# How much mathematical knowledge will I gain from a plain physics degree?

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I'm currently in year 12 (currently take Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computing) and am planning to apply for doing physics next year. I enjoy the subject but have been eyeing the theoretical side of things more than the experimental (especially on topics like quantum physics).

Does a basic physics degree give me enough mathematical knowledge to pursue that field of physics or is it too experimentally focused, meaning I would need to go for "Physics with Theoretical Physics" or "Maths with Physics" courses?

Does a basic physics degree give me enough mathematical knowledge to pursue that field of physics or is it too experimentally focused, meaning I would need to go for "Physics with Theoretical Physics" or "Maths with Physics" courses?

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#2

look at the module lists for the courses youre interested in because some will be more mathematical than others and youll see that from the names of the classes available to you

on your own assessment, you'll probably prefer mathphys/theoretical courses, but as i say do some research to be sure

on your own assessment, you'll probably prefer mathphys/theoretical courses, but as i say do some research to be sure

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#3

It'll be mainly on mathematical methods, like fourier analysis, vector calculus, linear algebra and various ways of solving differential equations. If you go down the theoretical route then there might also be group theory, tensors, calculus of variations, more abstract stuff.

Really if you want to go into theoretical topics... choose theoretical topics in your degree. Obviously you're not likely to be reformulating M-theory if you specialise in fluid dynamics and atmospheric physics. Often even if you're on a straight physics course you can still pick as many theoretical topics as you like. The main difference is how much lab work you do.

If you don't want to do labs at all, don't do physics.

Really if you want to go into theoretical topics... choose theoretical topics in your degree. Obviously you're not likely to be reformulating M-theory if you specialise in fluid dynamics and atmospheric physics. Often even if you're on a straight physics course you can still pick as many theoretical topics as you like. The main difference is how much lab work you do.

If you don't want to do labs at all, don't do physics.

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(Original post by

look at the module lists for the courses youre interested in because some will be more mathematical than others and youll see that from the names of the classes available to you

on your own assessment, you'll probably prefer mathphys/theoretical courses, but as i say do some research to be sure

**HoldThisL**)look at the module lists for the courses youre interested in because some will be more mathematical than others and youll see that from the names of the classes available to you

on your own assessment, you'll probably prefer mathphys/theoretical courses, but as i say do some research to be sure

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(Original post by

It'll be mainly on mathematical methods, like fourier analysis, vector calculus, linear algebra and various ways of solving differential equations. If you go down the theoretical route then there might also be group theory, tensors, calculus of variations, more abstract stuff.

Really if you want to go into theoretical topics... choose theoretical topics in your degree. Obviously you're not likely to be reformulating M-theory if you specialise in fluid dynamics and atmospheric physics. Often even if you're on a straight physics course you can still pick as many theoretical topics as you like. The main difference is how much lab work you do.

If you don't want to do labs at all, don't do physics.

**Sinnoh**)It'll be mainly on mathematical methods, like fourier analysis, vector calculus, linear algebra and various ways of solving differential equations. If you go down the theoretical route then there might also be group theory, tensors, calculus of variations, more abstract stuff.

Really if you want to go into theoretical topics... choose theoretical topics in your degree. Obviously you're not likely to be reformulating M-theory if you specialise in fluid dynamics and atmospheric physics. Often even if you're on a straight physics course you can still pick as many theoretical topics as you like. The main difference is how much lab work you do.

If you don't want to do labs at all, don't do physics.

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#6

I would avoid universities that do not have clear module handbooks, fwiw. You don't want any unwelcome surprises. (eg. finding out that the module choice is actually quite poor or not to your liking)

At my university, (Warwick) the maths & physics degree has a lesser practical component (though I think there is one in later years) and allows you to do some maths that is tangential or unrelated to physics straight from the maths department. (though the core maths modules will be the ones that relate more directly to mathematical physics - for example PDEs, variational principles, analysis) Whereas on the straight physics degree you would only really be taking modules from the physics department, and any maths you cover would mainly be taught contextually, with specific applications to physics in mind. It does not have any options that aren't available on the usual maths or physics degrees.

I'm not sure if the configuration of other mathphys degrees is similar. If you don't really like mathematics for mathematics sake, and mainly prefer it applied to physics, a mathphys degree may not be for you. (the maths modules you take would most likely [definitely if you're taking the same modules as the maths students] be taught in a very "university-maths" style with emphasis on rigour and proof)

At my university, (Warwick) the maths & physics degree has a lesser practical component (though I think there is one in later years) and allows you to do some maths that is tangential or unrelated to physics straight from the maths department. (though the core maths modules will be the ones that relate more directly to mathematical physics - for example PDEs, variational principles, analysis) Whereas on the straight physics degree you would only really be taking modules from the physics department, and any maths you cover would mainly be taught contextually, with specific applications to physics in mind. It does not have any options that aren't available on the usual maths or physics degrees.

I'm not sure if the configuration of other mathphys degrees is similar. If you don't really like mathematics for mathematics sake, and mainly prefer it applied to physics, a mathphys degree may not be for you. (the maths modules you take would most likely [definitely if you're taking the same modules as the maths students] be taught in a very "university-maths" style with emphasis on rigour and proof)

Last edited by _gcx; 3 months ago

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(Original post by

I would avoid universities that do not have clear module handbooks, fwiw. You don't want any unwelcome surprises. (eg. finding out that the module choice is actually quite poor or not to your liking)

At my university, (Warwick) the maths & physics degree has a lesser practical component (though I think there is one in later years) and allows you to do some maths that is tangential or unrelated to physics straight from the maths department. (though the core maths modules will be the ones that relate more directly to mathematical physics - for example PDEs, variational principles, analysis) Whereas on the straight physics degree you would only really be taking modules from the physics department, and any maths you cover would mainly be taught contextually, with specific applications to physics in mind. It does not have any options that aren't available on the usual maths or physics degrees.

I'm not sure if the configuration of other mathphys degrees is similar. If you don't really like mathematics for mathematics sake, and mainly prefer it applied to physics, a mathphys degree may not be for you. (the maths modules you take would most likely [definitely if you're taking the same modules as the maths students] be taught in a very "university-maths" style with emphasis on rigour and proof)

**_gcx**)I would avoid universities that do not have clear module handbooks, fwiw. You don't want any unwelcome surprises. (eg. finding out that the module choice is actually quite poor or not to your liking)

At my university, (Warwick) the maths & physics degree has a lesser practical component (though I think there is one in later years) and allows you to do some maths that is tangential or unrelated to physics straight from the maths department. (though the core maths modules will be the ones that relate more directly to mathematical physics - for example PDEs, variational principles, analysis) Whereas on the straight physics degree you would only really be taking modules from the physics department, and any maths you cover would mainly be taught contextually, with specific applications to physics in mind. It does not have any options that aren't available on the usual maths or physics degrees.

I'm not sure if the configuration of other mathphys degrees is similar. If you don't really like mathematics for mathematics sake, and mainly prefer it applied to physics, a mathphys degree may not be for you. (the maths modules you take would most likely [definitely if you're taking the same modules as the maths students] be taught in a very "university-maths" style with emphasis on rigour and proof)

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#8

(Original post by

Yeah, some universities are not that clear on what is different (the main offender being Cambridge for the Maths modules in NatSci). I think the best one I've seen is Imperial, where the only difference is that the extra optional modules related to maths become compulsory for Physics with Theoretical Physics and you just choose 1 or 2 less optional modules because of this (other than year 3)

**Allmeliton**)Yeah, some universities are not that clear on what is different (the main offender being Cambridge for the Maths modules in NatSci). I think the best one I've seen is Imperial, where the only difference is that the extra optional modules related to maths become compulsory for Physics with Theoretical Physics and you just choose 1 or 2 less optional modules because of this (other than year 3)

Seems pretty transparent what topics are included in each paper and which papers are available that are purely maths/mathematical methods.

For the first year "maths with physics" course you would substitute the Part IA material there with the information from the relevant papers from the maths tripos, which is extremely well documented elsewhere on the maths department website.

Last edited by artful_lounger; 3 months ago

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(Original post by

See: https://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergra...Tschedules.pdf

Seems pretty transparent what topics are included in each paper and which papers are available that are purely maths/mathematical methods.

For the first year "maths with physics" course you would substitute the Part IA material there with the information from the relevant papers from the maths tripos, which is extremely well documented elsewhere on the maths department website.

**artful_lounger**)See: https://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergra...Tschedules.pdf

Seems pretty transparent what topics are included in each paper and which papers are available that are purely maths/mathematical methods.

For the first year "maths with physics" course you would substitute the Part IA material there with the information from the relevant papers from the maths tripos, which is extremely well documented elsewhere on the maths department website.

But yes, I was able to find the topics covered in the Maths with Physics course, but not the Maths part of NatSci

Last edited by Allmeliton; 3 months ago

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(Original post by

Thanks for this. Where can I find similar documents if you don't mind me asking

But yes, I was able to find the topics covered in the Maths with Physics course, but not the Maths part of NatSci

**Allmeliton**)Thanks for this. Where can I find similar documents if you don't mind me asking

But yes, I was able to find the topics covered in the Maths with Physics course, but not the Maths part of NatSci

Note several of the astrophysics papers are borrowed from the maths tripos, so details for those can be found in the maths tripos schedules for part II/III. Bear in mind astrophysics is a separate specialisation separate to physics in the natsci course. I think some of the astrophysics papers (not the ones shared with maths) are shared with the part II/III physics course?

Last edited by artful_lounger; 3 months ago

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#11

**Allmeliton**)

Thanks for this. Where can I find similar documents if you don't mind me asking

But yes, I was able to find the topics covered in the Maths with Physics course, but not the Maths part of NatSci

Last edited by Sinnoh; 3 months ago

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