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Education Changing degree
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dulst Offline
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Changing degree
I'm studying theoretical physics, which in term of courses offered is "physics with extra maths classes in stead of practicals". I'm just finishing my first year.

I picked it because I was good at both physics and maths. Originally I wanted to study maths at uni, but I didn't think I was good enough so I didn't take the appropriate further maths class before attending uni.

Turned out that I am easily good enough at maths, and that the only reason I liked physics because of the maths element.

Now at the end of my first year I seek advice: I didn't like most of the more "physicsy" modules this year, but I loved the maths ones. You need to pass first year to get into second, but you first year counts for 0% of your final grade.

Do I:

- Change my course to maths, and retake the whole first year.

- Change my course to maths, learn the first year material over summer so I catch up (I've already studied and passed some of the first year maths because my degree has classes that overlap with the maths course), then continue to the second year of maths in september.

- Change my course to maths, pend summer working on self development and partying, in the faith that I'm already good enough at maths. Then dive right in to second year of maths with minimal prep.

- Suck it up and stay on the theoretical physics course, going into second year.

Any advice or opinions on that ^ choice, and also concerning which degree would be more useful in terms of employment and prospective salary.

21 y/o brit.
06-18-2012 08:16 AM
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UrbanNerd Offline
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RE: Changing degree
If you have the math ability to do theoretical physics, then you can be a math major...at least applied. Both theoretical physics or theoretical math as majors are risky because: 1) you need a PhD to be employed and 2) even those jobs will have competition.

My $0.02....

Take a more applied/practical emphasis and supplement it with computer science/information system courses. Have that software background as a backup plan.

For the record, my undergraduate degree is in applied math/computer science and I never regretted it. I have always had constant employment and it allows me to not pinch pennies while traveling. On top of that, jobs find me....I don't really look for jobs.
06-18-2012 08:32 AM
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RichieP Offline
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RE: Changing degree
I did a Physics degree at Bristol, UK and ended up with a "First".

You say you easily handle the Maths after your first year. Trust me, it will pick up, BIGTIME - both in the Maths and Physics branches of your degree.

The Physics later on becomes a lot more mathematical. If you just dont like physics that much, cool, switch over. But when you get to stuff like thermodynamics represented in vector calculus (!!), or fluid dynamics in 3 dimensions, it gets pretty weird, wonderful and very mathematical.

My 2c is, the Physics you hit later is pretty fucking exciting if you atall like Physics. You end up visualising integrals over weird and wonderful shapes and seeing energy and wavefunctions collapsing and shit Wink In the later years it becomes like a beautiful piece of art in motion in your minds eye, when you "get" what the maths is describing. It's pretty cool, and gives you a nice visual/kinesthetic side to things which keeps your imagination engaged whereas Maths can end up being a lot of proofs and tough brain-grind without many fireworks to visualise.

If you atall like Science, it's also cool to get deep into the scientific method and the cool discoveries. 3rd year Quantum Mech is really a different beast from 1st year, as is Electromag, Thermo and other cool shit you can take like "Quantum Information Theory". Endless proofs and theorems from Russian guys with inpronouncable names can get a little dreary in a pure Maths degree from what I saw.

Dunno if that makes any sense atall - but take one thing from this - the Maths ramps up ALOT in both Physics and Maths in 2nd yr and then again hugely in 3rd year. 1st year for me was actually not much more difficult than my final year in school in some ways. 2nd and 3rd year are where you really grow some new parts to your brain.
(This post was last modified: 06-18-2012 08:48 AM by RichieP.)
06-18-2012 08:45 AM
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cibo Offline
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RE: Changing degree
My former boss was a physics major.

He enjoyed the major but didn't think much of it was useful for his job outside of the rigorous analytical thinking. He actually wished he did something more applied since he saw the math I did was pretty useful, e.g. stats, simulations, learning algorithms, inventory management.

I would recommend you just switch to maths and learn the stuff over the summer. Then at some point take a few computer sci classes like algorithms design and something with relational databases.
(This post was last modified: 02-07-2016 05:43 AM by cibo.)
06-18-2012 02:31 PM
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shameus_o'reaaly Offline
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RE: Changing degree
(06-18-2012 08:45 AM)RichieP Wrote:  I did a Physics degree at Bristol, UK and ended up with a "First".

You say you easily handle the Maths after your first year. Trust me, it will pick up, BIGTIME - both in the Maths and Physics branches of your degree.

The Physics later on becomes a lot more mathematical. If you just dont like physics that much, cool, switch over. But when you get to stuff like thermodynamics represented in vector calculus (!!), or fluid dynamics in 3 dimensions, it gets pretty weird, wonderful and very mathematical.

My 2c is, the Physics you hit later is pretty fucking exciting if you atall like Physics. You end up visualising integrals over weird and wonderful shapes and seeing energy and wavefunctions collapsing and shit Wink In the later years it becomes like a beautiful piece of art in motion in your minds eye, when you "get" what the maths is describing. It's pretty cool, and gives you a nice visual/kinesthetic side to things which keeps your imagination engaged whereas Maths can end up being a lot of proofs and tough brain-grind without many fireworks to visualise.

If you atall like Science, it's also cool to get deep into the scientific method and the cool discoveries. 3rd year Quantum Mech is really a different beast from 1st year, as is Electromag, Thermo and other cool shit you can take like "Quantum Information Theory". Endless proofs and theorems from Russian guys with inpronouncable names can get a little dreary in a pure Maths degree from what I saw.

Dunno if that makes any sense atall - but take one thing from this - the Maths ramps up ALOT in both Physics and Maths in 2nd yr and then again hugely in 3rd year. 1st year for me was actually not much more difficult than my final year in school in some ways. 2nd and 3rd year are where you really grow some new parts to your brain.

Richie, can you recommend any books/websites that would help me in learning something that complex?
My mathematics education stopped at 17, but i went on a learning kick recently and was determined to get a grasp of a more advanced field, like fluid dynamics/mechanics, since i wasn't particularly numerical until recently.
any pointers? i know what the order of progression is, more or less, through vector calculus, but are there any resources to learn independently?

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08-14-2012 04:03 PM
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kosko Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Changing degree
Any policy wonks in here?

I'm half way through my civil/development policy degree and I cringe more and more at my destined future as a cubicle rat in the decaying Canadian public sector.

Wondering if anybody is in the same position or is in the field now and they think think. I have a post-grad in mind but I am keeping it on the back burner since it will involve me having to go International to Europe and would involve some serious coin.

My ultimate goal is to be my own boss in some way related to my field or not I really want to run my own ship eventually. Consulting would be ideal so wondering if anybody is in this potion now and could share some insight into how they got up there.
08-14-2012 06:13 PM
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deepcov3r Offline
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RE: Changing degree
(08-14-2012 06:13 PM)kosko Wrote:  Any policy wonks in here?

...Consulting would be ideal so wondering if anybody is in this potion now and could share some insight into how they got up there.

This is rather vague but also generalizeable.

A. There are two reasons people will give you money. No one WANTS to pay you well, they do it only if it directly benefits them. Two ways:

1. If having you around MAKES them money. For instance, sales ; or being a programmer consultant who is hired out at a profit

2. If having you around SAVES them money. I now work in government budgeting, they need me to avoid spending money they don't have to-- but I also had to have a hard-to-get ( a decade) license.

I've done both 1 and 2.

B. How do you GET to be a person that does (1) or (2):

1) Be smart as shit so no one else can do what you do. Computer programming is basically like that. Many computer programmers have no degree, they are just so smart no one else can do what they do. Some programming is routine, but when something won't work it is very, very hard.

2) Join a guild. Practicing law is like this. You have to have the degree and the license; and once you do, there are great, great barriers to entry to others who would want to do your job. It would take YEARS to get your license. Joining a guild is easier than being brilliant-- most guilds allow mediocrities who are hard working to enter. You won't enter at the top like a Harvard Law grad, but you can go to night school, pass the bar, and open your practice for, IDK, drug dealers.

The problem with a general government study program like you are taking is unless a government job specifically requires that degree; they will often promote paper-pushers from within. The jobs are generally absurdly easy.

I had one job as a paper-pusher, and although I needed a difficult to earn license to do it, the actual tasks could easily be done by a bright high-school student. There's no way an advanced computer programmer could be replaced like that. HOWEVER programming is a young man's game. Learning new languages and the very rapid plastic thinking required diminishes rapidly with age ( >30) .

With certain professions like law and medicine, the underlying variables change far less than in programming. Human physiology and the body of law (within a particular jurisdiction) change very slowly if at all.

It's interesting that the highest average paid profession in USA ( MD) is based on a device ( human body) that really doesn't change at all except as everyone gets fatter from cultural differences. You could go to China and the underlying physiology would be very similar ( except there might be minor differences like lower innate alcohol tolerance or increased goiter in the far west) . Law would be totally, totally different.
(This post was last modified: 09-07-2012 12:01 AM by deepcov3r.)
09-06-2012 11:52 PM
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RichieP Offline
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RE: Changing degree
(08-14-2012 04:03 PM)shameus_oreaaly Wrote:  Richie, can you recommend any books/websites that would help me in learning something that complex?
My mathematics education stopped at 17, but i went on a learning kick recently and was determined to get a grasp of a more advanced field, like fluid dynamics/mechanics, since i wasn't particularly numerical until recently.
any pointers? i know what the order of progression is, more or less, through vector calculus, but are there any resources to learn independently?



Sure, first thing I'd wonder though is why you want to learn fluid mechanics? If it's pure love of maths/physics and you really want it enough, that's cool... but it's gonna be a loooaad of work and not applicable to anything much unless you get specifically into that field.

If it's learning complex things in general that you love, and you arent necessarily set on maths/physics, how about a cool language, or a programming language, or something awesome and far-reaching like Systems Dynamics? You can take online courses on it and it applies to everything - physical systems (i.e. physics), economies, business structure, ecologies, patterns in politics, etc. A language, a programming language or Systems Dynamics would all give you a good brain workout - a programming language and SD especially, some real meaty concepts in those - and open up alot more opportunities for you than learning fluid mechanics. My brain loved it, but at the end of the day, I was learning how to analyse a water droplet in infinite dimensions. If I were to learn something from scratch now, it would be for the kick of learning/ the conceptual brain workout AND also something that will pay off practically.

If the answer is "thx.. but gimme the physics" then no worries Wink I'd start with going through the stuff at Khan Academy. For fluid dynamics you're gonna need calculus, multivariate calculus, then vector calculus. I dont really know the most efficient way to learn this stuff outside of a structured degree course... much of the learning for me was in the explanations in lectures, and in tackling the problem sheets. Textbooks were a good supplement to that but not enough on their own.

I would maybe goto a top university's website, look at the syllabus for a 3rd-year or graduate fluid mech course, what it's requirements are in terms of previous courses, then try and get your hands on lecture notes and problem sheets with answers + explanations, and maybe the textbooks they recommend.
(This post was last modified: 09-07-2012 11:23 AM by RichieP.)
09-07-2012 11:12 AM
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kosko Offline
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RE: Changing degree
(09-06-2012 11:52 PM)deepcov3r Wrote:  
(08-14-2012 06:13 PM)kosko Wrote:  Any policy wonks in here?

...Consulting would be ideal so wondering if anybody is in this potion now and could share some insight into how they got up there.

This is rather vague but also generalizeable.

A. There are two reasons people will give you money. No one WANTS to pay you well, they do it only if it directly benefits them. Two ways:

1. If having you around MAKES them money. For instance, sales ; or being a programmer consultant who is hired out at a profit

2. If having you around SAVES them money. I now work in government budgeting, they need me to avoid spending money they don't have to-- but I also had to have a hard-to-get ( a decade) license.

I've done both 1 and 2.

B. How do you GET to be a person that does (1) or (2):

1) Be smart as shit so no one else can do what you do. Computer programming is basically like that. Many computer programmers have no degree, they are just so smart no one else can do what they do. Some programming is routine, but when something won't work it is very, very hard.

2) Join a guild. Practicing law is like this. You have to have the degree and the license; and once you do, there are great, great barriers to entry to others who would want to do your job. It would take YEARS to get your license. Joining a guild is easier than being brilliant-- most guilds allow mediocrities who are hard working to enter. You won't enter at the top like a Harvard Law grad, but you can go to night school, pass the bar, and open your practice for, IDK, drug dealers.

The problem with a general government study program like you are taking is unless a government job specifically requires that degree; they will often promote paper-pushers from within. The jobs are generally absurdly easy.

I had one job as a paper-pusher, and although I needed a difficult to earn license to do it, the actual tasks could easily be done by a bright high-school student. There's no way an advanced computer programmer could be replaced like that. HOWEVER programming is a young man's game. Learning new languages and the very rapid plastic thinking required diminishes rapidly with age ( >30) .

With certain professions like law and medicine, the underlying variables change far less than in programming. Human physiology and the body of law (within a particular jurisdiction) change very slowly if at all.

It's interesting that the highest average paid profession in USA ( MD) is based on a device ( human body) that really doesn't change at all except as everyone gets fatter from cultural differences. You could go to China and the underlying physiology would be very similar ( except there might be minor differences like lower innate alcohol tolerance or increased goiter in the far west) . Law would be totally, totally different.


My field does have a professional Guild. I will be able start the membership process after 2 years of work experience post school. The dues are steep as hell but as you mentioned it puts you in a elite class with pedigree with an ability to go after higher wages.

I would say I am good at what I learn I do have un-conventional ideas and approaches and I try to study on new trends that are emerging in our field so I can be in expert in the emerging 'Style C' when Everybody now is on the trendy 'Style B' that is replacing the current 'Style A'.

Government leans towards outsourcing to consultants because as you noted its cheaper to pay them for a short contract then to have a full-staffer do that work. Most of the time nobody on staff has those qualifications anyways.

So was it something you kind of stumbled into or was it something you had in the back of your mind that you wanted to end up doing.
09-07-2012 04:57 PM
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shameus_o'reaaly Offline
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RE: Changing degree
(09-07-2012 11:12 AM)RichieP Wrote:  
(08-14-2012 04:03 PM)shameus_oreaaly Wrote:  Richie, can you recommend any books/websites that would help me in learning something that complex?
My mathematics education stopped at 17, but i went on a learning kick recently and was determined to get a grasp of a more advanced field, like fluid dynamics/mechanics, since i wasn't particularly numerical until recently.
any pointers? i know what the order of progression is, more or less, through vector calculus, but are there any resources to learn independently?



Sure, first thing I'd wonder though is why you want to learn fluid mechanics? If it's pure love of maths/physics and you really want it enough, that's cool... but it's gonna be a loooaad of work and not applicable to anything much unless you get specifically into that field.

If it's learning complex things in general that you love, and you arent necessarily set on maths/physics, how about a cool language, or a programming language, or something awesome and far-reaching like Systems Dynamics? You can take online courses on it and it applies to everything - physical systems (i.e. physics), economies, business structure, ecologies, patterns in politics, etc. A language, a programming language or Systems Dynamics would all give you a good brain workout - a programming language and SD especially, some real meaty concepts in those - and open up alot more opportunities for you than learning fluid mechanics. My brain loved it, but at the end of the day, I was learning how to analyse a water droplet in infinite dimensions. If I were to learn something from scratch now, it would be for the kick of learning/ the conceptual brain workout AND also something that will pay off practically.

If the answer is "thx.. but gimme the physics" then no worries Wink I'd start with going through the stuff at Khan Academy. For fluid dynamics you're gonna need calculus, multivariate calculus, then vector calculus. I dont really know the most efficient way to learn this stuff outside of a structured degree course... much of the learning for me was in the explanations in lectures, and in tackling the problem sheets. Textbooks were a good supplement to that but not enough on their own.

I would maybe goto a top university's website, look at the syllabus for a 3rd-year or graduate fluid mech course, what it's requirements are in terms of previous courses, then try and get your hands on lecture notes and problem sheets with answers + explanations, and maybe the textbooks they recommend.

Thanks for this.
Yeah, it's a combination of things that interested me in fluid dynamics. I'm pretty numerate if i focus, but like most people, i don't often use math beyond arithmetic, so it's as alien to me as programming. Once i was talking to some grad students, and they were muttering to each other about heat transfer and viscosity and flow and other weird and wonderful concepts. I was taken by how exotic all this sounded, and it rattled around in my head until I found some other projects in completely new areas to work on, one of which was learning programming language to produce an app. Fluid dynamics is not likely to have much real-world application for me, but it's the idea of having fluenability at such a level of complexity and developing my mind in a completely new direction, a true brain workout like you say.

having said that, i found this book in my local library http://www.amazon.co.uk/Introduction-Dyn...0521663962 and realised this would probably take as long as a university degree to master. But i think brain workouts are a worthwhile endeavour regardless of the topic.
I started doing speed reading drills to be more efficient in my learning too
Thanks anyhow, will look more closely at it.

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09-08-2012 04:19 PM
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WestIndianArchie Offline
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RE: Changing degree
Financial Engineering.

Sure you'll be bored to tears.
Sure you could have invented time travel or teleportation.

But tweaking trading algorithms will get you paid handsomely.

WIA
09-08-2012 05:57 PM
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RichieP Offline
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RE: Changing degree
Cool, glad it helped.

Speaking of pure brain workouts, another thing I find engaging (I wont say enjoyable, lol, but it is engaging...) is Dual N-Back. It's a very specific type of brain training game designed to improve working memory. As far as I knew, it's actually the only brain training game with any credible evidence that it increases IQ (unlike sudoku or the gimmicky japanese arithmetic games). It's definitely intense.

If you google "Dual N-back" you can find free versions for PC, apps for phones and info on the studies etc.
09-09-2012 09:04 AM
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cibo Offline
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RE: Changing degree
(09-07-2012 11:12 AM)RichieP Wrote:  
(08-14-2012 04:03 PM)shameus_oreaaly Wrote:  Richie, can you recommend any books/websites that would help me in learning something that complex?
My mathematics education stopped at 17, but i went on a learning kick recently and was determined to get a grasp of a more advanced field, like fluid dynamics/mechanics, since i wasn't particularly numerical until recently.
any pointers? i know what the order of progression is, more or less, through vector calculus, but are there any resources to learn independently?



Sure, first thing I'd wonder though is why you want to learn fluid mechanics? If it's pure love of maths/physics and you really want it enough, that's cool... but it's gonna be a loooaad of work and not applicable to anything much unless you get specifically into that field.

If it's learning complex things in general that you love, and you arent necessarily set on maths/physics, how about a cool language, or a programming language, or something awesome and far-reaching like Systems Dynamics? You can take online courses on it and it applies to everything - physical systems (i.e. physics), economies, business structure, ecologies, patterns in politics, etc. A language, a programming language or Systems Dynamics would all give you a good brain workout - a programming language and SD especially, some real meaty concepts in those - and open up alot more opportunities for you than learning fluid mechanics. My brain loved it, but at the end of the day, I was learning how to analyse a water droplet in infinite dimensions. If I were to learn something from scratch now, it would be for the kick of learning/ the conceptual brain workout AND also something that will pay off practically.

If the answer is "thx.. but gimme the physics" then no worries Wink I'd start with going through the stuff at Khan Academy. For fluid dynamics you're gonna need calculus, multivariate calculus, then vector calculus. I dont really know the most efficient way to learn this stuff outside of a structured degree course... much of the learning for me was in the explanations in lectures, and in tackling the problem sheets. Textbooks were a good supplement to that but not enough on their own.

I would maybe goto a top university's website, look at the syllabus for a 3rd-year or graduate fluid mech course, what it's requirements are in terms of previous courses, then try and get your hands on lecture notes and problem sheets with answers + explanations, and maybe the textbooks they recommend.
I'm actually a consultant trained in system dynamics, (among other analytical techniques). SD is definitely useful in it being applied to many things. We've used it for education policies, corporate strategies, shipping systems, political uprisings etc. Anytime you have a system, it can be modelled in SD. We also have some Metric tracking software that uses SD principals when making forecasts.

SD models are useful when statistical methods can't differentiate between an outcome that is correlated or causally related to a variable. You basically create a model assuming causal links and put in feedback loops into the model. It's great for testing assumptions and validating a model in front of people since SD models are fairly easy to follow. SD also allows for non-linear models, like big changes of behaviour when certain thresholds are me.

You could model non-linear behaviour in statical models too with piecewise regression and/or link functions, and frankly i have done it both ways. Techies tend to love the stats approach more than the SD approach which business users like more since it's more graphical.
(This post was last modified: 09-09-2012 12:41 PM by cibo.)
09-09-2012 12:30 PM
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