IThunkit
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Hi, I have offers currently for straight physics degrees and I'm trying to decide between manchester and birmingham. Both unis offer physics with theoretical physics degrees and I'm seriously considering switching courses to +theoretical physics as I enjoy maths (at one point considering doing a maths degree). The problem is that I don't like blindly accepting maths and I find it interesting to understand why the mathematical methods work. I get the impression that in a straight physics degree there is alot of blindly accepting maths and that the maths itself isn't abstract( relative to a maths degree). 1. Is this still the case with a physics + theoretical physics degree?
2. What areas of maths do you do in a theoretical physics degree that you wouldnt in a straight physics degree?
3.How is the maths learnt in a theoretical physics degree different to that learnt in a maths degree?

Any answers/help would be appreciated lots
Thanks
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Anonymous(
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Hi. The core modules will remain the same in both the degrees. In a TPhys degree, you’ll probably do less labs and replace them with more maths modules. You’ll learn things like Mathematical Analysis(real and complex), which most physics majors usually don’t do(depends on the uni though). You’ll get the option to take more mathematical methods in a TPhys degree and some advanced maths heavy topics like General Relativity. In a maths degree, you study pure and Applied maths. Pure maths is very different from Physics but applied maths and theoretical physics are usually interchangeable. You won’t be doing many proofs even in a theoretical physics degree and the maths won’t be as abstract. You will still be blindly accepting a lot of maths. But that doesn’t mean you can’t explore the abstract math topics and the reasoning behind the maths you use yourself. The maths learnt in a Phys/TPhys degree is very different from pure maths, but very similar to Applied maths. Pure maths is the abstract one. Theoretical Physicists use some of these pure maths topics. You’ll probably be learning these in a TPhys degree. At the undergraduate
level, there isn’t much of a difference between the maths in a TPhys and a regular physics degree. The difference comes at the masters degree level. If you want to pursue research in theoretical physics, you must do a TPhys masters degree. At the ug level, it really doesn’t matter that much . Most unis let you switch between the two programs in the first two years, so there’s no need to worry. Try taking some of the TPhys modules and see if you like them and then decide. You will be doing less labs and will get to study more maths in a TPhys degree for sure. If you apply for a TPhys masters, you won’t be at a significant disadvantage if you just did a straight physics degree. Plus, there is a lot of flexibility in a regular physics degree. You can make it as mathematical as a TPhys degree just by taking the correct modules and options. (At bachelors level). As for the areas of maths, some topics you’ll cover in a TPhys degree that you probably won’t cover in a physics degree are Real and Complex Analysis, Algebraic Geometry, Advanced group theory, etc.
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IThunkit
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Thank you , very helpful
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UoB - Engineering and Physical Sciences
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(Original post by IThunkit)
Hi, I have offers currently for straight physics degrees and I'm trying to decide between manchester and birmingham. Both unis offer physics with theoretical physics degrees and I'm seriously considering switching courses to +theoretical physics as I enjoy maths (at one point considering doing a maths degree). The problem is that I don't like blindly accepting maths and I find it interesting to understand why the mathematical methods work. I get the impression that in a straight physics degree there is alot of blindly accepting maths and that the maths itself isn't abstract( relative to a maths degree). 1. Is this still the case with a physics + theoretical physics degree?
2. What areas of maths do you do in a theoretical physics degree that you wouldnt in a straight physics degree?
3.How is the maths learnt in a theoretical physics degree different to that learnt in a maths degree?

Any answers/help would be appreciated lots
Thanks
Hi IThunkit!

Here at Birmingham, theoretical and straight physics students are taught the same core maths module (maths for physicists) which is about mathematical methods to make solving physical problems easier. Although there are some proofs (there's no blind acceptance, at least!) it doesn't go into as much rigor as the maths department does... for the first few years anyway! If you're really invested in proofs and rigor, it may be worth looking into our Theoretical Physics and Applied Maths [TPAM] degree

In theoretical physics there's more flexibility, in later years, to pick modules from the maths department that further aid you in solving these physical problems. You can compare the modules to see where theoretical and straight physics differs (see the modules section on https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergr...ysics-bsc.aspx and https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/undergr...ysics-bsc.aspx) but one of the initial significant differences is that, in the second year, Lagrangian Mechanics and Eigenphysics are compulsory modules. These are some examples of where maths is further applied to make solving problems easier - for example, Lagrangian Mechanics is the study of finding energy conservation laws that are much simpler to analyse than many Newtonian force systems.

As mentioned before, the core maths is taught in the same lectures that are taken by straight physics students. Alongside this, every week there are maths problem sheets and workshops that will consolidate this lecture content. However, the more mathematical and theory-only modules are likely to be taught by theoretical physicists in the department... It's even likely that one of your tutors will end up teaching one of the theory lecture courses! This way you can ask for clarifications on some of the maths you may have misunderstood in lectures.

I'm a theoretical physics undergrad so feel free to message me if you have any more questions about student life as a TP student
-Faye
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