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Schools What university has the best physicse education in the world?

  1. Jul 24, 2011 #1
    What university offers the best physics education in the world, can you name the top 5? Is it cambridge, MIT, or are there any good ones in europe or japan.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2011 #2
    Depends. Are we talking undergrad? Grad? What field of physics? How do you measure "best"? Is it the atmosphere of the school, the academics, the chance for networking with experts, the school's name recognition..?
  4. Jul 24, 2011 #3
    It's Caltech. No questions asked.

    I'm joking. There's no answer to this that is particularly meaningful without greater specifications. A lot of Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Berkeley, Caltech, MIT are top notch in Physics and Mathematical Physics, to the point where it is silly to really compare which is better, since it depends on which area.

    When it comes to which is better for undergrad, people are often thinking about the caliber of the physics students, and rigor of the degree. Caltech and MIT both come to mind as some of the most brutal programs for physics. For graduate school, it is a different story - it depends highly on your specialization, and a school that is overall ranked low in a system such as US News may actually be top notch in certain areas, which is what matters when you want to look for academic jobs.

    Check out the US News rankings of grad departments (I think grad rankings are where actual field specialties are taken into account heavily, whereas for undergrad, a school like Caltech may be listed as overall lower than some Ivy League type schools which meet a broader class of needs). It's not actually a great measure, since the differences among the best programs are a bit ad hoc in the listings, but it gives some idea.
  5. Jul 24, 2011 #4
    MIT is rigorous, but it doesn't hold a candle to Caltech. Caltech is the only school that has a truly rigorous math and physics curriculum for undergraduate studies.
  6. Jul 24, 2011 #5
    Society needs you to become a good physicist and help solve problems in everyday life. No one cares about this prestige nonsense :rolleyes:
  7. Jul 25, 2011 #6

    Well, i actually do not care about the prestige, all i want is a great school where i can learn everything about quantum mechanics, special relativity, and just everythint you can know about physics. Is there any school that does that?
  8. Jul 25, 2011 #7
    There is no place on Earth that meets your criteria. Reevaluate what you want out of your physics education, because you will never know everything you can know about physics, or even about the specialty that you end up going into.
  9. Jul 25, 2011 #8
    Please define "truly rigorous".
  10. Jul 25, 2011 #9


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    I agree it is really difficult to decide because there are so many factors to consider, such as the quality of lecturing, the atmosphere, the content of the course, the popularity of the university (in the university league table) and so on. A lot of my friends say that Oxbridge is the best for physics but from the research I have done I think Imperial sounds like a place that would suit me just as well, although nowadays it is so competitive (applicants applying with all A* at GCSE).

    You need to look at prospectuses, look at more than just where the university ranks. For example, Buckingham actually have the highest student satisfaction in the UK (source: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk). For me, I don't think the university can stop me learning what I want to learn. With the internet, libraries, and many other resources, there's no reason my learning can be significantly limited depending on the university I go to.

    Some people like Kingston because it's the easiest to get into and hence a lot of my friends are applying, but I've heard a lot of rumours that there is a high frequency of bullying there. However, I've only heard that from a few people so it's likely to not be reliable.

    If you are truly passionate about maths or physics then you shouldn't let the university stop you. Do as much wider reading as you can on your subject.
  11. Jul 25, 2011 #10
    Oh boy...
  12. Jul 25, 2011 #11

    This! 'nuff said :approve:
  13. Jul 25, 2011 #12
    It depends on the student. People learn well in different environments.
  14. Jul 25, 2011 #13
    The MIT physics program curiously is not that brutal. One thing about MIT is that since the students are selected going in, you don't have too many weed out classes.

    No don't do that. You should totally ignore US News rankings because they are generally clueless about physics programs.

    Not even close. The USWR rankings are anti-indicators because you'll get yourself in more trouble if you pay attention to those.
  15. Jul 25, 2011 #14
    I might have something useful to say here because I took the physics program at MIT as an undergraduate.

    The MIT physics program is rather non-rigorous, and that's a good thing. One thing about MIT is that they give you enough freedom to find your own path and learn stuff that you are interested in. Also the classroom teaching at MIT isn't particularly spectacular, but it's the general environment of the school that makes it "magical."

    Something that I thought was great about MIT is that they try to get you to not think in terms of silos, so you get a good technical education, but also a good classical liberal arts education, which you'll need to make use of your physics degree.
  16. Jul 25, 2011 #15
    Actually they can......

    1) The university can pump you with enough required courses and weed out nonsense so that you don't have time to work on what interests you.

    2) The internet, libraries, and other resources don't come for free. Putting together a good research library is really hard work and takes a lot of $$$$. Also, a good university will have seminars, interesting people, new research, coffee shops, pizza places. It's also hard to put those together.

    Also, what about the "next big thing?"

    The *big* reason that going to MIT was cool was that I got free access to the internet and an e-mail account. This isn't a big deal today but, remember that I went to school in 1987. I was probably one of the first people in the entire world in August 1991 to download and use the world wide web, and I remember the moment when I got the web browser working, and thought to myself "this might be interesting."

    The stuff that people work on at MIT will eventually make it to all schools and physics curriculum, but there is some value in getting to use a technology five to ten years before everyone else has heard of it.

    If you are passionate about physics but everyone else in the university doesn't give a damn about physics or math and is more interested in football, you'll find it an extremely unpleasant experience.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
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