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How will i know if i will enjoy a physics degree?

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    I do Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry and i have an offer from Imperial for Physics with Theoretical Physics. I thought i like physics because i read a few books on string theory and am quite interested in particle physics. I also really enjoy A-level Maths and Further maths.

    However, i'm beginning to have doubts whether this was the right decision:
    -I NEVER pick up any sciency books or magazines
    -I never read the sciency side on the news (i.e. i won't really care if CERN had made a big discovery)
    -I know i will definitely not go into research/work in academia/become a teacher/lecturer in Physics
    -I hate practicals and have no interest in things like electromagnetism, circuits, astrophysics
    Is this a sign that i should rethink my options?
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    If you aren't already a member on physicsforums, I strongly suggest you make an account and pose the question to them. It's honestly the most helpful online community I've ever come across, and that's saying a lot given the nature of the Internet. Just lurking there and paying attention to the book recommendations they give has led me to reconsider my degree options and instead study physics.

    Not being interested in certain aspects of physics is definitely not a sign that you should abandon the subject altogether. The most brilliant physicists in the world have not reached that level of knowledge by merely getting comfortable with different areas of physics; they've also had to arrive at some problem or field that inspires them. In fact, I'd say the desire for earlier specialization is actually a good thing. You clearly have demonstrated enough interest to impress Imperial's admissions. Keep at it and try to meet that offer.
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    It could be a sign that you need a rethink, but it's hard to say. Physics is very different at degree level to A level, it's much more involved (and difficult of course) and much more maths based, which you will also get more of later on in the degree doing theoretical stuff.

    Having said that though, everyone doing a physics degree will like some modules and be less keen on others, not many people like electromagnetism on my course, not many people find it interesting because it's more functional than exciting, but you might like it if you enjoy maths because it's just a maze of differential calculus (I quite enjoy it for that reason).

    A lot of people dislike labs (I'm doing astrophysics and don't really enjoy them), but on theoretical physics you'll probably have considerably less labs after first year (where everyone has to do some basic labs) and then move on to mathsy/computer programming type stuff.

    It's hard to say whether you'll like it or not, although I have to say, I'm surprised you've managed to get an offer from Imperial with little to no enthusiasm for the subject (although I don't know their selection process to be fair). I certainly enjoy it far more than I did at A level, and I never really took a massive interest in the current goings on in physics until I started and became more interested in it. It might be worth trying to get hold of some material so you know the kind of stuff you'll be learning. And also if you like the applied maths modules at A level then they're relatively similar to some of the more basic areas that you do (like mechanics).

    Is there anything else that you think you might want to do instead? If you're realised you have a passion for chemistry or maths then try and change for that, but I don't think you'll know whether/how much you'd like physics until you get there, and you know better than anyone else. If there are any questions you have on doing physics at uni then I can help though, so fire away if you want.
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    (Original post by heyimbored)
    It could be a sign that you need a rethink, but it's hard to say. Physics is very different at degree level to A level, it's much more involved (and difficult of course) and much more maths based, which you will also get more of later on in the degree doing theoretical stuff.

    Having said that though, everyone doing a physics degree will like some modules and be less keen on others, not many people like electromagnetism on my course, not many people find it interesting because it's more functional than exciting, but you might like it if you enjoy maths because it's just a maze of differential calculus (I quite enjoy it for that reason).

    A lot of people dislike labs (I'm doing astrophysics and don't really enjoy them), but on theoretical physics you'll probably have considerably less labs after first year (where everyone has to do some basic labs) and then move on to mathsy/computer programming type stuff.

    It's hard to say whether you'll like it or not, although I have to say, I'm surprised you've managed to get an offer from Imperial with little to no enthusiasm for the subject (although I don't know their selection process to be fair). I certainly enjoy it far more than I did at A level, and I never really took a massive interest in the current goings on in physics until I started and became more interested in it. It might be worth trying to get hold of some material so you know the kind of stuff you'll be learning. And also if you like the applied maths modules at A level then they're relatively similar to some of the more basic areas that you do (like mechanics).

    Is there anything else that you think you might want to do instead? If you're realised you have a passion for chemistry or maths then try and change for that, but I don't think you'll know whether/how much you'd like physics until you get there, and you know better than anyone else. If there are any questions you have on doing physics at uni then I can help though, so fire away if you want.
    Funnily enough Maths and/with Econ at LSE was a consideration. In my spare time i mostly pick up the economist and pay much more attention to current affairs, politics and am interested in things such as the financial crisis etc.
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    I would say seem as you have an Imperial offer...go and if you have doubts once you've started out speak to someone. I transferred from Medical Sciences to the School of Chemistry at Newcastle cause I realised that although chemistry wasn't great at A Level I preferred it at degree level. If you've been selected for a Uni they will often be happy to transfer you and keep you rather than watch a good candidate go elsewhere! Internal transfers apparently don't count towards quota.
    I don't know with physics (but I can assume it follows a similar path to chem) in that it becomes a lot more specialized- you can pick and choose areas you enjoy/are good at. I hate labs more than I can put into words- I'm one of those freaks that makes up the marks in the exam (my tutor didn't believe I could and now thinks I'm Jesus or something!)
    Failing that- there's always natural sciences?! Not sure how many Uni's still offer it? Or trying for somewhere with Joint Honours?
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    Funnily enough Maths and/with Econ at LSE was a consideration. In my spare time i mostly pick up the economist and pay much more attention to current affairs, politics and am interested in things such as the financial crisis etc.
    I lived with someone doing economics last year and it seemed very political (and very mathematical). As the above poster said, disliking different areas of physics isn't necessarily a sign that physics isn't for you, you get plenty of opportunities to specialize quite a bit by the end of your degree (although you still need the core stuff). But if you feel like you've just stumbled into it because you haven't really known what you want to do, and now you think you know what you want to do (and it's different), then it's worth thinking about. Only you can make that decision though.

    I also don't know if the deadline for applications/changing applications has passed yet, I have a feeling it has, which potentially means a gap year would be needed.
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    Is this a sign that i should rethink my options?
    Yes, speaking from experience, as I did that exact degree. Go do a Maths/Econ type degree if you want a more relevant career, whilst somewhat liking the degree. The nerds/geeks do Physics/Theoretical Physics.
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    thanks for everyones responses, are there any textbooks you can recommend to give me a feel for university physics?
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    thanks for everyones responses, are there any textbooks you can recommend to give me a feel for university physics?
    University physics with modern physics is a pretty standard 1st year textbook, and engineering mathematics by KA Stroud is pretty standard for first year Maths. I'd give you some links but I'm on my phone and it won't work Not all unis use them, but the material would be pretty similar probably.

    They're expensive though, as are all textbooks really, but those two pretty much covered my whole first year, apart from special relativity. If you can get hold of a library copy or cheap one off eBay then they're worth looking over, they have example problems too.
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    alright, is there anymore advice, i.e. what would be good indications that a physics degree is what i would enjoy?
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    I do Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry and i have an offer from Imperial for Physics with Theoretical Physics. I thought i like physics because i read a few books on string theory and am quite interested in particle physics. I also really enjoy A-level Maths and Further maths.

    However, i'm beginning to have doubts whether this was the right decision:
    -I NEVER pick up any sciency books or magazines
    -I never read the sciency side on the news (i.e. i won't really care if CERN had made a big discovery)
    -I know i will definitely not go into research/work in academia/become a teacher/lecturer in Physics
    -I hate practicals and have no interest in things like electromagnetism, circuits, astrophysics
    Is this a sign that i should rethink my options?
    sounds to me like you should've applied for maths.....

    but physics has alot, when say 'alot', i mean pretty all of it will involve maths LOL, so don't panic just yet
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    (Original post by internet tough guy)
    sounds to me like you should've applied for maths.....

    but physics has alot, when say 'alot', i mean pretty all of it will involve maths LOL, so don't panic just yet
    Oh i know i defos don't want to do a pure maths degree. I know its quite different to the style of A-level Maths and further maths in the sense that there are more proofs and more rigorous instead of in a-level where you work towards a solution
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    Oh i know i defos don't want to do a pure maths degree. I know its quite different to the style of A-level Maths and further maths in the sense that there are more proofs and more rigorous instead of in a-level where you work towards a solution
    How about economics? Or a joint degree in Maths and economics?
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    Oh i know i defos don't want to do a pure maths degree. I know its quite different to the style of A-level Maths and further maths in the sense that there are more proofs and more rigorous instead of in a-level where you work towards a solution
    oh ok, from reading the rest of the thread, seems like economics or economics and maths is a better choice for you, out of curiousity what made you pick physics instead of economics or econ + maths?
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    ...in a-level where you work towards a solution
    There's a lot of this in degree level physics if you enjoy it. Instead of Maths beig the focus, it's a tool used to express or describe a physical phenomenon, or to link two or more concepts to each other.

    It's very interesting, but very hard to explain :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by internet tough guy)
    oh ok, from reading the rest of the thread, seems like economics or economics and maths is a better choice for you, out of curiousity what made you pick physics instead of economics or econ + maths?
    Well, i didn't do econ a-level so i notice it and i really hadn't really looked into the fact i pay more attention to current issues. I admit, during year 11 i had thought about it a bit but didn't go through with it.

    Also do you know if econ+maths at say LSE will have a lot of these proofs instead of working through to a solution?
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    (Original post by heyimbored)
    There's a lot of this in degree level physics if you enjoy it. Instead of Maths beig the focus, it's a tool used to express or describe a physical phenomenon, or to link two or more concepts to each other.

    It's very interesting, but very hard to explain :rolleyes:
    Do you know if there will be as much of this type of maths in econ+maths at say LSE?
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    Do you know if there will be as much of this type of maths in econ+maths at say LSE?
    I don't really know, I never saw any of my friends economics work, I imagine there would be a lot of application of mathematical techniques on economics problems though, he did spend most of his time doing Maths.

    EDIT: One thing I would say is from what I gather, a straight economics degree is very mathematical, you wouldn't need to pair it with Maths to fill up on Maths content if you were worried about that (I imagine that they'd put the maths in place of the more political and historical stuff, although I don't know)
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    Check if the course you're applying for uses the 'MasteringPhysics' assessment things. If the answer is no, you'll probably enjoy it.
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    (Original post by Jedbrien)
    Well, i didn't do econ a-level so i notice it and i really hadn't really looked into the fact i pay more attention to current issues. I admit, during year 11 i had thought about it a bit but didn't go through with it.

    Also do you know if econ+maths at say LSE will have a lot of these proofs instead of working through to a solution?
    don't know, I imagine if it was a straight economics degree, there probably be much less/very little proofs work involved for any maths that you'll be doing, but for a joint economisc + maths, I suppose there will be quite a bit proofs for 50% of your degree, but obviously in total this will amount to much less than if you were to do a straight maths degree

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