Double Major Indecision!

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burkleypatterson
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Double Major Indecision!

Postby burkleypatterson » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:01 pm UTC

I need help deciding what to double major in from anyone who is willing to give it! I have confidently decided on primarily majoring in Physics, but after that it's a toss up between Math and Astronomy. I think astronomy is really interesting and inspiring, but not very versatile, and I'm afraid that Math is going to be dull despite my passion for it. I ultimately would like to end up doing research, possibly at Goddard spaceflight center, and I think that both secondary degrees could be great assets. I am attending University of Maryland College Park, if that helps anyone. Opinions and advice would be much appreciated!

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meatyochre
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby meatyochre » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:23 pm UTC

As I recall from my brief stint as a physics major, getting a math minor is par for the course. You can't understand the physics without the math, so you're already going to be taking a lot of math as a physics major. I vote to double major in physics/math, but only if you are really, really determined, and don't mind having no social life. Be aware, as I was not, that physics is really fucking hard, particularly if you didn't have AP physics available in high school. Regardless, do be open to single majoring if you feel at all overwhelmed by the content while double majoring during your first semester.

You can always concentrate on astronomy (or cosmology) later too, especially if you go for a graduate degree.
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cv4
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby cv4 » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:09 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:You can always concentrate in astronomy (or cosmology) later too, especially if you go for a graduate degree.


How does learning to do makeup mesh with a physics degree? :lol:

burkleypatterson
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby burkleypatterson » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:39 am UTC

cv4 wrote:
meatyochre wrote:You can always concentrate in astronomy (or cosmology) later too, especially if you go for a graduate degree.


How does learning to do makeup mesh with a physics degree? :lol:


It goes about as well as determining peoples futures and personalities based on arbitrary placements of celestial bodies :D

But seriously, I am confident I can handle the coursework, and at least optimistic that I can handle a double major. Astronomy would be easier than Math, but from what I hear being said Physics would already equip me with most of the necessary skills. This is making me lean more towards Math, but I am still having difficulty deciding. What would a math major give me exclusively, and what would the Astronomy give me exclusively? I am worried about limiting myself to a career path that I do not want because of not taking the right classes.

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Omegaton
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby Omegaton » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:46 am UTC

Well you should probably look into interning at Goddard spaceflight center...

In any case, it appears NASA has extensive information on getting a career and how to prepare if you're a student, as well as more specifically about jobs at NASA. I skimmed through a little and found this FAQ, though I don't know if it even answers your question.

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LaserGuy
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:59 pm UTC

burkleypatterson wrote:I need help deciding what to double major in from anyone who is willing to give it! I have confidently decided on primarily majoring in Physics, but after that it's a toss up between Math and Astronomy. I think astronomy is really interesting and inspiring, but not very versatile, and I'm afraid that Math is going to be dull despite my passion for it. I ultimately would like to end up doing research, possibly at Goddard spaceflight center, and I think that both secondary degrees could be great assets. I am attending University of Maryland College Park, if that helps anyone. Opinions and advice would be much appreciated!


Well, I did a physics and astronomy degree at my Uni, and while I was pretty happy with the program work (happened to be one of the major schools for astronomy in the country), considering that I didn't end up pursuing astronomy for my future studies, some of that work was... less practical that I would have liked. Compared to, say, electromagnetism, quantum theory, or classical mechanics, astronomy is a fairly specific application of physics: if you stray too far outside of that specific application, you may find that a lot of that material won't be used too much in your future studies. Physics/math arguably gives you a broader base because many of the topics (especially if you tailor your math electives more toward applications to physics) are general enough that they're likely to turn up in any field. All of the math that you're likely to need will probably be covered in your physics program, but not necessarily all of it (particularly if you go into theory), and not certainly not in the level of detail you'll get with the math degree. There is an equivalence, of course: as an astronomy major, you should be able to pick up any extra math you need as you need it; as a math major, you'll certainly be able to pick up the astronomy that you'll need.

That said, if you are certain to go into astronomy, a physics/astronomy double major will probably give you an edge over an otherwise equal physics/math program because you're already moving toward the right specialization, but that's to be expected. It's worth saying too, that I wouldn't necessarily recommend math unless you LOVE mathematics. Particularly the abstract stuff.

burkleypatterson
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby burkleypatterson » Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:27 pm UTC

I'm beginning to think that Math is the way to go. While I do enjoy Astronomy, I have many other passions that are outside its scope. I think that Math is much more versatile and could take me further. And if I decide that I cannot proceed in my career without an astronomy degree, I can always take the six or so extra classes to become qualified.

Thanks everyone!

B.Good
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Re: Double Major Indecision!

Postby B.Good » Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:09 am UTC

I'm considering double majoring in physics and mathematics as well (also at UMD College Park, coincidentally). My reasoning is, if you go to grad school for physics (since you plan on doing research, it's almost required) you may need some of the more abstract/advanced mathematics that you learn by receiving a bachelors in Mathematics so you might as well take a stab at it now.


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