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WKU Physics or UK Physics

  1. Dec 17, 2013 #1
    I have narrowed my choices down to 2 schools to continue my path to a B.S. in Physics. I am 43 years old and will complete my AS at the local community college. I am very passionate about Physics and Math , however since I haven't used math in 20 years I had to retrain my brain in math. I will finish College Algebra and Trig by the time I am ready to transfer. The choices are Western Kentucky University or University of Kentucky. Seems like UK math requirements are Calculus I-IV then Matrix Algebra, WKU makes you take Calculus I & II, but then breaks their math classes up into courses like Linear Algebra, Multi-variable Algebra, etc. I like both schools, but the three year plans are tight and when I go into the WKU class schedule seems they are lacking in the number of sections that they offer, and time conflicts are an issue, where UK seems to offer more sections in things like University Physics and some of the math classes. I am wanting to continue on after my B.S. in Physics to eventually attain a masters then a PhD in Astrophysics. UK seems to have more research money but the only professor doing any Astrophysics related research is on the subject of Black Holes, but would have to compete with grad students for research slots. WKU has more astronomy contacts with Kitt Peak Observatory, and they have more undergrad opportunities with little to no graduates attending but not as much research money. Also WKU requires Calculus I to be completed before taking University Physics while UK you can be enrolled concurrently in Calc I and take University Physics.

    Just looking for anything I may have overlooked. Would there be an advantage to going to UK with the it being well-known, or would the WKU setup be more advantageous. I know I am behind in math but I'm not going to let that hinder my dreams.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2013 #2
    I actually am currently going to WKU for Electrical Engineering. It's a great school, but honestly for physics you are probably better off going to UK if you don't mind the higher price tag. The problem with physics at WKU is that it is that there are no physics majors. The department is shrinking very quickly.

    I just got done with Calculus based Physics 2 (Physics 265 at wku) which is a course all the hard science and engineering majors have to take, physics majors included. There were two classes for Phy 265 this semester, each with about 30-35 students. So somewhere between 60-70 total. Not one of them were majoring in physics. Everybody was either in engineering programs, chemistry or a few from other fields like math or geology.

    I talked to one of the physics professors about this once and he said that over the past few years, due to the economy, everybody that would have otherwise have gone into physics is going into engineering. The job prospects for engineers are much more promising than for physics majors and so the engineering department has the largest group of students yet, and the physics department has virtually no students.

    This will make it hard for you to get into a lot of physics classes that you need as they will not be offered unless there are enough students to make it worth teaching. Even alot of the lower level physics classes that are required only for physics majors are not offered on a regular basis.

    Note, I am not disparaging WKU's program itself. They have a great faculty, and a good astronomy department. They have alot of astrophysicists there, and the few physics majors I know are all getting to do independent research projects even as undergrads with lots of assistance from experienced faculty and access to good equipment. The only real problem is that the department just doesn't have many students at all.
  4. Dec 17, 2013 #3
    I say that unless you have a special reason to go to the smaller school, always go to the bigger research university. I can see no advantage to going to a school with limited physics options. Grad students from those small schools are always at a disadvantage.

    I wouldn't worry about "competing with grad students for spots," because undergraduate research is different in, among other things, funding.

    Professors love working with students (usually), and if you offer to work for free or until he has some funding for you, it'll make it easier to get started.
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