Which course - chemistry, physics or NatSci?

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randomusername23
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Hi, just looking for some advice on deciding what subject I want to pursue when I apply to uni next year.

I really enjoy chemistry, but also do like reading about physics outside of school. However, I'm not enjoying AS physics (but Year 2 looks far more interesting), but then again, I don't particularly work well with my teachers' teaching styles - I don't know how much of this is just me not liking the teacher, or whether doing physics (or even some physics modules in a Natci degree) at uni would be a bad idea?

I know applications are ages away, but I would be really grateful for any advice or comments about chemistry / physics uni courses - or maybe any good books to read to demonstrate interest on my personal statement?
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Sinnoh
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Physics A-level really doesn't represent undergraduate physics. I don't think any of my friends on my physics course liked A-level physics.
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artful_lounger
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Although it's probably not helpful to add more choices, you might also be interested in chemical physics degrees, which integrate chemistry and physics, and particularly focus on the intersection of the two (physical and theoretical chemistry, quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular physics, and statistical mechanics/thermodynamics).

As far as which to pursue, it depends on what it is you like and don't like about each subject. If you hate the labs in chemistry at A-level, a chemistry degree might not be a great idea as you'll be spending probably 6-8 hours a week at least (often all on the same day) in the lab.

Something else to bear in mind is degree level physics is very mathematical, much more so than A-level, and so you'll be using the kinds of mathematical methods you learned in A-level (especially calculus) to solve problems pretty much constantly in all your modules. If you don't like the fact A-level Physics isn't super mathematical and is more based on physical intuition and simple algebraic problems, then degree level physics may appeal to you. If you don't really like maths all that much, a physics degree is probably a bad idea on the other hand!.
Last edited by artful_lounger; 3 months ago
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randomusername23
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I wasn't sure whether I'd be better applying to a NatSci course e.g. at Durham or Cambridge, where I could try physics out without being committed to it for the whole degree (but still run the risk of hating/failing a first year module), or applying for chemistry alone at Oxford (for example), or indeed anywhere.
(not trying to sound pretentious mentioning those unis, just the best examples I could think of)
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randomusername23
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Although it's probably not helpful to add more choices, you might also be interested in chemical physics degrees, which integrate chemistry and physics, and particularly focus on the intersection of the two (physical and theoretical chemistry, quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular physics, and statistical mechanics/thermodynamics).
Thanks for the suggestion. My main interest is chemistry I think, so that would sound really interesting. I'll have a look!
Do many unis offer those sort of courses?
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McGinger
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Cambridge has a good list of resources for each subject : https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....uggestions.pdf

Its worth looking beyond just straight Physics or Chemistry as a degree - Pharmacology/Drug Discovery/Medicinal Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Chemical Physics, Physics with Astronomy, Engineering Physics, any of these 'with Industrial Experience or 'with Study Abroad' or 'International Experience' etc. Also many 'biological science' courses have Chemistry and 'another science' as their requirement - so worth look at courses like these too : http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cellmolmed/...undergraduate/
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by randomusername23)
Thanks for the suggestion. My main interest is chemistry I think, so that would sound really interesting. I'll have a look!
Do many unis offer those sort of courses?
Oh I edited my post after you replied, although not in terms of which unis offer those degrees

I think previously at least Glasgow, Edinburgh, UCL, UEA and I think Sheffield or Nottingham offered such a degree, although some might not offer it anymore. Imperial also had (again, not sure if they still do; a lot of courses have been withdrawn during covid) a course in Chemistry with Molecular Physics, which is in some respects similar to this but closer to a major/minor split between chemistry and physics, than more evenly in a chemical physics degree. A natural sciences course with a relatively even split between physics and chemistry might be similar, depending on which optional modules in each subject you take.

Note also that it is often possible to take optional modules from the physics department at the uni you are studying at in a chemistry course. So if you wanted to just study a little bit of physics along side chemistry as your main subject, a single honours chemistry degree may also still be suitable. Additionally you will study a fair bit of physical chemistry in a chemistry degree, which overlaps with a number of physics topics as indicated in quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. However, you won't go into as much detail and mathematical rigour as in a physics degree in those topics.

It's usually less typical to be able to take chemistry modules though, as the lab requirements of chemistry courses place fundamental limits on how many students can take those modules usually.
Last edited by artful_lounger; 3 months ago
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randomusername23
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Oh I edited my post after you replied, although not in terms of which unis offer those degrees

I think previously at least Glasgow, Edinburgh, UCL, UEA and I think Sheffield or Nottingham offered such a degree, although some might not offer it anymore. Imperial also had (again, not sure if they still do; a lot of courses have been withdrawn during covid) a course in Chemistry with Molecular Physics, which is in some respects similar to this but closer to a major/minor split between chemistry and physics, than more evenly in a chemical physics degree. A natural sciences course with a relatively even split between physics and chemistry might be similar, depending on which optional modules in each subject you take.

Note also that it is often possible to take optional modules from the physics department at the uni you are studying at in a chemistry course. So if you wanted to just study a little bit of physics along side chemistry as your main subject, a single honours chemistry degree may also still be suitable. Additionally you will study a fair bit of physical chemistry in a chemistry degree, which overlaps with a number of physics topics as indicated in quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. However, you won't go into as much detail and mathematical rigour as in a physics degree in those topics.

It's usually less typical to be able to take chemistry modules though, as the lab requirements of chemistry courses place fundamental limits on how many students can take those modules usually.
Thanks again for all of the advice. I think it's probably too early for me to make a decision between the 2 subjects, but it's good to be aware of the options available. I guess for physics, it'll depend on how the further maths modules go when we start them in June/July - nice to know that I could still take optional physics modules though in a chemistry degree!
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by randomusername23)
Thanks again for all of the advice. I think it's probably too early for me to make a decision between the 2 subjects, but it's good to be aware of the options available. I guess for physics, it'll depend on how the further maths modules go when we start them in June/July - nice to know that I could still take optional physics modules though in a chemistry degree!
It does depend a little on the course you're studying - I doubt you could do so at Oxford for example (although also the Oxford course is much more mathematical and heavier on the physics-y stuff in the physical chemistry courses from what I understand anyway), but at many others it is likely to be possible.
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