What courses do I take in a PhD program?

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trts
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What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby trts » Sat Jun 26, 2010 1:30 pm

I recently graduated from a Bachelors program in Physics and I am currently working as a Lab Technician. I am thinking about getting a PhD in Physics, however. One of the things I would like to know is, what courses would I take in a PhD program? In my undergrad program I took about 15 courses (four in math), and they were in Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Thermodynamics, Electronics, Research Methods, Quantum Mechanics. What would I take in a PhD program? I never took a course in General Relativity. Does that get taught in a PhD program? What about String Theory? Loop Quantum Gravity? Do I take courses in Quantum Field Theory? Advanced Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electrodynamics? I guess a part of what I am asking is what is taught in a PhD program that isn't taught in a BA program? Do different schools offer different combinations of these courses or do all schools offer all of them? Do all people who get a standard PhD in Physics learn General Relativity and String Theory, or do only some of them learn it, and others concentrate on other things like Mechanics and Electrodynamics?
This question may seem a bit unusual, but a big factor in deciding whether I will apply or not is knowing what I will learn. I always did want to learn String Theory. If that is definitely taught everywhere I may just apply. Thanks.

pqortic
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Re: What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby pqortic » Sat Jun 26, 2010 7:59 pm

upon starting your phd, you will be required to pass some core courses which are advanced quantum mechanics1,2 advanced electrodynamics, advanced classical mechanics, seminar courses and research courses. these are common almost in all schools but in some they may replace the classical mechanics with something else like statistical mechanics or... other than these there are bunch of other courses that are offered annually or each semester that you are free to take any of them, depending on your interests and research field, to complete your course load for phd. and each school offers different curriculum. if you want to take a specific course you need to check out the available courses in the website of the department that you want to apply and see if they offer that and check the degree requirement of that school to see what they ask you to take.

trts
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Joined: Sat Jun 26, 2010 1:15 pm

Re: What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby trts » Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:28 pm

pqortic wrote:upon starting your phd, you will be required to pass some core courses which are advanced quantum mechanics1,2 advanced electrodynamics, advanced classical mechanics, seminar courses and research courses. these are common almost in all schools but in some they may replace the classical mechanics with something else like statistical mechanics or... other than these there are bunch of other courses that are offered annually or each semester that you are free to take any of them, depending on your interests and research field, to complete your course load for phd. and each school offers different curriculum. if you want to take a specific course you need to check out the available courses in the website of the department that you want to apply and see if they offer that and check the degree requirement of that school to see what they ask you to take.


Okay pqortic, thanks for the reply. I noticed that only some schools offer courses like General Relativity and String Theory, but I wasn't a hundred percent sure that they didn't still offer it as some kind of seminar or something. I guess different Physicists graduate with differences in what they know about Physics and if I do go for a PhD I might not learn the specific things that I find fascinating.

pqortic
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Re: What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby pqortic » Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:06 am

trts wrote: but I wasn't a hundred percent sure that they didn't still offer it as some kind of seminar or something...

I don't get this. this sentence seems awkward to me!!

but anyways, if you found a school in which some people are working on the field that you are interested like string theory you can apply there. you shouldn't expect to learn string theory the same way you learned basic physics, in the class by lecture. that definitely helps but is not the only way. in graduate school you can study from basics to advances of a subject by yourself and ask professors if you got a problem. you can do that first because you have 5 to 6 years time and second because you get paid to do so.

trts
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Joined: Sat Jun 26, 2010 1:15 pm

Re: What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby trts » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:19 am

pqortic wrote:
trts wrote: but I wasn't a hundred percent sure that they didn't still offer it as some kind of seminar or something...

I don't get this. this sentence seems awkward to me!!

but anyways, if you found a school in which some people are working on the field that you are interested like string theory you can apply there. you shouldn't expect to learn string theory the same way you learned basic physics, in the class by lecture. that definitely helps but is not the only way. in graduate school you can study from basics to advances of a subject by yourself and ask professors if you got a problem. you can do that first because you have 5 to 6 years time and second because you get paid to do so.



What I meant to say is some schools list General Relativity (GR) and String Theory (ST) in their list of courses offered, while other schools do not, leading me to believe that I wouldn't be able to learn ST and GR at every school. I would prefer to have courses about GR and ST regardless of what school I attend. However, it occurred to me that perhaps a school that doesn't list those courses still teaches them. Every school has a course called Physics Seminar, or Special Topics, or something like that. Maybe those seminars at each school are typically about GR and ST. I doubted if that's the case, but I thought someone in here might know for sure. It's easier than calling each school and asking them. Thanks again.

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twistor
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Re: What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby twistor » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:12 pm

trts wrote:
pqortic wrote:
trts wrote: but I wasn't a hundred percent sure that they didn't still offer it as some kind of seminar or something...

I don't get this. this sentence seems awkward to me!!

but anyways, if you found a school in which some people are working on the field that you are interested like string theory you can apply there. you shouldn't expect to learn string theory the same way you learned basic physics, in the class by lecture. that definitely helps but is not the only way. in graduate school you can study from basics to advances of a subject by yourself and ask professors if you got a problem. you can do that first because you have 5 to 6 years time and second because you get paid to do so.



What I meant to say is some schools list General Relativity (GR) and String Theory (ST) in their list of courses offered, while other schools do not, leading me to believe that I wouldn't be able to learn ST and GR at every school. I would prefer to have courses about GR and ST regardless of what school I attend. However, it occurred to me that perhaps a school that doesn't list those courses still teaches them. Every school has a course called Physics Seminar, or Special Topics, or something like that. Maybe those seminars at each school are typically about GR and ST. I doubted if that's the case, but I thought someone in here might know for sure. It's easier than calling each school and asking them. Thanks again.


Use EXTREME CAUTION when using the course catalog to decide what schools to choose. I would recommend talking to students in the programs to find out what advanced courses they have taken recently and how often they are offered. Often you will find that schools will artificially inflate their course catalogs by listing classes that have a) only been offered once before and are probably never going to be offered again; b) are offered but only once every 2 - 5 years; c) are still listed but are no longer taught for any number of reasons.

The courses catalog is a deceptive indicator of what classes are actually given in the department. Be warned.

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zxcv
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Re: What courses do I take in a PhD program?

Postby zxcv » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:17 am

If your research focus is going to be on GR and ST, then you will certainly learn them, regardless of whether there are formal classes or not. In this case, you should make certain that there are active professors in any programs you are considering who will be taking on students in this area. Whether you learn topics in your research area by taking a formal course or a small seminar or even by studying mostly independently you will assuredly learn the tools you need to learn for your research.

If your research focus is going to be on another area, and you're just hoping to take GR and ST "for fun," then you should make sure that your program offers regular classes in these areas. Consulting course catalogs is a start, but also look for active research faculty and when the classes were last taught. Also consider again whether you'll really want to invest the time to gain an expertise in these areas when it won't be relevant to your work.

In general, all schools do not offer all courses. Most schools have core requirements, which vary slightly by school although they are generally some subset of quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, statistical mechanics and classical mechanics. I have never heard of these required courses includes specialized topics like general relativity, string theory and quantum field theory. I would only expect these materials to be taught regularly if there are faculty with an active research program in the relevant area. This makes sense, considering the main purpose of specialized courses in graduate school: to prepare you for research in a particular area.




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