Hi, I’m interested in specialising in Theoretical Physics in the future. I plan on doing a PhD in Theoretical Physics, hopefully in the field of GR & Cosmology or high energy physics. Obviously, these are just aspirations. I know that part iii is known to be the best preparation for a PhD/research in theoretical physics. Cambridge clearly states that if you want to do a PhD at DAMTP, you should definitely take part iii.( it’s my dream to do a PhD at DAMTP and I definitely plan on doing part iii). Which undergraduate course is better preparation for theoretical physics, Cambridge maths or Oxford physics? I’m very confused about which uni and course to apply to. I was pretty set on applying to Oxford, but I recently found out that the Cambridge maths course has a lot of theoretical physics. The Cambridge course covers topics like analysis and topology, differential geometry and integrable systems which have applications in theoretical physics. It covers more maths in general, as you would expect. The Oxford physics course covers topics like thermal physics, some more classical mechanics, particle physics, condensed matter physics and optics. (Btw, if I do apply to Cambridge, I will apply for the maths with physics course and then continue with the mathematical tripos).
Concerns with Cambridge -
Maths tripos is known to be incredibly hard and the pressure is very high
Will have to give STEP(I was planning on doing some step problems to improve problem solving skills, but if I apply to Cambridge I’ll have to prepare seriously for it and I know it’s incredibly hard)
I’ve never visited Cambridge, so I don’t really know If I like it
There are lots of stories about a lot of mathmos struggling and that you pretty much have to be a genius, which I certainly am not.
Will miss out on some general physics and don’t know if I will like the pure maths courses
Even for the theoretical physics courses, the Cambridge exams have a lot of proofs and less applications as such. Oxford physics exams have some proofs, but most of the exam consists of applying physics to real life situations and systems, which is obviously very important to be a good physicist
Whilst the Cambridge course does cover more maths, I don’t know how much of it is useful in theoretical physics
Harder to achieve a first
Concerns with Oxford-
Will miss out on some important topics like differential geometry and topology which have quite a lot of applications in modern physics
Lots of lab work
I’m worried the BA course might not be suitable prep for part iii at Cambridge
There might not be enough maths to learn more advanced topics in theoretical physics
Not as many international undergraduates (I’m an international student)
I know it’s very early to think about these things, but I just want to know. Which is more important, some of the more general physics or some more advanced maths topics? I would really appreciate it if anyone can help me. Thanks!