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#1 carnivroar  Icon User is offline

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Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:02 PM

Has anyone here done a masters in computational physics?

Lately I have been confused and couldn't decided what major to focus more on (CS and physics) so I decided that going into computational physics would be the best idea to combine the two and to motivate me to do better in physics (I'm falling behind and doing horrible).

What courses should I take as an undergrad?

I am finished with my CS major but I am staying another year to finish physics. So I will have time to take some electives.

Now, should I take CS electives or Math electives?

For my CS electives I took internet programming, parallel algorithms, video game programming, and credit for an internship... anything I should make sure to take? Compilers? Distributed Systems?

Or focus more on math electives instead?

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Replies To: Masters in computational physics

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:08 PM

I am always curious - what do you plan on doing with that masters?

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For my CS electives I took internet programming, parallel algorithms, video game programming, and credit for an internship

I hope that is not all of your comp sci classes.. how about adding what ever core classes you took so we have a better idea where you have been study wise.

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so I decided that going into computational physics would be the best idea to combine the two and to motivate me to do better in physics (I'm falling behind and doing horrible).
...

What courses should I take as an undergrad?

I am finished with my CS major but I am staying another year to finish physics. So I will have time to take some electives.

Now, should I take CS electives or Math electives?

I would figure you would try and prop up the weaker side and double done on more physics...
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#3 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:10 PM

Really? If we tell you to go minor in hazardous waste recycling are you doing to do it?

Get real. We don't know you. We don't know your likes, interests, five year plan, hopes and dreams and preferred direction of your life. Do you really think we can offer you better guidance than your family, friends, employer or dare I say the University Guidance Councilor? These people all know you a thousand times better than we do.

As for being done with programming.. Well, not by a long shot. You may have taken these intro courses in half a dozen different areas but they didn't teach you much that could actually be used in the real world. You got a taste of different areas and that might be enough to let you know if you liked internet programming more than game programming. But don't think those courses actually taught you any significant amount towards working in those areas.

If you want a suggestion on what to do next... Follow your heart. Corny I know. But you're not a kid any more. So what career field can you do for the next 20 years and not hang yourself? Plus, what field can you actually do? What do you have the skills to be good at? Its time to stop thinking you can be anything, by just wishing hard enough. That ego stroking is over. Now is time for harsh reality. What can you do well enough for someone to pay you to do? What can you realistically be good enough at to pay the bills and put food on the table?

This post has been edited by tlhIn`toq: 06 March 2013 - 07:13 PM

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#4 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:21 PM

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What courses should I take as an undergrad?

There are checksheets. Consult those and check with your adviser. I don't mean to come across as rude, but those will really give you the best idea in terms of tracks your school offers, and what classes you should pursue.

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Now, should I take CS electives or Math electives?

Math complements physics. A class on Fourier Series and PDEs will go a long ways. If you have the proofs background, you might pursue a Real Analysis course. Be advised that Real Analysis is the real deal (no pun intended). If you're not willing to devote the work, pass on it. Real analysis will be useful to you in physics, but it is demanding.
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#5 carnivroar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:35 PM

Of course those weren't my only classes... I said electives.

My CS core classes were:

Calc 1
Calc 2
Calc 3 (really an elective)
Discrete Math
Prog 1 (python)
Prog 2 (java)
Data Structures & Algs (java)
Prog languages
Op Sys

My adviser told me to take more programming courses (instead of math) but then another professor told me that if I ever want to do more high end programming, I will need to be good in advanced math.

What's wrong with my question?

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 06 March 2013 - 07:10 PM, said:

Really? If we tell you to go minor in hazardous waste recycling are you doing to do it?

Get real. We don't know you. We don't know your likes, interests, five year plan, hopes and dreams and preferred direction of your life. Do you really think we can offer you better guidance than your family, friends, employer or dare I say the University Guidance Councilor? These people all know you a thousand times better than we do.

As for being done with programming.. Well, not by a long shot. You may have taken these intro courses in half a dozen different areas but they didn't teach you much that could actually be used in the real world. You got a taste of different areas and that might be enough to let you know if you liked internet programming more than game programming. But don't think those courses actually taught you any significant amount towards working in those areas.

If you want a suggestion on what to do next... Follow your heart. Corny I know. But you're not a kid any more. So what career field can you do for the next 20 years and not hang yourself? Plus, what field can you actually do? What do you have the skills to be good at? Its time to stop thinking you can be anything, by just wishing hard enough. That ego stroking is over. Now is time for harsh reality. What can you do well enough for someone to pay you to do? What can you realistically be good enough at to pay the bills and put food on the table?


You are making a lot of wrong assumptions.

This post has been edited by carnivroar: 06 March 2013 - 07:36 PM

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#6 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:40 PM

Quote

My adviser told me to take more programming courses (instead of math) but then another professor told me that if I ever want to do more high end programming, I will need to be good in advanced math.

You may struggle in physics if you don't have differential equations. Your physics classes should enforce certain math classes.

At the end of the day, it's important that you can write clean, correct, and efficient code. We don't have a good judge of your ability to do this, and programming classes won't necessarily prepare you for writing industry-ready code. If you're doing computational physics, this is important.
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#7 carnivroar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:54 PM

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 06 March 2013 - 07:40 PM, said:

Quote

My adviser told me to take more programming courses (instead of math) but then another professor told me that if I ever want to do more high end programming, I will need to be good in advanced math.

You may struggle in physics if you don't have differential equations. Your physics classes should enforce certain math classes.

At the end of the day, it's important that you can write clean, correct, and efficient code. We don't have a good judge of your ability to do this, and programming classes won't necessarily prepare you for writing industry-ready code. If you're doing computational physics, this is important.


Yes, we are recommended to take Linear algebra (took it) and differential equations (didn't take it yet) to fulfill the elective requirements for the physics major.

I am starting a CS internship next week and I will be getting exposure to industry code. So I told my adviser that I won't really need to take anymore programming courses (especially since I finished my CS major) and could shift my focus to physics, but he disagreed with me.

This post has been edited by carnivroar: 06 March 2013 - 07:55 PM

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#8 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:56 PM

A lot of computational physics is probably numerical methods, so you might consider focusing on those types of classes.
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#9 carnivroar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 13 March 2013 - 06:00 PM

My physics professor told me that the computational part of computational physics isn't really computer science...

But she said that astrophysics involves a lot of computing for modeling, simulations and data analysis.

Anyone know anything about that?

I am set on my path to become a software engineer and I don't want to quit that completely just to go into physics. Surely someone has to program those huge telescopes?
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#10 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 13 March 2013 - 09:11 PM

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My physics professor told me that the computational part of computational physics isn't really computer science...

You're going to be studying computational models for the area of science when you do computational math, computational physics, computational finance, etc. You probably aren't going to be taking a lot computational theory. It begins to resemble a lot of numerical methods programming.

At this point, you have to ask yourself- is it worth it to continue down the track of intensive computational models and lots of physics? Unless you are doing scientific computing for your career, you won't be using most of this. Personally, I'd be tempted to take the minor in Physics rather than spending an extra year on it. If you're set on the masters, then go for it. Just go into this open minded about the fact that you may end up not using what you learn.
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#11 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:49 AM

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I decided that going into computational physics would be the best idea to combine the two and to motivate me to do better in physics (I'm falling behind and doing horrible).


Talk about getting it backwards!

OK, I might be reading too much into this but it sounds like you are good at and enjoy the computer side of things but that you struggle with and don't enjoy the physics side. Why are you doing physics?

I strongly believe that you should study what you enjoy. Don't worry too much about choosing classes based on what other people think is the best for you. Make sure you tick all the boxes to pass your degree but beyond that follow your interests. Choose things that sound interesting or that inspire or excite you.

Do you have the opportunity to take a psychology elective? How about entrepreneurship, a language, engineering, law, art, history, biology ...? Breadth and depth of knowledge are important in everyone's education but everyone seems to focus on depth.

I don't know about you but I'd rather be a good programmer with some understanding and enthusiasm for psychology and business than a poor physics graduate (because you find it uninteresting) and a crippled programmer (because you had to work so hard on physics and maths you neglected the programming).

For my part, I followed a strange path. I have always considered myself a programmer but I did a chemistry degree. There were a bunch of reasons for this but an important one was that I found CS at school dull and boring while chemistry was exciting and interesting. I chose a chemistry course where the first year had equal parts physics, maths and chemistry and plenty of elective slots throughout the course. All my electives were in programming (for which I had to get special permission from both chem and CS departments) except Statistical Mechanics for which I had to change my major for a year and do another extra class in order to change it back afterwards.

I managed to land a final year chemistry project doing programming instead of lab work and have never looked back. I am now nearing the end of a PhD in bioinformatics and also do freelance software development, mostly writing scientific software. Somewhere along the way I developed a love of martial arts. I didn't dare to dream of getting anywhere near a black belt but it turns out even a clumsy, uncoordinated fatty can develop coordination and skills -- even lose weight, earn a black belt, help out with teaching and eventually run a club.

I don't know where this journey is taking me but it's one hell of a ride. My girlfriend and I have promised each other we'll start learning German next week. I'd love to learn a musical instrument. Maybe I'll make time one day, and I keep meaning to make enough time to learn enough philosophy to find out if I like it and want to delve deeper.

What I don't do is waste my time on things that don't inspire and excite me. I have no interest or time for football (soccer) or business. Maybe physics isn't for you. Go and find what is.
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#12 carnivroar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:47 AM

cfoley:

I'd like to work on scientific software like you. That's all.

I find learning about the universe a lot more interesting than learning about operating systems. But programming is very fun and I love creating things. It's not asking for too much to want to combine both.

I took a class in parallel algorithms and I loved it. Not necessarily the parallel part, but the numerical methods and scientific computing applications. I'll ask if they can offer the numerical methods class sometime next year.

I won't be a crippled programmer, either. I was a tutor and got nominated for an internship by my professors, that's why I think I can afford to shift my focus to physics now. As for the electives, I do have a minor in French.

I am a crippled physicist though. :P/>

I'll see if I can work on any projects on astrophysics in my school. There are some going on.

This post has been edited by carnivroar: 14 March 2013 - 08:51 AM

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#13 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: Masters in computational physics

Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:59 AM

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I won't be a crippled programmer, either. I was a tutor and got nominated for an internship by my professors, that's why I think I can afford to shift my focus to physics now.


If you start neglecting programming to focus on physics you won't grow as a programmer. That's what I really meant by crippled. As long as you're aware there is a balance to be maintained...

It sounds more like you prefer doing than just learning. Maybe you just have to grin and bear it to get through the classes.

This post has been edited by cfoley: 14 March 2013 - 09:00 AM

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