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Courses (Your) Best Undergrad Physics Courses

  1. Aug 12, 2007 #1
    Hi, do you have a class you took as an undergrad that you really enjoyed?

    I'm interested in hearing what people feel were the best classes they've had.
    I ask, because my university has a list of required classes I need to fulfill the physics major requirement; but I feel like it's a wasted opportunity to just take what is mandatory. I want to know what other classes are good to take. I imagine a class which a student goes through hating it, and working too much, but afterwards appreciating everything that he learned from it.

    If there's a class that challenged, motivated, or really well-prepared you when you were in college, please post it here for us to share!
    I know the teacher is important to the quality of the class, so I'd love to hear about good teachers you've had... but please also talk about what coursework, curriculum, and class content was best for you, because I can't sign up for your teacher! thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2007 #2


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    You might want to say what university you're studying at, so that people who went there can tell you who the good professors are.

    Also, your choice of optional classes should depend heavily on what you want to do after you graduate. For instance, if you want to go into theoretical physics, you will want to take extra math classes and stuff like general relativity instead of solar physics or whatnot.
  4. Aug 12, 2007 #3
    My favourite undergrad physics class was statistical mechanics. The professor was very thorough at the blackboard and he explained things well. I'm not sure how else to put that, but he just made things very easy to understand - now that I am teaching myself I'd love to go back and see him lecture again! He also had a good way of stepping back every once in a while and saying "isn't it amazing how..." and he had a delightful dry sense of humour. We used the book by Greiner, Stocker and Neise - I liked this book quite a bit. They had a nice discussion of the quantum mechanical implications of the multiplicity factor and they had a few good worked problems in the text.

    I also enjoyed the GR course I took as an undergrad. The class was very unmathematical and we used the textbook by Hartle. The professor gave a take-home midterm and liked to ask questions about Buzz Lightyear.

    It's probably also worth mentioning the scientific programming course that I took - it was project-based and the homeworks stepped us through some really useful computer skills. It could have been a quite boring course, but the fact that we were using the stuff we learned to solve problems that we'd invented on our own made it easy to keep motivated.

    Aside from the physics and math, I took courses in Shakespeare and american literature that I really enjoyed. The Shakespeare professor was brilliant - she was just one of those magicians who can lead students deeply into a text and human life without appearing to act at all. The american lit course had some really awesome readings - Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, "The Bell Jar" - stuff I would never have been exposed to doing just a physics degree!

    Usually I enjoyed courses which had very lucid lectures. The more I felt I was getting out of class, the more effort I put into the homeworks and readings.
  5. Aug 12, 2007 #4
    There were a lot of classes that I've enjoyed so far after completing 2 years of college work.

    Linear Algebra and Differential Equations - I had a really tough professor with an old textbook that focused heavily on math proofs, not computations. Because of that class, I learned that I can probably enjoy my upper-div math courses as well.

    Physics w/calculus (mechanics, E&m, modern) - my professors weren't that great but I still loved what I learned in these courses. I was challenged to do read the book often and do plenty of problems from the book, which I enjoyed doing

    English - even though writing essays were painful and challenging, I enjoyed the reward of learning of author's ideas. The last part of the class was the best, which focused on logical fallacies.

    US history - this class required careful notetaking and alot of reading from the textbook. The professor was funny but also knew what he was saying. The class was based on 3 exams, and I just squeezed by with an A.
  6. Aug 13, 2007 #5
    Differential Geometry I and the Optional Second Upper division Classical Mechanics class were perhaps my favorite courses.

    The Mechanics course while I was taking it was awful, as the professor they had teach it hadn't been teaching mechanics for quite some time, so most of the lecture was word for word from the book, which hit a point where the authors decided it was hand waiving time. However, the material it self was quite enjoyable.

    Differential Geometry was great for two reasons: The professor was strict as hell but for good reason, and the lectures were awe inspiring.
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