There is no place for Thermodynamics in graduate schools?

  • If you want to know something about the GRE subject test in physics then chances are you will find it in here.
  • If something about the physics GRE it isn't already discussed in here then please put it in here.

Post Reply
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:04 am

There is no place for Thermodynamics in graduate schools?

Post by seba240698 » Wed May 16, 2007 12:17 pm


When I read through the course scontent of a graduate school, I couldn't find any Thermodynamic course there, the closest I find is Statistical Mechanics. Is this common?

Is it true what other students say, that Thermodynamics is too smple a subject to be taught in graduate schools (just like they don't teach arithmatic in high school)? A first few semesters in undergraudate years should be able to cover the essential principles of thermdynamics?

I read mechanical engineering during my undergraduate years and it seems that now I will have difficulty studying physics at the graduate level since there is no deeper concepts in Thermodyanamics, as compard to graduates of electrical or computer engineering, they seem to have a advantage than me in reading physics at the graudate level, as Electrodynamics and Computational Maths are still taught at that level.

The same fate for Classical Mechanics too, the challenges of solving many mind provoking problems of mechanics seem to vanish in grauduate school, it doesn't offer classical mechanics too, only quantum mechanics (and lots of hours of it) and advance dynamics where it deals with hamitonian, Lagrangian etc.

Any views?

User avatar
Posts: 1529
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Post by twistor » Thu May 17, 2007 11:04 am

I believe the reasoning is that thermodynamics can be best understood in terms of statistical mechanics. Most physicsists view thermodynamics as a subject which gives little insight into the nature of the phenomenon that y ou're studying. To them thermodynamics is better suited in the engineering field where it can be applied with little understanding of microscopic physics.

At my university, thermodynamics is covered as part of a statistical mechanics course at the undergraduate level.

Graduate electrodynamics is typically more advanced than undergraduate ED. It's a more detailed and rigorous look at the same subject.

As far as classical mechanics. the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods are considered formulations of Newtonian mechanics. And in any case, Newtonian mechanics is typically the first physics one ever sees, which is used throughout one's undergraduate and graduate career in many forms (such as studying the Bohr model, forces in E&M, harmonic oscillator approximations) it's redundant to repeat it at the graduate level. Students are expected to have mastered this material by the time they enter graduate school.

Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:30 am

Post by kyros » Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:40 am

Signifigantly more advanced topics and methods are taught in physics at the graduate level. In my own university there are certainly more challanging version of E&M and Classical mechanics, as well as the standard fair of QED, ext. I think the point you are generally missing though, is that doing MORE of the same, is not what you are going to grad school to learn. At least not in physics. We want deeper understanding to abuse. Any competent physics student doesn't NEED more of that stuff. We've got it, and we can handle it if we need to. Physics is a bit like a swiss army knife - we got the theory and the skills, if we didn't learn every little example or how to deal with the massivly complex systems, its because we had better things to do with our time - we can always figure those out later.

Post Reply