another question on math/ physics relationship

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another question on math/ physics relationship

Postby delton » Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:51 pm


Basically, I am a senior and applying to physics programs, but don't have a set research area of interest.

Recently, I've become more interested in mathematical physics, and applied math.(for instance PDEs / dynamical systems). I may be interested in high-energy theory, and more "high end" theoretical, but right now I'm just interested in applied math in general.

It seems to me a new way is emerging to pursue theoretical physics, which is go to graduate school in mathematics.

Currently, I'm planning on applying to physics programs, as I don't feel prepared to apply to math programs and am still unsure about doing a PhD in math.

Here are some questions:

Is it possible to do doctoral research with math faculty, and get a Physics PhD?
How hard is it to transfer from physics grad school to math grad school? (within the same university). Any chance my course credits from physics would transfer?

What are your general opinions on math research?
I know there is some really neat research going on at my school, regarding topics such as renormalization, chaotic systems, and even gauge theory. But I didn't find out about it until end of my 3rd year here.

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Re: another question on math/ physics relationship

Postby noojens » Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:43 pm

Couple points and questions:

- Are you a math major, a physics major or both?
- Math PhD programs require the math GRE subject test. Did you take this?
- If so, how does your PGRE score compare to your MGRE?
- The core courses required for a math PhD and a physics PhD are completely different. Your coursework in one discipline might count toward your minor requirements in the other if you transfer, but you'll still have to take all the core courses (generally 4-5 fairly tough grad classes).
- That said, there's certainly overlap between applied math and theoretical physics research. It's fairly common to get your PhD in one field and have at least one of your committee members be in the other.

Last edited by noojens on Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: another question on math/ physics relationship

Postby pqortic » Sun Oct 04, 2009 11:42 am

from your post I understand you are undecided between pursuing in math or physics but keep in mind that you can learn math in physics department and also learn physics in math dept. they are inseparable. if you do your phd in physics at any university there would be some theoretical research that applies math. they are actually doing math research, playing by complicated equations, like researches in Dynamical systems, chaotic systems ...

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Re: another question on math/ physics relationship

Postby dlenmn » Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:19 pm

delton wrote:Is it possible to do doctoral research with math faculty, and get a Physics PhD?

It depends. I believe they way it works here (Wisc), is that your major professor has to be in the physics dept or affiliated with it. For example, the list of affiliated professors is near the bottom of this page. So it's possible to do research in engineering but get a physics PhD if you work for one of the listed engineering professors. Note that there are no math professors listed. The situation will vary from school to school.

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Re: another question on math/ physics relationship

Postby delton » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:43 pm

Sorry for taking a little while to respond..

I am a recent physics major. My situation is a little unusual: I graduated in 3 years, and now am a graduate student at my undergraduate institution, RPI. Because I was an undergraduate at RPI, I was able to become a graduate student without taking the physics GRE. Now, this fall I am taking the PGRE, and will be applying to other graduate schools.

dlenmn: I believe on Princeton's website they said that some of their math faculty have doctoral students in physics. I will by applying to Princeton, as I've heard good things.

Also, I don't plan on taking the Math GRE, and am not prepared at all for it. Right now, I'm planning on staying in physics, but have an interest in mathematical physics.

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