First, sorry for the extremely long post; I wanted to provide as much relevant as possible, but I may have exceeded the limits of relevance at times.
I'm currently a junior dual majoring in Chemical Physics and Mathematics, and trying desperately to figure out what to do after getting my BS. I have it narrowed down to (as the title suggests) graduate studies (towards a PhD) in theoretical physics (perhaps my strong chemistry background would help in condensed matter physics?) or applied mathematics.
I'm thinking very hard about which I should go for, and I was hoping you guys (and perhaps girl[s]) could give me some advice.
Some general information about me:
-I prefer theory to experiment absolutely; I basically want to make a career out of thinking.
-I prefer working alone or in small groups to working in large groups; actually, I can often get lost in the shuffle of larger groups. I am not sure if this would have much bearing on what sorts of research groups I could/should get involved in.
-In general, I prefer the abstract to the concrete. Often what I enjoy most about physics is the correlation to mathematical abstractions (e.g. application of vector spaces in quantum mechanics, group theory in molecular bonding theory).
-I do want to relate what I'm doing to the physical world somehow, so that rules out pure math.
-I have taken/am taking two semesters of honors general physics, two semesters each of physics lab, classical mech., quantum mech., and E&M, plus a semester of modern physics.
-Additionally, I have taken the Chemistry dept's version of Thermodynamics, Quantum Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry, which seem to apply quite well to physics.
-I have taken/am taking such math classes as: Calc, ODE, PDE, Analysis, Complex Analysis, and honors abstract algebra.
-I currently have a GPA of ~3.96; I am a very good test taker and expect to get very high scores on the relevant GRE exams.
-I have been a research assistant in a psychoacoustics group for the past year and a half. I may do some research in a more independent form for this group this summer and next year, or I may do some other REU program this summer.
-I am very interesting in teaching. I was a math TA for one semester already, and will most likely serve as such for two more semesters my senior year.
-I am somewhat concerned about finding a position after graduation. Is there there a substantial difference in this regard between physics and applied math? Or in, ahem, future earning potential?
It seems like if I went the math route first, and then decided I really wanted to do physics, I could bail with a Masters in Applied Math and transfer to physics. This even seems like it could be helpful.
Also, I have heard about dual major PhD programs in Physics and Math. Does anyone have any opinions or information on those?
At this point, I plan to take the general GRE this spring, and the math and physics subject GRE's this fall, although I really hope to have this figured out by that time.
Has anyone else here wrestled with this question as well? Is there any point that I am obviously (or not so obviously) overlooking? Any advice at all (please)?
If you've made it this far, I owe you a lot already! Thank you very much for any help you may provide!
Last edited by mork
on Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:06 am, edited 1 time in total.