Physics after Computer Enginnering??

sumit.agarwal3
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Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:46 am

Physics after Computer Enginnering??

Postby sumit.agarwal3 » Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:49 am

Hi Friends,
I am a software engineer working in Mumbai, India. I have done my under graduation in computer science in India. With my 1.5 years of IT experience, I have realized that I would like to pursue my graduation and even PHD in physics. I wanted to know about the challenges that I would face in doing so, as for the last 5 years I have been associated with computer engineering and have not been remotely associated with physics. Theory of relativity and quantum mechanics have always excited me, and I would like to pursue a study on the same. Please let me know if its possible for a software professional to get into physics. If yes, then what should be my immediate steps. Should I take GRE or the subject GRE. I just needed some sort of a guidance from you for the next 6 months or which would help me improve myself to the extent that I can work in physics. Keenly awaiting your guidance.
Thanks.

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secander2!
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:25 pm

Re: Physics after Computer Enginnering??

Postby secander2! » Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:15 am

First off... please avoid posting the same topic in five different places, it's a little annoying to the users of the board. I think this topic belongs best in the "Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics", so I will respond to it here :D

I think physics graduate school is a really great goal. I know somebody else who made the transition from computer science to theoretical physics so it definitely can be done. To study, he used the "Feynman Lectures" and the "Practicing to take the Physics Test 3rd edition".

The two key things to focus on are learning the basics and practicing for the PGRE specifically. It's good to bear in mind that everybody approaches these two differently, but personally, I think the "Feynman Lectures" make a really good conceptual introduction to the subject for somebody who hasn't had any physics training, however, it would be considerably cheaper to just buy slightly old editions of the physics textbooks or just check them out from your library. Anyways, just so you know what you're up against, the basic categories which appears on the test are as follows:

    Classical Mechanics
    Electricity and Magnetism
    Atomic Physics
    Quantum Mechanics
    Optics
    Relativity
    Thermodynamics
    Some random advanced stuff

Once you've gotten the basic concepts in these areas down somehow, you'll want to start practicing multiple choice problems similar to those which will appear on the PGRE. "Practicing to take the Physics Test 3rd edition" is out of print and very expensive so it's best to just download them from here. Also, I'd recommend reading this article for other ideas on which problems to practice with.

Best of luck!!!

sumit.agarwal3
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:46 am

Re: Physics after Computer Enginnering??

Postby sumit.agarwal3 » Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:39 am

Hey secander2!,
Please ignore the multiple posts goof up. Your reply was very encouraging. Currently i'm referring Resnick/Halliday for my fundamentals, shall refer to feynman lectures too. (Surely he's not joking in them :D ) The major problem is that i am still working in a software firm. i have just started brushing up my 5 year old fundamentals in physics. I dunno how much time i would be able to devote and by when should i be ready for the subject GRE. How much time should it take in general to get on track? 3-4 hrs is the max i can devote, is it possible to be up there by April? Do we need a subject GRE at all? Isn't the general GRE enough?

thanks for your reply..!!

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zxcv
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Re: Physics after Computer Enginnering??

Postby zxcv » Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:47 am

Yes, it is still possible for you to get into physics. But it is nearly impossible to get into physics graduate school without a substantial background in undergraduate physics. That means taking most of the courses one would take for a physics degree. You'll need to be at a much higher level of understanding than Halliday/Resnick. At a minimum, this is one or two years of full-time courses.

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secander2!
Posts: 264
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Re: Physics after Computer Enginnering??

Postby secander2! » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:28 am

Most physics graduate schools either require or highly recommend taking the PGRE, so no, the General GRE isn't enough in most cases. Furthermore, since you don't have a physics degree, the subject test is absolutely imperative since it is the only thing which demonstrates your proficiency at physics!!!

If you master Halliday/Resnick, you should already be able to answer at over half of the test. So, although it might be necessary to have a much deeper understanding of physics than Halliday/Resnick to ace the PGRE, it is conceivable that you could get a very respectable score by simply having studied this book. Unfortunetely, getting a respectable score on the PGRE isn't enough to get into graduate school... like zxcv said, it's very difficult to get into physics grad school without having had all the undergraduate physics. You have two things working against you: you're an international student and you don't have a degree in physics. As a result, it is necessary that you perform extremely well on the PGRE. I don't know if it is imerative to have taken all the courses necessary for a physics degree in order to get into graduate school in physics, but the more physics courses you've had, the more likely it is that schools will take you seriously. I would guess that if you've had coursework equivalent to a minor in physics, you would be pretty competitive. Also, it depends on where you want to go to graduate school... if you're set on the top 50, then it's going to be an uphill battle and taking substantial additional coursework might be required. If you're willing to settle for a bit lower, I would guess that a stellar PGRE, a few of the basic physics courses, and good letters of recommendation would be enough get you in. Of course, I'm not an admission's councilor, so everything I'm saying is pure speculation. The best idea to gauge what it's going to take would be to call up some departments and ask them directly if they would consider admitting somebody with your credentials (or the credentials you expect to have in a year).

As for studying... I don't think that a few hours a day will be enough for you to learn all of undergraduate physics in four months. My advice would be to wait at least until Fall 2009 to take the test.

sumit.agarwal3
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:46 am

Re: Physics after Computer Enginnering??

Postby sumit.agarwal3 » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:52 am

thanks a lot for the information guys. now i am getting a picture of how life is ahead of me in the coming months. i have already posted my queries to a few professors in a few universities, i think they shall reply soon. I shall continue my preparations for the subject GRE now. Lets see how well things work out. In the meanwhile, i will regularly post all the queries i have. Please continue giving your invaluable inputs.




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