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physics majors?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by eklope2000, Sep 20, 2002.

  1. eklope2000

    eklope2000 Member
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    Any pre-meds majoring in physics?

    When/if asked, how do you explain the connection between your major and your interest in medicine?

    I'm currently a pre-med in a traditional pre-medical program and I'm considering transferring to one of the physical sciences--physics or chemistry. I see a lot of relevance in majoring in chemistry for pre-meds, but it is more difficult for me to rationalize physics. Regardless, I think I would really enjoy studying physics as an undergrad, but I still want to be able to realize my goal of practicing/studying medicine.
     
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  3. gotgirth

    gotgirth Greatest Icon in Wrestlng
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    Well there are a number of ways you can rationalize it, but of course everyone has their own reasons:

    For me, coming into college I didn't really know that I wanted to go to medical school, and physics is a topic I had always found interesting and enjoyed.

    In college, while its still sometimes interesting to solve a physics problem, I began to realize that what I wanted to do with my life was more in the life-sciences and working with people (through volunteer work, etc.).

    So that still doesn't answer the question "why physics?"...

    Well, when you take the upper level physics/engineering courses (I'm physics & bioengineering), you can get a good grasp of a lot of the technology used in the medical fields (understanding how MRI's work/other imaging/etc.) You're probably not going to directly apply this knowledge as a doctor, but its interesting to have it and know "how things work".

    Anyways thats my $.02. On a side note, lots of people *hate* physics or have had a difficult time with it, which seems to give the degree a certain "mystique" in the eyes of some people...certainly not a reason to pursue the degree, but if you can hack it and actually *enjoy* physics, go for it and do what you want, it certainly won't hurt your chances of getting in.
     
  4. sluox

    Physician 10+ Year Member

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    I'm a physics major. Unless you are very good at math (and I'm talking proficient in higher mathematics, not just an A in calculus), you'd be surprised by the way physics faculty and students think. I think that's the "mystique". In physics classes the most emphasized skill is problem solving. Memory though is also important since it often is a matter of speed during exams.

    What is interesting about physics is that overall this pathway is prolly the most consistent major across the nation. I can count out the undergraduate physics textbooks with my eyes closed. And every school uses them. If you are seriously interested, try Intro to Mechanics by Kleppener/Kolenkow, Electricity and Magnetism by Edward Purcell and possibly Thermal Physics by Reif. These are generally introductory level textbooks and require just one to two years of calculus to read. If you think that style of presentation is comfortable to you then you should do well in a physics program.

    As far as med school is concerned, I personally think first of all that physics is something very interesting to do--like history or sociology...sadly not very many agrees with me :) Secondly certain parts of physics (think condensed matter and optics) is at the heart and soul of modern biomedical research. So if you are interested in research, a physics degree would take you very far. Finally, physics excersizes your mind as well as your patience, and it's good for overcoming obstacles...lemme tell ya when you get an eight problem homework set and have absloutely NO CLUE how to do even one...MCAT looks like cake...but you'll get used to it ;)
     
  5. owen_osh

    owen_osh Senior Member
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    I'm a physics major, and I have been asked about it at every interview. I agree that physics does hold a certain mystique for non-physicists.

    Also, I would recommend not going into a physics program unless you plan to use physics in your professional life. While the introductory classes may be interesting, the upper level courses are very specific and detailed and the math can be very time consuming. I've found that it's hard to stay motivated to do enormous problem sets in quantum mech, e&m, etc. knowing that the information is not relevant to my future career in medicine.
     
  6. jot

    jot

    i'm always in awe of good physics majors - its really a wonderful style of thinking and requires a rigor that is fundamental to so many subjects. it is interesting when physcists enter other subjects like biology, chemistry, and even history, some revolutionary changes come about. thomas kuhn was a harvard trained physics feller - but went to do history at princeton, and his novel way of thinking exploded the thought in the field of the history of science - wrote an influential book called "structure of scientific revolutions", which is where the popularized phrase "paradigm shift" comes from. its a good read for all who are interested in history of science/thought (though it hasn't always been taken kindly by most feminist critiques). anyway - its a cool slant to bring to medicine.
     
  7. ljube_02

    ljube_02 Senior Member
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    I also want to major in physics. Of course i'll change my mind if the 3rd year courses are too hard for me.

    I would like to know if courses such as quantum mechanics (where the exams are not multiple choice) are easier to get an A in some schools, rather than at others? Or it's equally hard course at all schools? Would like any universities, such as big public schools, canadian schools, and ivy leagues compared in difficulty to NYU.

    Also a question about research: how is condensed matter and/or optics related to medicine?
    What could i work on during undergraduate years that could be related to medicine? What kind of research do physicists do when they work on lasers or on mri's?
     
  8. gotgirth

    gotgirth Greatest Icon in Wrestlng
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    A friend of mine is also physics-premed and here is what he does:

    http://www.physics.uiuc.edu/Education/398ST/Fall01/StudentPresentations/barretto/index.htm

    A Bioengineering prof. of mine is doing research (and taking on undergrads) to work on MRI imaging at the level of the cell...seems that a physics/engineering major could also get things accomplished there.

    Of course, you could also be a weirdo like me and do your research outside of physics in the chemistry dept (computer modeling/drug design)...anyways stuff is out there, all depends what your interests are.
     
  9. mpp

    mpp SDN Moderator
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    I was also a physics/mathematics major. I stopped loving physics during the 2nd year of graduate school, so I dropped out and spent two and a half years in a remote village in Africa. Now I'm in medical school.

    I don't think you actually need to link your major with medicine at all. People in the medical world love all kinds of things that are not related to medicine. If you think you'd like physics, don't have second thoughts about studying it in college. You'll really not have a second chance at it as it would be difficult to be a recreational physicist later in life (by definitely not impossible). If you really like problem solving then physics is great. And if you love medicine and physics, you'll find the links between them as you go along.

    Best of luck...

    P.S. to Sluox: We used Symon for Mechanics and Griffiths for E&M. We did use Reif for Statistical Mechanics. Scarier are the graduate texts as everybody uses the same ones...definitely Jackson for E&M. You're right about the homework sets making the MCAT a cakewalk.
     
  10. kito

    kito Big Evil
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    i, too, am a physics major, but my story is a bit different in that when i entered school i always knew i wanted to major in physics. i, however, developed an urge to pursue medicine during the summer between my junior and senior years, and am now finishing up all of the prerequisites and preparing for the mcats. physics is a wonderfully fulfilling and challenging subject in and of itself, but it is not for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged. unlike most any other subject (outside of math) physics is about doing, and doing often, and doing well. i really think that my mathematical and physics training will help me in medical school, and may even serve me in the admissions process. i do sense a percieved mystique surrounding the area, and i certainly think that the ideas of physics are virtually everywhere. to streamline to the point, do it if you love it, and you will be happy. but do it only because you love it or else you will be unhappy, and most likely will not do very well because it is incredibly difficult and often times frustrating (even for the best of us). as far as books go, my favorites for EM and mechanics are the landau & lif****z books. they rock.
     

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