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Which math classes should I take to compliment a Physics degree?

  1. Apr 12, 2010 #1
    I'm working on a Physics/Mathematics double major at Oregon State, primarily focusing on physics, and I want to know which upper division math courses best synthesize with a physics program in graduate school. Right now I'm leaning toward Astrophysics.

    Of the classes described http://catalog.oregonstate.edu/CourseList.aspx?subjectcode=MTH&campus=corvallis&level=upper", the University requires that I complete:

    MTH 311 Advanced Calculus I
    MTH 355 Discrete Math/Mathematical Software
    MTH 312 Advanced Calculus II
    MTH 342 Linear Algebra II
    MTH 343 Abstract Algebra

    I need to choose one of the following three (but if more than one would be beneficial I'd like to know):

    MTH 323 Mathematical Modeling
    MTH 333 Fundamental Concepts of Topology
    MTH 338 Non-Euclidean Geometry

    I also need to complete at least five of the following:

    MTH 483 Complex Variables
    MTH 480 Systems of Differential Equations
    MTH 434 Introduction to Differential Geometry
    MTH 440 Computational Number Theory
    MTH 451 Numerical Linear Algebra
    MTH 463 Probability I
    MTH 430 Metric Spaces and Topology

    I'm not terribly concerned about meeting the degree requirements, but selections from these two lists would be appreciated. Furthermore, I would greatly appreciate recommendations on anything else in the previously linked course catalog. I assume that I should take MTH 437 General Relativity, but I don't know if the mathematics involved in relativity are covered extensively in a graduate level physics class.

    My schedule makes it difficult for me to sit down with my advisor, and even if I did I don't know if she would be of much help in selecting classes to prepare me for graduate work.

    Thank you in advance.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2010 #2
    Or really any sort of general mathematical concepts that might not be covered in a traditional undergraduate physics curriculum. I can always find the specific class later.
  4. Apr 12, 2010 #3


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    Gold Member

    So many juicy classes to take.. why not take an extra year for your degree and complete them all?
  5. Apr 12, 2010 #4
    The ones that sound the most relevant would be:

    Mathematical Modeling (not sure what that covers exactly, though)
    Complex Variables (MUST, makes your life so much easier come grad school)
    Systems of Differential Equations
    Metric Spaces and Topology (Metrics are used extensively in general relativity if I remember correctly)

    The rest are give or take. I'm in a similar position and the classes that I was told to take were; complex variables, linear algebra, partial differential equations, more differential equations, tensor calculus, and advanced calculus.
  6. Apr 12, 2010 #5
    It is really tempting. All of them look interesting (except for Actuarial Mathematics). But if I took another year for more math electives, I wouldn't graduate until I was 25. Isn't that a little old?

    The description for Mathematical Modeling reads: A variety of mathematical modeling techniques will be introduced. Students will formulate models in response to practical problems drawn from the literature of ecology, environmental sciences, engineering or other fields. Informal writing assignments in class and formal written presentation of the models will be required.

    The Department of Math at OSU requires you to take at least one writing-intensive math class to develop your ability to present effectively to students and your peers and whatnot. I suppose I can safely skip Fundamentals of Topology if I'm going to take Metric Spaces and Topology later, but non-Euclidean geometry (another writing-intensive class) sounds too enticing to pass up. Then again if Mathematical Modeling is more relevant I'll go with that. The rest of your suggestions sound like great advice, thank you.
  7. Apr 12, 2010 #6
    For whatever reason, most undergraduate differential geometry classes are barely an extension of calculus 3, where you'll just be studying surfaces in R^3. I don't think this is terribly useful since it is way too concrete and specific. If you can, I recommend skipping the undergraduate level class and just going straight for whatever graduate level differential or Riemannian geometry class they have (looks like MTH 674, and look it doesn't even require the lower level differential geometry classes!). It won't be that much more difficult and everything you learn can easily by "concretized" to what you would have learned in the undergraduate class anyways. This is what I did and I don't regret it. That will be much more relevant to you if you want to study general relativity/astrophysics in grad school.
  8. Apr 12, 2010 #7
    Is that really true? Quite ridiculous if it is.
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