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Worth taking higher level physics classes?

  1. Oct 6, 2008 #1
    Hi guys, I am a sophomore in college right now intending to major in physics. The thing though is that I am fairly certain that I want to go to medical school and thus am just pursuing the major for my own intellectual curiosity. I am taking junior level mechanics and electrodynamics courses this year and then will probably take quantum mechanics my junior year. These courses are all classified as 3000 level courses and to get my major I also have to complete several 4000 level courses.

    Now my question is, is it really worth taking these higher level 4000 level courses (statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, solid state physics, etc.) for intellectual curiosity purposes. This may seem like a weird question, but I have heard that many upper level classes are more about solving complicated tedious math problems. Also another concern is that they could possibly lower my gpa. In your experience are higher level classes extremely difficult and competitive or do most people at that level feel comfortable with the material and do fairly well?

    I have done a decent amount of undergrad physics research, and while I find it very interesting and will continue to do it while in college, I cannot make a career out of it. That being said which classes beyond 3000 level quantum mechanics do you suggest I take merely for intellectual curiosity sake that won't be too detrimental to my gpa.

    Thanks for your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2008 #2
    I think your concerns about upper division physics classes are all well-founded, tedious math problems, difficult and competitive classes, and lower GPAs all do occur.

    The main variables are your level of preperation and the difficulty of your university. If you are not very well prepared, or if your university is top notch, then you may want to avoid the upper division physics classes. What is your alternative to finishing the physics major? If you do stay in physics, keep in mind that you may find areas of research that excite you more then what you have done as an undergrad.
  4. Oct 6, 2008 #3
    I guess the alternative to completing my physics major would be to complete a biology major, which is not too difficult (4 additional classes), and then just take whatever physics/math classes interest me.

    Right now I am going into physics because I like understanding with more detail how the world around me works. Also, I like the challenge of solving a problem using intuition. But at the same time, I do not really have any passion to delve extremely deep into the technical aspects of math and physics, especially not to the point of earning a phd. I'm not sure if this makes sense, but that is my current thought process and with that are there any upper level classes that you feel would interest me?
  5. Oct 6, 2008 #4
    I really think you would prefer the biology degree, based on everything you have said. Generally, physical intuition becomes less a part of physics coursework, and the mathematical intuition that you (rightfully) consider to belong to the technical aspects of mathematics becomes supremely important. Also, without going to graduate school in physics all of that difficult math and physics homework would seem to go nowhere, the standard undergrad curriculum leaves everyone with unfinished knowledge unless they read extra books for fun on the side.

    Let me know if you want me to talk you into it more, but I really strongly recommend you do the biology degree.
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