Which physics concentration should I declare for my degree?

In summary, the person is considering declaring a combined concentration in physics and chemistry, with physics as their home department. They are looking into going to grad school, doing the same research they are doing now. Their target PIs/advisors are in engineering departments, so they are considering an undergraduate degree in materials science and engineering. However, they are at a liberal arts and sciences college and do not offer a materials science and engineering concentration, so they would have to do the dual degree engineering option or do the second half of their program at the partner university.
  • #1
Frostyscie
4
0
Hello. I am a non-traditional undergrad, currently conducting materials and electrochemistry research (optics, photonics, semiconductors, energy storage). Before going to college (post-secondary), I had extensive experience in bioinformatics and biomolecular research.

Although it is not yet the deadline for us to declare our concentration, I would like to get some early advice. I am looking into doing a combined concentration in physics and chemistry, with physics as my home department. Our college currently offers three physics concentrations: applied physics, physics (general), and physics (professional). Course requirements are as follows:
  • Applied Physics (52 concentration hours): Physics I - II, Calculus I - IV, Chemistry I, Computational Methods, Experimental Methods, Advanced Experimental Physics, 9 to 10 hours of upper physics (or any applied physics/engineering-related electives, such as biomechanics, circuits)
  • Physics, General (42 concentration hours): Physics I - II, Calculus I - III, 22 hours of mid to upper physics [This concentration is generally intended for education double concentrators or those who qualify to do a dual degree in engineering]
  • Physics, Professional (58 concentration hours): Physics I - II, Calculus I- IV, Chemistry I, Modern Physics, Mathematical Methods, Computational Methods, Experimental Methods, Advanced Experimental Physics, Classical Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, 3 hours of mid to upper physics [Recommended to also take Linear Algebra for those going into grad school]
No matter which concentration I choose, I am most likely going to do a similar course sequence with the physics (professional). Although it is a pretty straightforward approach to declare that concentration as I know that I want to take the dynamics-mechanics courses, I am wondering if I should declare one of the other two concentrations for other reasons (e.g. concentration hours). I am looking into going to grad school, doing the same research I am doing now. My target PIs/advisors are in engineering departments.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Frostyscie said:
I am looking into doing a combined concentration in physics and chemistry, with physics as my home department. Our college currently offers three physics concentrations: applied physics, physics (general), and physics (professional). Course requirements are as follows:
The missing information is how many hours of chemistry courses you plan to take. Which physics options will allow you to take them without overloading yourself?

Frostyscie said:
I am looking into going to grad school, doing the same research I am doing now. My target PIs/advisors are in engineering departments.
Masters or PhD? What major in grad school?
 
Last edited:
  • #3
CrysPhys said:
The missing information is how many hours of chemistry courses you plan to take. Which physics options will allow you to take them without overloading yourself?
Additional 33 hours of chemistry. All physics concentrations will allow me to graduate as a double concentrator in 4 years by taking mostly 5 courses per semester (excluding summer) [6 courses for a term or two, if counting fitness (activity) class], without compromising my research time.
CrysPhys said:
Masters or PhD? What major in grad school?
For a PhD (MSc en route to PhD). The degree major will most likely either be in materials science and engineering or electrical engineering and computer science as my target PIs are in those departments.
 
Last edited:
  • #4
Have you considered an undergrad degree in materials science and engineering?
 
  • #5
CrysPhys said:
Have you considered an undergrad degree in materials science and engineering?
Yes, however, I am in a liberal arts and sciences college that does not offer a materials science and engineering concentration. If I am to do MSE, I would have to do the dual degree engineering option and do the second half of my program at the partner university (articulation agreement). I also have the option to directly transfer to the partner university to do MSE, but upon looking at the curriculum, there are a few courses I do not really want to take or just not interested in. Both options would delay my graduation as well by about 2 years, based on the trend of the previous students who did one of the two.

I am very happy with my current PI at the college as my research is his area of expertise. He is in the physics department that is why I am looking to declare physics as my main concentration. The required courses are also something I would like to take. If I get accepted later on to my target department/PI for my PhD, the quals would not really pose as a significant disadvantage as the quals would be based solely on the graduate courses I would be taking, which are directly related to my research.
 
  • #6
OK. Your situation is a bit clearer now.

(1) Are you in the US?

(2) Your situation is atypical. But it looks like you plan (at least for now) to pursue the same sequence of courses regardless of your specific designated physics concentration. So, at first glance, it doesn't really matter what you choose.

(3) If you complete all the courses in the Physics, Professional concentration (regardless of your officially designated concentration), you will be in the best prepared position for applying to a physics PhD program, should you change your mind later and decide to pursue a physics PhD program.

(4) One consideration: If you elect the Physics, Professional concentration and later decide you would rather not take as many physics courses, can you then switch to one of the other options? If yes, then there's no harm in picking it. If no, you will have greater flexibility with one of the other options.

(5) If you're sure that you plan to pursue a grad program not in physics but in either materials science and engineering or electrical engineering and computer science, then you should look carefully at the admissions requirements for those programs: make sure you have the requisite undergrad course work. With a strong undergrad program in both physics and chemistry, you likely won't encounter too much difficulty with materials science and engineering (especially if you take undergrad solid-state physics and/or solid-state chemistry). But there may be issues with electrical engineering and computer science (unless you've had previous coursework here).

(6) It's good you've already identified potential graduate advisors. The work you describe is highly interdisciplinary. Even if Prof. A is listed in Dept. X, check to see whether they can also supervise students majoring in Dept. Y. Personally, I got my SB, MS, and PhD all in physics. But I took many electives (both undergrad and grad courses, and undergrad research) in materials science and engineering. My PhD advisor actually had his degrees in chemistry, but held joint appointments in physics and materials science and engineering. By special arrangement, he also supervised the thesis of at least one student in chemistry. So check the potential advisors you're interested in. You might have some flexibility in choice of grad major.
 
  • #7
CrysPhys said:
(1) Are you in the US?
Yes, US LAC.
CrysPhys said:
(4) One consideration: If you elect the Physics, Professional concentration and later decide you would rather not take as many physics courses, can you then switch to one of the other options? If yes, then there's no harm in picking it. If no, you will have greater flexibility with one of the other options.
Yes, it is quite easy to change concentrations within the department. I have seen some juniors change concentrations from physics (p) to either applied physics or physics (g) because they decided they want to go to med school or just work after undergrad instead, and vice versa to go to grad school. However, all physics concentrators in the honors program [and those who graduated from it] are physics (p).

I think I will declare physics (p) concentration, so I can get priority advising for some upper physics.
CrysPhys said:
(5) If you're sure that you plan to pursue a grad program not in physics but in either materials science and engineering or electrical engineering and computer science, then you should look carefully at the admissions requirements for those programs: make sure you have the requisite undergrad course work.
I actually forgot to consider the name of the grad program/major. I only looked at the PIs who are working with the research I want to do. I, then, tried to narrow it down to those I have a mutual connection with (e.g. my mentor at **** knows PI A) and to those who have great group dynamics according to current and previous PhD students.

Within the departments of my target PIs, the requirements are very broad as long as the applicant has a particularly strong background in chemistry, engineering, math, or physics. There are also a few who did biology concentration in both departments.Thank you for the advices!
 
  • #8
Looks like a good plan. Good luck!
 

1. What are the different physics concentrations available for a degree?

The most common physics concentrations include classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and astrophysics. However, some universities may offer additional concentrations such as biophysics or materials science.

2. How do I decide which physics concentration is right for me?

It is important to consider your interests and career goals when choosing a physics concentration. If you are interested in pursuing a career in engineering, electromagnetism or classical mechanics may be a good fit. If you are interested in research, quantum mechanics or astrophysics may be a better choice.

3. Are there any prerequisite courses for specific physics concentrations?

Yes, some physics concentrations may require specific prerequisite courses. For example, quantum mechanics may require a strong background in calculus and linear algebra. It is important to check with your university or academic advisor to determine the prerequisites for your desired concentration.

4. Can I change my physics concentration after declaring it?

Yes, it is possible to change your physics concentration after declaring it. However, this may require taking additional courses or extending your degree program. It is important to discuss any potential changes with your academic advisor.

5. How will declaring a physics concentration affect my career opportunities?

Declaring a physics concentration can provide you with specialized knowledge and skills that may make you more competitive in certain career fields. However, it is important to keep in mind that many employers value a well-rounded education and may not require a specific concentration for certain positions.

Similar threads

  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
4
Views
786
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
11
Views
632
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
16
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
2
Replies
50
Views
4K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
17
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
20
Views
3K
Replies
35
Views
3K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
9
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
20
Views
354
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
6
Views
1K
Back
Top