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 Post subject: Scope and subject matter of graduate classes
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:07 pm 
Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 1:23 am

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Just wondering what physics graduate classes in the US typically cover? I'm currently completing my undergrad in Australia where the curriculum is quite different to US undergrad - in general it is much more focussed towards ones major, in my case physics, and therefore excludes irrelevant subjects such as foreign language, english, sociology, and what have you. Essentially I am taking a 4 year sequence of strictly physics, mathematics and astrophysics. The result is that after my honours year (4th year, but almost equivalent to graduate school in the US? Honours year is optional, and requires a certain grade average to enroll) I will have covered subjects such as advanced quantum, particle, photon, condensed matter, and nuclear physics, in addition to maths subjects such as complex analysis, advanced PDE's and ODE's, and a wide range of others if I so choose.

Just wondering if this material somewhat reflects the kind of subject matter and difficulty level of typical graduate courses in the US, or if grad courses are more advanced/specialized still? If they're roughly equivalent, would this offer any sort of advantage in terms of US grad school admission?


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 Post subject: Re: Scope and subject matter of graduate classes
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:04 pm 
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:05 am

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From what I know, no it would not help significantly because yes grad course are more advanced and more specialized.

Quote:
advanced quantum, particle, photon, condensed matter, and nuclear physics


Advanced quantum can be anything but I'm assuming it's still non relativistic QM, so probably still undergraduate level, particle without a proper knowledge of QFT tend to be very hand waving so also undergraduate level, photon well I never saw a course called photon, condensed matter is usually a 4th year undergrad course, and nuclear physics well I can't say I never took such course.

Quote:
complex analysis, advanced PDE's and ODE's


Those are good courses too, but again it is probably undergraduate level courses (it's hard to tell without the curriculum, but I took courses with the same names as an undergrad).


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 Post subject: Re: Scope and subject matter of graduate classes
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:47 pm 
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Quote:
Just wondering if this material somewhat reflects the kind of subject matter and difficulty level of typical graduate courses in the US


Subject matter, yes (although graduate students generally aren't required to take math classes). Difficulty, you tell me. You just listed a bunch of subjects -- how am I to know what difficulty level they were taught at? Give us some information. What books have/will you use?

Because undergraduate education in many countries is much more focused, a fair number of foreign graduate students here at Wisc have already taken equivalent courses to what they'd have to take. Sometimes they get placed out of them. Sometimes they don't. I don't really know the procedure.

Here's an example of what classes you'd have to take as a graduate student. I'm under the impression that the core classes are pretty similar at most places. Wisc also requires a minor, which I think is a little more unusual. Depending on what level your classes are at, they may well fulfill some requirements.


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 Post subject: Re: Scope and subject matter of graduate classes
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:34 am 
Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 1:23 am

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Mataka wrote:
Advanced quantum can be anything but I'm assuming it's still non relativistic QM, so probably still undergraduate level, particle without a proper knowledge of QFT tend to be very hand waving so also undergraduate level, photon well I never saw a course called photon, condensed matter is usually a 4th year undergrad course, and nuclear physics well I can't say I never took such course.


Apparently photon physics consists of:
1. Photonics: lasers and coherent light, modulation devices, optical waveguides, interference and holography, fibre optic communications, transmission and coupling to hardware and software devices, applications;
2. Synchrotron physics: radiation from moving charges and charge distributions, generating a synchrotron beam and enhancing its emission characteristics, experimental areas and beams, detectors and analyser, image formation, and
3. Optics: wave propagation and image formation, plane waves, diffraction, angular spectrum, phase contrast, interferometry, holography, focussed fields and the singularity hierarchy.

I should note that all of these courses are actually 3rd year level. Here in Australia the Bachelors degree is actually a 3 year course. The 4th 'Honours' year is technically a separate degree, consisting of a thesis and the "advanced" coursework. A typical honours physics class consists of less than 10 students, and the coursework is determined by both the student and their advisor.

dlenmn wrote:
Subject matter, yes (although graduate students generally aren't required to take math classes). Difficulty, you tell me. You just listed a bunch of subjects -- how am I to know what difficulty level they were taught at? Give us some information. What books have/will you use?


According to my brother in law (works as a postdoc in my physics department), books are not issued and are rarely used during the Honours year. Apparently, outside of the lectures and material supplied by the professors, students are expected to absorb the material via primary sources, i.e., research journals/papers.


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