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Will getting a B.S. in physics give you all the information you need to know?

  1. Dec 15, 2012 #1
    Of course i don't mean EVERYTHING, but as far as school goes. It seems to me that getting a bachelors in physics gives you most the information, and then grad school is just finding new discoveries based of information you learned getting your bachelors. Is that somewhat right?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2012 #2
    I'd say more of a foundation then with graduate school you are basically are much more independent meaning you learn how to develop your own theories and prove that their valid.
  4. Dec 15, 2012 #3


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    There are some pretty big areas, such as particle physics, quantum field theory, and general relativity, that aren't usually studied at all until grad school.
  5. Dec 16, 2012 #4


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    In the words of one of my undergrad professors: "Doing well in an undergraduate program in physics means that you have the potential to be good at 'real physics' in grad school."

    An undergraduate program provides the foundations, as halo said. However, there were many connections and subtleties that I didn't understand until I had taken graduate courses and passed my quals.
  6. Dec 16, 2012 #5
    Graduate courses are much more mathematical in general.

    In principle, you have learned most of the physics you need (barring some areas like QFT and GR) but few (I'm certainly not) are clever enough to see all the applications and implications.
  7. Dec 16, 2012 #6
    let me put it this way as a physics grad student.

    general physics is like swimming with a life vest on in the kiddie pool.

    undergrad upper level physics is like swimming in a regular pool with a lifeguard.

    grad physics is they toss you into a shark infested tropical ocean and say "Get back to us at the end of the semester".

    In principle you learned to swim in the swimming pool. Doesn't mean you're ready for Survivor in shark infested waters. But if you don't even know how to swim in the swimming pool you have almost no chance of surviving the sharks.

    Also, I realized that the analogy fits in more ways than 1. You don't have to beat the sharks, you just have to beat the next slowest swimmer.
  8. Dec 17, 2012 #7
    I've had grad student friends give me similar horror stories but mostly associated with Jackson E&M, they say mechanics, quantum, math methods, and computational physics at the grad level are only slightly more difficult than their undergrad analogs but not impossibly hard like grad level E&M is. Are they correct?
  9. Dec 17, 2012 #8


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    Personally, I did reasonably well in E&M (and E&M is important to my research, so that's not surprising.) My nightmare class was Stat Mech! And yet, I did reasonably well in QFT later on. It really depends on the individual and your situation. I did poorly in stat mech because I had several other courses at the same time and struggled to keep up in all of them. In contrast QFT was my only course that term. Thus, I got much more out of it.

    The common denominator is that your workload will increase. Alot! Any good grad program will make sure to immerse you in physics during your first year. You will be taking 3-4 physics courses concurrently, unlike most undergrad programs where you take 1-2 physics courses a term.
  10. Dec 17, 2012 #9
    I know that, my grad friends were taking grad level E&M, mechanics, and quantum at the same time and they all did reasonably well to my knowledge. I already know what taking 3 physics courses concurrently is like though; did well got a B in e&M, A in plasma physics, and an A- in quantum taking all 3 at the same time (undergrad mind you), so by your standard maybe I'm more prepared than I thought. I was just worried since even our resident math guru struggled in grad E&M, said they did the equivalent of a PDE's class with special functions and such in like 2 weeks, lol.
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