Will a minor help you go to a top school like Harvard or Princeton or is it just extra classes?

Depends what the minor is in.

If it's in history, no. If it's in math, probably.

If it's in history, no. If it's in math, probably.

Most physics majors are only 1 or 2 classes away from getting a math minor, so if it's math your thinking of then the answer is, "probably not." Chemistry is only useful in some areas of physics. Biology would be a definite bonus if you want to do health/medical/bio physics. Personally I'd consider a physics applicant with an ECE minor to be a very strong candidate for experimental physics.

Remember, your application will be judged relative to the applications of your peers. It can't hurt if you do well, but it won't necessarily help. If your major grades will suffer because of added coursework then you should reconsider.

Remember, your application will be judged relative to the applications of your peers. It can't hurt if you do well, but it won't necessarily help. If your major grades will suffer because of added coursework then you should reconsider.

Being good at Mathematics is really important for being good at Physics. I am a Physics / Math double major, and I do believe that having taken 10+ Math classes has really helped me in my Physics studies. That is especially true if you are interested in theory. So in that sense, yes doing Math helps you get into good grad schools by making you better at Physics. However, that being said, no school will accept you just because you have a Math major/minor. So if you are studying Math just to impress grad school committees, you are simply wasting your time.

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

I don't think a math minor will "help" you at all. Math is very important for physics and most students who end up going on to graduate school in physics have at least a mathematics minior. My guess is that if you don't have at least a minor in mathematics, it looks like your not very serious, and it will hurt you somewhat. For top schools like Harvard and Princeton, NOT having at least a math minor will almost definitely hurt you unless you've done a lot of coursework in math and it just happens to not quite coincide with the minor/major requirements. Furthermore, if you want to do something like Particle Theory, you'd better have had some serious theoretical mathematics (like advanced abstract algebra). If you have the chance, go for the math minor... even better, go for the math major.

Some minors are a bit dime a dozen- I know the astronomy majors at my school get an automatic physics minor, for example, but I don't think any astronomy/physics department would seriously consider your application if you didn't take that many physics classes in the first place.

And speaking as someone with a history minor... yeah, you're right, it's not going to do anything. Still mentioning it though as a point of pride.

And speaking as someone with a history minor... yeah, you're right, it's not going to do anything. Still mentioning it though as a point of pride.

I get the impression that minors even in math help very little -- most schools don't ask about minors on forms. At my school at least, the minor is only two courses past the requirements for the physics major anyways.

At my school getting a math minor, in addition to a physics major, requires 4 additional classes (which seems to be about twice as many as in other schools)….not because the math minor requirements are so demanding, but rather because the required math classes for physics are so few.

I figured out early on how quickly I would get done with the required math courses and thought that, surely, as a physicist I should take math beyond the scope of ODEs and multivariable calculus. So I took classes in Complex Analysis, Numerical Analysis, and Partial Differential Equations. Just taking these three classes, along with a pre-req for one of them, got me the math minor.

I do not think the value of the math minor comes from the title itself, but the specific classes you take in order to get it and the motivation is shows for a student to go out and take all these classes beyond what it required of them because otherwise they felt they were lacking.

There was also a secondary motivation in pursuing my math minor. I did not perform well in my early math classes. But by taking all those more advanced mathematics courses, and earning good grades, I hope I negated any negative effects of my poor grades in my intro courses.

I figured out early on how quickly I would get done with the required math courses and thought that, surely, as a physicist I should take math beyond the scope of ODEs and multivariable calculus. So I took classes in Complex Analysis, Numerical Analysis, and Partial Differential Equations. Just taking these three classes, along with a pre-req for one of them, got me the math minor.

I do not think the value of the math minor comes from the title itself, but the specific classes you take in order to get it and the motivation is shows for a student to go out and take all these classes beyond what it required of them because otherwise they felt they were lacking.

There was also a secondary motivation in pursuing my math minor. I did not perform well in my early math classes. But by taking all those more advanced mathematics courses, and earning good grades, I hope I negated any negative effects of my poor grades in my intro courses.

so what do you guys think will help a person's application more if he wants to do experimental physics in grad school. extra ECE classes or extra math classes?

In particular, if I have the option of taking either ECE 442 Electronic Circuits or Math 482 Vector and Tensor Analysis (differential geometry), which one should I take?

In particular, if I have the option of taking either ECE 442 Electronic Circuits or Math 482 Vector and Tensor Analysis (differential geometry), which one should I take?

Electronic Circuits it will help with PGRE

If you never really have a circuits lab during undergrad for the physics major, I'd heartily recommend doing it. It's one of those things so heartily ingrained in my lab psyche that I can't imagine not taking it, especially if you're into experiment.

- Kaiser_Sose
**Posts:**48**Joined:**Sun Sep 28, 2008 11:20 pm

Oh really ? Circuits on the PGRE...I guess I knew that. Crap. I specifically dodged an electronics class because the professor is notoriously...well, uninstructive. And a ball buster.

Is this stuff that I should have a firmer background in for both GRE and grad school?

Is this stuff that I should have a firmer background in for both GRE and grad school?

Now if I have to decide between these two course, which one do you think will help my application and my physics career more?

MATH 481 Intro to Differential Geometry (Vector and Tensor Analysis)

The basic tools of differential geometry will be introduced at the undergraduate level, by focusing on examples. This is a good first course for those interested in, or curious about, modern differential geometry, and in applying differential geometric methods to other areas.

Manifolds: configuration spaces, differentiable manifolds, tangent spaces, tangent bundles, orientability.

Calculus on manifolds: Vector fields, flows, tensor fields.

Differential forms and exterior calculus.

Integration theory: Generalized Stokes theorem, de Rham cohomology.

Riemannian geometry: Riemannian metrics, geodesics.

Text: The Geometry of Physics, An Introduction, T. Frankel, Cambridge U.P. 1997

Or

CS 457 Numerical Methods II

Orthogonalization methods for linear least squares problems. QR factorization and singular value decomposition

Iterative methods for systems of linear algebraic equations. Stationary iterative methods. Krylov subspace methods

Eigenvalue problems. Power, inverse power, and QR iterations. Krylov subspace methods

Nonlinear equations and optimization in n dimensions. Newton and Quasi-Newton methods. Nonlinear least squares

Initial and boundary value problems for ordinary differential equations. Accuracy and stability. Multistep methods for initial value problems. Shooting, finite difference, collocation, and Galerkin methods for boundary value problems

Partial differential equations. Finite difference methods for heat, wave, and Poisson equations. Consistency, stability, and convergence

Fast Fourier transform. Trigonometric interpolation. Discrete Fourier transform. FFT algorithm

MATH 481 Intro to Differential Geometry (Vector and Tensor Analysis)

The basic tools of differential geometry will be introduced at the undergraduate level, by focusing on examples. This is a good first course for those interested in, or curious about, modern differential geometry, and in applying differential geometric methods to other areas.

Manifolds: configuration spaces, differentiable manifolds, tangent spaces, tangent bundles, orientability.

Calculus on manifolds: Vector fields, flows, tensor fields.

Differential forms and exterior calculus.

Integration theory: Generalized Stokes theorem, de Rham cohomology.

Riemannian geometry: Riemannian metrics, geodesics.

Text: The Geometry of Physics, An Introduction, T. Frankel, Cambridge U.P. 1997

Or

CS 457 Numerical Methods II

Orthogonalization methods for linear least squares problems. QR factorization and singular value decomposition

Iterative methods for systems of linear algebraic equations. Stationary iterative methods. Krylov subspace methods

Eigenvalue problems. Power, inverse power, and QR iterations. Krylov subspace methods

Nonlinear equations and optimization in n dimensions. Newton and Quasi-Newton methods. Nonlinear least squares

Initial and boundary value problems for ordinary differential equations. Accuracy and stability. Multistep methods for initial value problems. Shooting, finite difference, collocation, and Galerkin methods for boundary value problems

Partial differential equations. Finite difference methods for heat, wave, and Poisson equations. Consistency, stability, and convergence

Fast Fourier transform. Trigonometric interpolation. Discrete Fourier transform. FFT algorithm

Both classes seem helpful, but I would say take Numerical Methods. No matter what field you wanna work in, chances are that you are gonna need to use some numerical methods. As for differential geometry and tensor analysis, while they are extremely important as well, a lot of stuff that you are gonna study won't be directly applicable to physics, and the ones that are applicable, you'll probably be able to pick up from your physics classes.

If you're going into GR or high energy theory, I would disagree with nonick, as knowledge of differential geometry is required for those fields. In any case, you'll still want to know all the stuff in the numerical methods course, but I've been able to pick up a good chunk of that stuff while doing research (though I did take an introductory course in C). All you need is the Numerical Recipes book.

If you're going into condensed matter or experimental HEP, you won't need the differential geometry stuff, and will probably want to be more skilled in numerical methods (especially in HEP experiment, where you'll spend the bulk of your time doing data analysis). If you're going into astrophysics, I would recommend taking both.

If you're going into condensed matter or experimental HEP, you won't need the differential geometry stuff, and will probably want to be more skilled in numerical methods (especially in HEP experiment, where you'll spend the bulk of your time doing data analysis). If you're going into astrophysics, I would recommend taking both.

I would say do Numerical for three reasons

1) hopefully its the easier which should give you an easier A which looks better for grad school

while allowing you more time for research.

2) It will help you on ug research which most likely wont require GR/Diffferential geometry.

3) If you ever want to get a job/internship for the summer or forever this

course is much more relevant and will help sway people.

1) hopefully its the easier which should give you an easier A which looks better for grad school

while allowing you more time for research.

2) It will help you on ug research which most likely wont require GR/Diffferential geometry.

3) If you ever want to get a job/internship for the summer or forever this

course is much more relevant and will help sway people.

I think the choice is simple: if you want to do experiment, take Numerical Methods, and if you want to do theory, take geometry. I took a full year of differential geometry in the math department last year, and my learning process went like this:

1. See a new topic introduced very abstractly.

2. Decide it's not useful for physics and ignore it.

3. Find out 2 weeks later that whole swaths of theoretical physics depend crucially on this topic.

This happened for de Rham cohomology, vector bundles, connections and lifts, holonomy, etc. Trust me, EVERYTHING in differential geometry, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, finds its way into theoretical physics. That being said, if you want to do experiment, most of that stuff will be way too abstract to be useful.

1. See a new topic introduced very abstractly.

2. Decide it's not useful for physics and ignore it.

3. Find out 2 weeks later that whole swaths of theoretical physics depend crucially on this topic.

This happened for de Rham cohomology, vector bundles, connections and lifts, holonomy, etc. Trust me, EVERYTHING in differential geometry, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, finds its way into theoretical physics. That being said, if you want to do experiment, most of that stuff will be way too abstract to be useful.

Return to “Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests