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Which degree for quantum mechanics?

  1. Aug 7, 2015 #1
    I am currently 16, and will finish my middle school (hopefully!) in two years. I'll have to choose a university and a degree soon, and I have a few doubts. First of all, is it possible to do my bachelor in the Netherlands and my master in another country like, say, the UK? Second of all, do any people on this forum have advice on which university I should pick? My education is bilingual, and I can pick any English-speaking country as long as I have the money, so any recommendations are appreciated. I'm doing research on this myself too, of course. Finally, which bachelor is good for someone who is interested in a future in quantum mechanics? I was thinking of applied physics, myself, but I'm not sure what is optimal. Especially because I'm not sure if I'll get to know a lot about quantum mechanics with this degree.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2015 #2
    How do you plan to combine quantum mechanics and applied physics?
  4. Aug 7, 2015 #3
    I have no clue. Most physics degrees tend to have a bit of quantum mechanics in them (here in the Netherlands, no clue how it works in say America), and I couldn't find any degrees dedicated to QM alone, so I had to make a choice. I'm still going off on feeling here, and being able to choose the proper degree for this subject that I love is part of the reason I came to these forums.

    EDIT: things like quantum computation interest me, and that seems like a thing I'd like to work towards. Will applied physics as a degree be insufficient if I want to work towards this?
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
  5. Aug 7, 2015 #4
    Dag mcbiggah99,

    Yes. Or you can decide to go for an Erasmus program.

    I think money will be the biggest issue here. Places like the US are extremely expensive compared to Europe. Dutch universities are considered to be good universities, so I don't think anybody will look down on you for choosing a dutch university. You can of course try to go for top universities like Oxford or Cambridge, but those are long shots. If I were you, I would go for a Dutch-speaking university.

    I would say a general physics bachelor. The main issue here is that you are deciding very prematurely that you want to go into quantum stuff. If you haven't done much (actual) physics and math beyond your classes, then you don't really know enough to make that decision. Quantum mechanics is very different than how it is portrayed in the popular media (in my opinion, it's cooler than how it's portrayed in the popular media, but I think most people would disagree with me there). So keep your options open, don't decide to go for quantum mechanics at this point. It's nice to have a goal in mind, but expect your goals to change drastically over time!
  6. Aug 7, 2015 #5
    Thanks for the answers, I'll try to explain how much I know of quantum mechanics so far.
    My interest in quantum mechanics started about a year ago, I got bored during chemistry classes, my attention span dropped yet my grades stayed high, so my teacher decided to give me something extra: a three-chapter workbook about quantum mechanics (this book is meant for people in the sixth, and final year, the year before they head into university, I will be entering the fifth year after summer vacation). I already fell in love with the subject whilst going through the introductory chapter, and decided to acquire as many of the necessary skills as I could with the time I have. So far, this is how far I've gotten:
    I have extra maths D classes, those teach me things like linear algebra: working with surfaces and lines in 3D-planes, etc., I like those so far, we'll be doing imaginary numbers after this summer vacation. I also get probabilities in these classes, and asked my teacher to give me some extra tutoring on matrices and how to work with them (I also use KhanAcademy for that). I have also gotten the basics of calculus in my maths B classes (we've done derivatives, the quotient rule, the product rule, the chain rule, etc. Integrals are after the summer vacation).

    In terms of physics, I've already begun with trying to understand waves (we're supposed to get soundwaves after summer vacation, but I had to take in the basics ASAP to understand my book). In terms of extra material, I've read various guides on the internet, have downloaded and will go through Dirac's book as soon as I have the necessary basic knowledge, am ordering various books on the subject and am watching as many university lectures as I can (MIT's videos are helping me out here). I've also done some extra experiments after classes with my teacher, like the double-slit experiment, and have applied some of the basic formulas that I know to this experiment.

    Through this knowledge, I have decided that I want to go down the path of quantum mechanics. I'm sure that what I know right now are just the basics, in some cases even less, and I might need to change my choices at some point, but right now I just want basic guidelines on which study would be good for quantum mechanics because so far I love the subject.
  7. Aug 7, 2015 #6
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  8. Aug 7, 2015 #7
    Seems interesting, I'm just a bit scared that it won't be very useful for me. I'm not sure what the book itself has to offer and how in-depth it is. If you have the book yourself, could you by any chance give a short summary of what I could learn from it? Currently I'm looking at buying The Theoretical Minimum of Quantum Mechanics by Susskind, A Brief History of Time by Hawking and The Dreams that Stuff are Made of by Hawking.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  9. Aug 7, 2015 #8
    You can do either natuur- en sterrenkunde or toegepaste natuurkunde. You should decide for yourself which approach suits you better. Both get the basics of QM for sure. At every university you can find the course guide and see a description of each course and what programme they are part of and if they are core or elective.

    You can do an MSc in some other country and there's also Erasmus indeed, I think you can use it twice and you can als use it for an internship, I think. But if you want to do a PhD, consider doing the PhD overseas at a high prestige institution

    Netherlands currently is quite poor at science as the subsidies have not risen and the system around it has gotten so bloated. Lots of smart people still, but they run into limitations and frustrations a lot.

    If you know fore sure you won't do a PhD, consider a TU, as a mandatory internship and some engineering basics will help you land a job as a physicist in high tech relatively easy.
  10. Aug 7, 2015 #9


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    Susskind's books are quite in depth. However, it is paradoxically both very condensed and very chatty. However, he is a top theoretical physicist, and he is pretty careful about the physical concepts. I recommend both volumes of his books. The first one does classical mechanics, presenting many things that after you learn quantum mechanics, you can see how classical mechanics is a limit of quantum mechanics. Susskind's second volume does quantum mechanics.

    To supplement his books with more standard texts - where the presentation is less chatty, so it's a bit easier to see the big picture, I like:

    https://www.amazon.com/Theoretical-Mechanics-Particles-Continua-Physics/dp/0486432610 (supplements Susskind's volume 1)

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quantum-Physics-Michel-Le-Bellac/dp/1107602769 (supplements Susskind's volume 2)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  11. Aug 7, 2015 #10
    I don't understand the comparison. Hawking is a great book, but it's a popular science book, it doesn't really teach science. The Susskind book is an actual science book (on the easier side sure, but still). So it is way more indepth than Hawking.
  12. Aug 7, 2015 #11
    I wanted a bit of both worlds, I tend to look at things at a very in-depth way and the Hawking books are so I can see things in different lights and look at my favourite subjects in another way. The books also seem very interesting. I'm getting Susskind's book to expand on my current knowledge, I'm just not sure if I should get just his book on QM or also physics.
  13. Aug 7, 2015 #12


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    It's good to have classical physics at the level of say Young, Freedman and Ford www.amazon.com/University-Physics-12th-Edition-Young/dp/0321501470 or Ohanian and Markert https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Engineers-Scientists-Third-Edition/dp/0393930033 before learning quantum mechanics. There classical mechanics is approached essentially from Newton's laws. However, it is difficult to see the resemblance between quantum mechanics and classical mechanics formulated using Newton's laws. To see the resemblance, it is easier to use a different formulation of classical mechanics called Hamilton's formulation. Another formulation of classical mechanics that is very useful for quantum mechanical analogies is the Lagrangian formulation. Susskind's first volume covers these alternative formulations of classical mechanics that are important for quantum mechanics, so I recommend reading Susskind's first volume either before or alongside or after the second volume on quantum mechanics.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  14. Aug 8, 2015 #13
    True, the Susskind and Hawking books are very different in two respects. The audience and the subject.

    Just wait with the Susskind book till after your exams.
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