I'm going to be a Physics Major...

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kikko
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I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby kikko » Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:21 pm UTC

Anything I need to know, tips, habits i need, things I will become, stereotypes, future jobs, anything?

I'm starting my freshman year this august, i'm taking Physics for Scientists and Engineers and Calculus I to go with it (totaling 16 credits with other generals, but i care less about those courses). Using the texts Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach with Modern Physics, 2nd edition, by knight and Calculus, 6th edition, by Stewart. Any comments on the books, or college in general?

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Charlie!
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Charlie! » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:39 am UTC

kikko wrote:Anything I need to know, tips, habits i need, things I will become, stereotypes, future jobs, anything?

I'm starting my freshman year this august, i'm taking Physics for Scientists and Engineers and Calculus I to go with it (totaling 16 credits with other generals, but i care less about those courses). Using the texts Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach with Modern Physics, 2nd edition, by knight and Calculus, 6th edition, by Stewart. Any comments on the books, or college in general?

Tips:
The books haven't been a big factor for me. You'll figure things out, or maybe you won't. If your early books are bad (you'd think that at higher levels the lesser competition would lower the quality, but an interesting market failure happens; in bigger textbook markets the schlock has a way of creeping in) you can read Hyperphysics, read the Feynman lectures, but mostly you just have to think about it.

Find other physics majors, make friends with them, and do homework/studying with them occasionally. It's one of the things I wish I'd done better.

Also, if you've got your courses under control, start looking for work in a professor's lab fairly early - try to plan on either looking or working all through junior year. Don't worry about starting off unpaid if you can get paid for it sometime in the future. Maybe do an REU between your sophomore and junior years.

Take a variety of courses even within the sciences. Cellular bio. Organic chemistry. Anthropology. They were useful to me not just in their own fields and not just in a "what should I minor in?" sense, but there are lots of connections to physics. Even the anthropology class, because of the importance of epistemology :P
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B.Good
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby B.Good » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:41 am UTC

I can't really add anything other than I'm also going to be a physics (and math) major and Stewart's book is a fantastic calculus book.

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mercuryseven
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby mercuryseven » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:15 am UTC

Also, if you have the time, perhaps you may want to pick up some additional skills that might be useful later on, but not usually taught in classes. For example, programming, LaTeX, literature searching skills, etc.

I guess it depends on university whether those things are formally taught or not. But for me here, I had to learn all those mentioned above by myself, and each of those were crucial in research projects.

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Narius
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Narius » Mon Jul 19, 2010 3:14 am UTC

For physics majors, research is the NUMBER ONE THING. Don't freak out about it since there probably aren't many research opportunities available for freshman (that's not to say don't look, definitely check things out). But even your first year, take time to meet with professors and discuss your interests. They may be writing your future letters of recommendation.

One thing you definitely can and should do as a freshman is network with other physics majors. Generally there aren't too many (less than 200 at my school out of 50,000), and it's really nice to have people other than engineers to pick each other brains. You'll be especially glad to have each other come upper level classes.

As for the actual classes, reading the book NEVER hurts, do lots of practice problem, but have fun with it. Take you work seriously, work hard, but college really is a good time and an opportunity to learn a lot without killing yourself in the process.

Durin
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Durin » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:56 am UTC

I hate to piggy-back off this thread but I have a question. I know I want to go to grad school, but as for an actual field I have no earthly idea. I look up the general outlines for all the fields and they all sound interesting. I was kind of looking at Astroparticle because it sort of combines particle/cosmology/astrophysics together(I hope I'm not making too many sweeping generalizations with that) but on the other hand plasma physics and condensed matter sound exciting as well. It's just kind of overwhelming to pick, and I'm scared I'm somehow going to pick wrong.

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intimidat0r
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby intimidat0r » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:33 am UTC

Stewart as a math book is pretty terrible, but I suspect most students in engineering and science based calculus classes have to endure it. For extra fun, pick of Spivak and read it on the side (or just read it by itself, no difference).
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BlackSails
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby BlackSails » Mon Jul 19, 2010 1:57 pm UTC

Read Landau and Lifshitz for everything.

Dont be afraid to get a textbook that isnt the one used by the class. For instance, if you are using gasciorowitz for quantum, nothing stops you from also getting griffiths or shankar.

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mercuryseven
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby mercuryseven » Mon Jul 19, 2010 3:32 pm UTC

Durin wrote:I hate to piggy-back off this thread but I have a question. I know I want to go to grad school, but as for an actual field I have no earthly idea. I look up the general outlines for all the fields and they all sound interesting. I was kind of looking at Astroparticle because it sort of combines particle/cosmology/astrophysics together(I hope I'm not making too many sweeping generalizations with that) but on the other hand plasma physics and condensed matter sound exciting as well. It's just kind of overwhelming to pick, and I'm scared I'm somehow going to pick wrong.


General outlines may be too...er, general to make any decision. It might help if for the school you're considering, visit their various research groups' websites. They usually describe their research in a clearer way, and will show publication lists, references, etc. Better yet, if you're lucky, they may have slides for seminars/public lectures, which will give you a good idea before you make your decision.

Not forgetting the obvious suggestion, which is to talk to prospective profs and supervisors. Most might be kind enough to answer most of your questions.

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doogly
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby doogly » Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:09 pm UTC

Programming! This seems like an infinitely useful skill that is conspicuously absent from the standard physics curriculum. I definitely recommend taking a CS course or two. I wish I had done this. Personally, I can't program for shit. I did a little Fortran back in undergrad, nothing too serious.

Attend all colloquia and seminars in your department. You will understand the first 5% of the talk. That is to be expected. They are still important, and sometimes there are cookies!
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eternauta3k
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby eternauta3k » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:29 pm UTC

Oooh cookies. Last term at my univ. they did "Charlas con postre", you'd go, grab a slice of pie and listen to interesting stuff (neuroscience, job prospects for physicists, etc)

Edit: Definitely programming. You can learn the basics, maybe play around with C or python (check out PyOpenGl, make silly games).
Seems kinda silly to say this in an English speaking forum but everyone mentions learning English is important for reading advanced books (translations are scarce/outdated) and papers.

Edit: pi*100 th post!
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Atwood
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Atwood » Wed Jul 21, 2010 6:32 pm UTC

Well, welcome to the highly awesome club of us physics majors :)

tesseraktik
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby tesseraktik » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:19 am UTC

doogly wrote:Attend all colloquia and seminars in your department. You will understand the first 5% of the talk. That is to be expected. They are still important,
Indeed; even if you don't understand everything immediately, come exams you'll be happy to have at least seen everything that you need to cram and have some idea of how it works.
Take it from me: I attended maybe four seminars, this semester, and greatly regret not attending the remaining three-hundred-ninety-six.
doogly wrote:and sometimes there are cookies!
...or ice cream, made right in front of your eyes with liquid nitrogen; it's every thermodynamics professor's favorite party trick, and it's delicious :D

Also: Have you decided between Team Kirk or Team Picard, yet? Please note that you don't want to be on Team Kirk.
...and how much of the Pokérap have you memorized?
ni'o mi nelci le zirpu sovmabrnornitorinku
Spoiler:
++$_ wrote:What's a "degree"?

EDIT: I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently it's some ancient Babylonian unit for angles :/

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Peripatetic
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Peripatetic » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:59 am UTC

kikko wrote:(totaling 16 credits with other generals, but i care less about those courses)

This is somewhat tangential, but don't undervalue courses outside your major. For me at least, writing, history, and music classes were valuable to me for stretching my mind in different directions and meeting very different people from the kind roaming the physics halls. These extra courses don't even have to fulfill GE requirements, just be interesting or different. Who knows what interests could be sparked? After taking a course in 20th-century Eastern European history, I decided to spend a semester in Hungary, one of the best times I had during college.

You're already going to major in physics, the science of everything; why not go whole hog and study everything?

One more thing, you don't have to finish your GE requirements as soon as possible. Spread them out so you're not ignoring courses that interest you. I didn't finish my GE requirements until the end of my fourth year.

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doogly
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby doogly » Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:10 pm UTC

We asked all the candidates for the last astro professorship their favorite Star Trek captain. The woman who got hired went for Picard, "because he drinks tea but is also a badass."

Taking GE required courses early is a good idea because there are limits to what physics/math you can do because of sequential stuff. After finishing the intro modern physics course and the linear algebra math course, your options become huge. Right now, you take calc 1 phys 1, then you take calc 2 phys 2, then calc 3 phys 3... Maybe the calcs are offset a semester because of advanced credit.

Did you do the Budapest math program? I have heard no end of good things about it.
LE4dGOLEM: What's a Doug?
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Peripatetic
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Peripatetic » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:28 pm UTC

doogly wrote:Did you do the Budapest math program? I have heard no end of good things about it.

No, just a standard study abroad. Took courses in Basic Hungarian (I can now say "I don't speak Hungarian" fluently), History of the EU (holy hell is that thing horrendously complicated!), Comparative Literature (Russians and Hungarians compete to out-depress each other in hilarious ways), and Romani Studies (aka Gypsies aka the only people in Europe hated more than the Jews).

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roundedge
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby roundedge » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

Don't think that you'll take a professor's class, skip half of them, get a B in the course, and never see him/her again. If you plan on going to grad school, the people who are teaching you are the people who you will be working for, so you want to make a good impression from the start. Even if you don't go to grad school, a good reference from a professor can be a very valuable asset. Go to class, pay attention, and ask genuine questions.

You have to know computers. For physics undergrad I would recommend learning Matlab, Labview, LaTeX, Python (awesome calculator) to start. My professors seem to really like Fortran, Linux, Igor etc. But this is my experience, sometimes different universities have different preferences for software and languages in their classes.

Go to your physics common room if you have one. There are people there that will save your ass. They will chatter about some grant application or work study program or exchange program that is due next week that you've never heard of, and it might change your life; they will chatter about some professor or class that is a waste of time, or really interesting, and it might change your mind about taking it; they will chatter about the best way to do some homework assignment, and it will change your grade; and they might chatter about sweet parties this friday.

I learned all of this stuff the hard way.

kikko
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby kikko » Thu Aug 12, 2010 4:43 pm UTC

tesseraktik wrote:
doogly wrote:
Also: Have you decided between Team Kirk or Team Picard, yet? Please note that you don't want to be on Team Kirk.
...and how much of the Pokérap have you memorized?


Not very interested in star trek, memorized it all this summer.

Kreyopresny
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Re: I'm going to be a Physics Major...

Postby Kreyopresny » Thu Sep 17, 2015 5:58 am UTC

As a physics major who graduated in 2010, there are a few major things to say.

1. GET YOUR MASTERS!!!!! Period. The best you can do with a physics bachelors is teach high school. Don't take a year off, don't join the forces, don't change majors or get a second undergrad... Just go for it.

2. Learn programming of some sort, even the old ones. I can't tell you how many great research projects I worked on using old languages because we didn't need anything fancy and the department already owned a license. My first intern assignment during the end of my undergrad was to program a TRUE random number generator using FORTRAN.


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