? That would take a lot of time.
  23. Feb 12, 2017 #22
    So in general, does studying marine biology, get you to the molecular level or is it pure green biology?
    Does it go to molecular marine biology?
  24. Feb 22, 2017 #23
    Good point, but isn't the top occupied by logicians and philosophers? something about linguistics, logic and philosophy. People always forget their contributions. :-( In fact when I start discussing this people cringe as if these men and women were wasting time or being self indulgent. Who is wrong?!?! I thought they pretty much laid down the foundations for math (through logic and examining the "issue" of knowledge/to know: philosophy) and logical systems/derivations for creating new information.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  25. Feb 22, 2017 #24
    Who? :biggrin:

    Probably it would be best to make another thread if you want to get into it. But early on there wasn't much distinction between mathematician, logician, and philosopher. You could easily be all three.

    As far as *foundational* math, that actually came after math was already around for awhile, by people who sit somewhere between logician and mathematician.

    -Dave K
  26. Feb 22, 2017 #25
    agh, yes, I always forget that!!! the textbooks present the axioms and logical foundations first haha. The reALITY is different sometimes lol. I'd like to discuss it but people don't like it.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
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