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Calculus-Based Physics?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Intrepidation, Aug 21, 2002.

  1. Intrepidation

    Intrepidation I wear PASG underwear 7+ Year Member

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    Jul 25, 2001
    TX
    I am starting my sophomore undergrad year in less than a week and was looking forward to honors physics the next two semesters. Unfortunately my undergrad advisor (as well as my microbiology professor) informed me that in order to keep my standing as a 'premedical proffessions student' that he strongly encourages us to take calculus-based physics opposed to normal general physics. He pretty much shot down any effort from me to continue taking normal physics, even though I warned him that medical schools generally don't care about calculus based physics as those types of questions aren't on the MCAT.


    Your thoughts? Should I go ahead and take gen. physics anyway without him knowing and risk losing my 'premedical proffessions' status (not that it is all too important?) Or should I take the calculus based physics and risk bombing the class, as I am not prepared mentally to tackle calculus ever again?
     
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  3. Mutterkuchen

    Mutterkuchen Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Nov 28, 2001
    Omaha
    I strongly suggest NOT taking the Calc based physics. I took it and it took a great deal of time, and my grades suffered a little. The physics on the MCAT is not calc based, and taking the more difficult one will not make you better prepared for the MCAT. Take the easier one. You won't regret it. Plus my calc based physics course was called "General Physics." How will the adcom know how hard it was.

    Take the time saved by not having such a difficult class and do an interesting EC that you care about.
     
  4. Bikini Princess

    Bikini Princess 7+ Year Member

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    take the non-calculus based; i understand that the other is more difficult and may be unnecessary unless you plan on entering something like engineering. I think that your status should be independent of the classes you choose to take.
     
  5. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat 7+ Year Member

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    Jan 30, 2002
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    I took calculus-based physics and loved it. It was absolutely outstanding.

    At my university, the better profs teach the calc-based sequence because that's where all the physics majors are (as well as the engineers and some chem majors). At my university the less-good profs teach the general physics. Is it any wonder that bio majors and pre-meds end up hating physics?

    Anyways, calc-based physics is a lot of fun if you are comfortable with calc and physics (duh, right?). I don't know what the deal is with that special status you've got going there or how your advisor will react to your decision. But as far as calc-based physics goes, I'd encourage anyone to do it.

    I've talked to physics majors that TA the general physics, and they say that when you take calc-based physics, you get a better understanding of the concepts because you end up learning how various equations are derived, rather than just having them presented to you for memorization. It may be that better understanding of the concepts will translate into a better MCAT performance. It's something to think about anyway.
     
  6. Intrepidation

    Intrepidation I wear PASG underwear 7+ Year Member

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    Jul 25, 2001
    TX
    It isn't as much of a special status as much as it is 'if you don't take what the university wants its premedical/dental to take, you can forget about a letter of recommendation from our premed committee' type of thing. Which, in and of itself is no big deal, right? I mean 3 great letters from professors is a lot better than 2 great letters from professors and a composite letter from a group of professors writting one based on my transcript, eh?

    Aside from that, I haven't found any additional benefit with my status as a premedical, except for a 'pre-med/dent/nurse/etc advisor (not my undergrad) who has little power except to attend Alpha Epsilon Delta meeting and answer freshmen's questions.
     
  7. gower

    gower 1K Member 10+ Year Member

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    Oct 14, 2000
    New York
    1 The premedical advisors at North Texas, members of the national association of advisors, are Richard Sinclair (Math & Science) and/or Ms Robin Henry, General Academic Bldg. 313.
    Unless Sinclair is also your microbiology professor, discuss your situation with Sinclair or Henry.

    2 The fact of the matter is that calculus is NOT an admissions requirement at most medical schools and calculus does not appear on the MCAT. Calculus-based physics is also not usually a requirement either, although physics is.

    3 Unless at North Texas you are somehow required to get a recommendation from the microbiology professor, don't request one from him.

    4 If you are beween a rock and a hard place, you need him, he doesn't need you. Grit your teeth, swear under your breath, and do what must be done if you hope to see the inside of a medical school.
     
  8. blues

    blues Member 7+ Year Member

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    Jul 22, 2002
    Philadelphia, PA
    It sounds like you getting pushed into calc-based physics. I actually dropped out of a non-calc based physics class because it was too hard. If you like and did well in calc, I suggest taking the calc version. It is much easier!! The derivations make a lot more sense. However, I took a lot more math any premed should.

    Just some thoughts...

    Blues
     
  9. Intrepidation

    Intrepidation I wear PASG underwear 7+ Year Member

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    Jul 25, 2001
    TX
    Richard, eh? He must be new this year.

    Robin is my 'premedical' advisor indeed.

    It is my undergraduate advisor who is my microbiology professor, and although he has no say in the matter, he is a member of the committee and has considerable say.

    I will, however, talk to Robin sometime next week and try to sort this out. Unfortunately though, she is a feeble person who comes across as nothing more than a pawn and may not be willing to help me. Maybe I should go meet this Richard person.



    Calculus is required by most schools (or at least the ones I have looked at). I am aware that calc-physics is not required for either the MCAT or medical schools (this knowledge is the conflict of interest between me and my undergraduate advisor).
     
  10. Intrepidation

    Intrepidation I wear PASG underwear 7+ Year Member

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    Jul 25, 2001
    TX

    I hated calc with a passion. Naturally I am in no mood to revisit it, I fear my GPA would suffer because of it.
     
  11. jot

    jot

    they don't have a non-calc based physax at our school - and i don't really understand how one can get a visceral understanding of physics without it. perhaps that isn't necessary, but sometimes its nice to really understand a subject (even on the basic level) - i think the mcat becomes much easier - and you get an insight into other subjects. i'm not a fan of the "whatever gets you to med school" club, but it also makes sense to be practical. know your limits, but don't be afraid to challenge them a bit.

    -jot
     
  12. DarkChild

    DarkChild Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Jan 27, 2002
    New York
    nothing but love for jot - but I'd really like to have a hit of whatever he's smoking.
    anyway - dont take the calc based physics class.
    mine was called honors physics and wasnt calc based. the calc based class was something abstruse like 1201 mechanics.
    no adcom will know - and ultimately I think its better to have a high GPA than "challenge yourself."
    I'd really like to meet an adcom that looks at say a sociology major with a 4.0 and goes - oh but they were taking all easy classes :rolleyes:
    grades first - all else second.
    remember: second place is first loser.
    (too much Navy seal TV for me :laugh: )
     
  13. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat 7+ Year Member

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    Even if you don't like calculus, I would caution against assuming that you will necessarily get a higher grade in general physics than in calc-based physics. That opposite may be true. Also consider that calculus and calculus-based physics are two entirely different subjects. And you can't have too many good LORs, so maybe pissing off this advisor isn't such a great idea.
     
  14. jot

    jot

    ha - you make a good point darkchild - balance i guess, whatever fits you
     
  15. Mutterkuchen

    Mutterkuchen Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Nov 28, 2001
    Omaha
    As a side note, I think that it is crap that an advisor has so much influence on the situation. Advisors should offer advice, which you should be able to refuse if you desire without direct consequence.

    Regarding calc based physics--I do think that it was harder than the non calc based. It was not quite as abstract, though, as calc itself was. I disagree with Diogenes's earlier point that you understand physics better with the calc based stuff. I took it and did well, and I don't remember very much at all.
     
  16. PrincessCKNY

    PrincessCKNY Crown Royal Member 7+ Year Member

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    Jan 10, 2002
    Philly
    I suggest talking to people (ie. pre-meds) who took each class and seeing what they thought of it. If both types of classes aren't full, sit in on both of them and see which approach suits your style better.

    I love calculus and I tutor it, but I took the non-calculus based course because I wanted to focus more on the concepts than the equations. Who cares about the derivation? As long as you know in general how they got from Equation A to Equation X, that's all that matters. You will only be working w/ Equation X in the end and everything else before that is irrelevant in my opinion.

    Seeing as how you have this intense fear of calculus, you might opt for the non-calculus based class. However, keep your options open. You never know...typically a difficult course will have a lower curve, and you may end up doing well in it because you know more calculus than your classmates. Just my two pennies.
     
  17. CaNEM

    CaNEM Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Jun 11, 2002
    What kind of programs do you intend to apply to?

    If you are applying MD, some programs actually prefer that you take non-calc based physics (why, I don't know).

    If you are applying MD/PhD, some grad programs require calc-based physics.

    If you are applying DPM... you could probably just drop out of school and enroll right now.

    ... Well at least that's the impression I get from all these application invitations I've been getting from podiatry schools, even though I would never consider applying. Are other people getting these? They are annoying.
     
  18. PrincessCKNY

    PrincessCKNY Crown Royal Member 7+ Year Member

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    Jan 10, 2002
    Philly
    Yup. They go straight from my mailbox to the trash. I always get psyched out because I think it's another secondary from a med school.
     
  19. CaNEM

    CaNEM Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Jun 11, 2002
    Ah, after a bit of practice, they are only able to psyche me out for a split second. As soon as I see any University's logo on the upper left-hand corner of the envelope, I first scan for the "School of Podiatry" subscript written underneath it in 2 point font (as if they have something to hide...). The lack or presense of this determines whether I feverishly rip the envelope open or just feverishly rip the envelope apart. :p
     
  20. coredump

    coredump Member 10+ Year Member

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    May 9, 2002
    Underwater
    i think the answer depends on how comfortable you feel with the subject matter. Have you always done well in calculus/physics and other abstract subject areas with little practical application? :laugh:

    but seriously, if you truly feel like you can do well, with a track record of having done well in related classes, you should go for it.
    It's definitely challenging, but the extra effort may make the PS section that much easier (still have to take the MCAT to say for sure).

    Keep in mind that, generally speaking, calculus-based physics is geared towards engineer-types; meaning, the competition is pretty stiff when you're going against people that get emotional over pictures of Newton.
     
  21. Delicious B

    Delicious B Junior Member

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    Aug 15, 2002
    Chicago
    I'd also recommend against the Calc-based class, provided the administrative consequences aren't too drastic (your school makes it sound like it's Calc-or-bust). Physics in any capacity is challenging, even in those infamous "Physics for Poets" classes at some schools. It sounds like calculus isn't your cup of tea; nor was it mine. I took a non-calc version, did well, learned a lot, and had a great professor whose view (much like Einstein's) was that equational aspects were mainly a means to an end and often got in the way of the "fun stuff." Your education will most likely not suffer on account of missing the calculus derivations, though if you choose to bite the proverbial math bullet and take calc-physics you'd likely obtain a solid understanding for the reasoning behind the equations.

    Of course, non-calc physics textbooks don't spend extra space on deriving equations like their calc-based counterparts. And that means extra room for nifty pictures. You've gotta respect the nifty pictures in boring textbooks; visually pleasing pages = happy reader.

    Good luck,
    ~DB
     
  22. Curci

    Curci The Master Chief 7+ Year Member

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    New Jersey
    Math scares me more than anyone else I know. I absolutely HATE math and especially calculus.

    Having said that, I recommend you take the calc-based physics. I took calc-based physics, and I absolutely LOVED it. The professors for both classes were excellent, but the calc-based physics was better because it was the class for majors. Therefore, there was a sincere effort to make sure that everyone understood the basic concepts well.

    You may wind up taking calc-based physics and hate it, but if that's the case then you'd probably wind up hating the honors physics too, since they really are the same class. My advice is to not be afraid of taking challeging classes. Med school is going to be tougher than anyone can ever prepare you for, so I, for one, am trying to get used to challenging myself while I'm still in college (for example, taking 20 credit semesters [since I decided to do an extra minor] and taking the more challenging classes.)

    I understand how important GPA is in the admissions process, but I think developing the right mindset for medicine and med school is just as important. I don't agree that perfect grades should be pursued at the expense of all else. That philosophy just seems a little narrow-minded to me.

    I apologize for the excessive length of this post. The bottom line is that if you work hard, you can earn just as good a grade in calc-based physics as in honors physics, and the experience will "build character" and maybe give you something to talk about in an interview. Just my opinion.
     
  23. Mutterkuchen

    Mutterkuchen Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Nov 28, 2001
    Omaha
    Narrow-minded or not, a high GPA is a primary selection factor. If you wanted to challenge yourself, at least take courses that you are interested in. If you hate heavy math, don't take heavy math. I strongly feel that you will be better served taking easier courses for two reasons: easier courses=higher GPA and the time saved can be used for important ECs. Take the time saved not having to study so much, find a prof that will let you do research, and get a publication. Then you have a high GPA and research experience. The alternative is a lower GPA (maybe) and no time for important ECs.
     
  24. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat 7+ Year Member

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    California
    Taking calc-based physics I had to memorize fewer equations than my friends in non-calc-based physics. Because you can always derive equations for specific situations from the general principles of physics.
     
  25. Ninjaboy

    Ninjaboy Taneuma 7+ Year Member

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    Diogenes is right. I found Calc-based physics a plus on the MCAT. Instead of memorizing all of the equations you develop an understanding of how the equations are derived. Therefore if you forget something you know how to get it back. Think, kinematics (which always seems to appear on the MCAT) is a pretty easy subject, but if you forget an equation then you might have to guess. With Calc-based, you do a couple derivatives or integrals and you have all of the equations from F=MA.
     
  26. kito

    kito Big Evil 10+ Year Member

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    May 13, 2002
    deep within
    i agree with the last two post. it is a bit of a tradeoff because calculus based physics is a more difficult ordeal than trig based physics, but it will go a long way towards helping you prepare for the mcats. not only will equations come to you through mental derivations, but you will have a clearer understanding of any kinematic or rate related graphs that they may give. it will also give you a more intuitive feeling for other rates like currents, acceleration and power, not to mention give you insight into quite possibly the most difficult and counterintuitive topic in all of science: the field theory (which is tested in a waterdown sense in mcat E&M).
     
  27. Curci

    Curci The Master Chief 7+ Year Member

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    New Jersey
    My personal experience is also that non-calc-based physics is harder than calc-based, but that's just what I know from my school. The reality is that if you hate physics, then you just hate physics, and it won't matter which one you take. There is no easy way out that will guarantee you a (fractionally?) higher GPA. I still stand by my belief that it is the evaluation of the APPLICANT that is most important to the admissions process, and not just his or her grades. Sure, higher grades might ensure that you progress more quickly in the process, but once you get to the interview stage everyone has high grades! When an interviewer asks you to tell him about yourself, are you going to admit that you're afraid to accept challeges because you need to maintain your pristine GPA? Unless you're a heartless gunner, I don't think that kind of thinking will get you too far in med school. Plus, the OP has the support of his pre-med committee to consider. Last time I checked, that was pretty important too.

    But, once again, this is just my opinion. This application process is so confusing that there is no right way to go about it. However, I believe that the confidence you get by challenging yourself and getting a "B" will be more useful in the long run than the "A" you can get by coasting through college. I have faith that there will be at least some adcoms out there who share my belief.
     
  28. agent

    agent agent, RN 7+ Year Member

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    Near Chicago
    yeah tell your advisor to eat a turd.
     
  29. lll505

    lll505 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    I agree w/ Diogenes... I was terrified of taking calc-based physics but it was my only option and I felt it really helped me to understand physics and made the class so much more interesting. If you struggle with math, however, or find using mathematical derivations to explain concepts not that interesting, you might be better off w/ non-calc physics.
     
  30. smid

    smid Member 7+ Year Member

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    I'm a little biased since I'm a phsyicist and have TA'd both honors physics as well as the opposite extreme (physics for poets), though never the "pre-med" physics.

    The problem sets do take time, but generally the profs are better and the material is much easier to understand because of the derivations (Newton invented calculus os that he could do more physics...that should tell you soemthing)

    It's true that the MCAT doesn't test cal-based physics, but there are a lot of graphs and very subtle questions that I was happy I had such a strong physics background for.

    Also, physics forms the basis of every other sciene (even biology). If you love science, you will likely love physics. You don't have to memorize anything (read: no metabolic pathways!) and it's just really cool.
     
  31. bruinmojo

    bruinmojo Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    Jun 23, 2001
    New York
    I personally saw no point in taking the calculus version of physics. I understand that people who have enjoyed calculus, it will allow them to derive equations much faster and be better able to understand how it was truly done. while it helps to be able to understand the equation by deriving it, it is unnecessary to be able to derive every single equation out there. I personally enjoyed physics back in high school, and even in college. At times, our pre med version of the physics classes did use some basic calculus that even calculus haters like myself didnt mind.

    Does it help you for the MCATs? To some extent I guess, but I dont really believe so. I have known many of my friends who took the calculus version of physics and they regretted it later because it was tougher and it didnt deal as much with medical concepts. I know at UCLA, there would be a large amount of integration between medicine and physics in the premed version, however, they barely covered such aspects in the calculus version.

    I personally have found physics in general to be unneccessary for a physician (except for the similarity in the spelling). I find it interesting that in the DATs they have a logic section, but in the MCATs we dont (but we do have a physics section). Physicians don't need logic I guess ? that always kinda perplexed me.

    Either way, if you feel the premed version of physics does integrate the different concepts, then go for it. Notice, I am not suggesting taking the premed physics because it's easier, but because I feel it gives you a better background.

    I'm a biochem major, and if you asked me whether you should take the chem major curriculum of chemistry or the premed version, I would strongly suggest taking the chemistry curriculm. Why? because I know at my own school, the pre med version of the chemistry curriculum doesn't give you as great of a background. I personally felt the benefits, allowing me to do much better and better understand the O chem sections on the MCAT. I personally know that the regular chem doesn't give you as good of a background, especially in O chem.
     

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