From engineering BSc to Physics MSc

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Joined: Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:24 pm

From engineering BSc to Physics MSc

Post by Brownie_in_Motion » Tue Apr 25, 2017 3:45 pm

I hold a BSc degree in petrochemical engineering. I'm 25 years old. I finished my university studies 4 years ago, graduated with honors and have been working in the industry ever since. I have a good job with a good salary, I can buy stuff and support my family but I'm not satisfied with my career.

I just could never stop thinking about physics since I finished school. I let go many chances, as an undergraduate, to switch faculties. I didn't choose physics when I was younger because I was thinking more about money than self realization.

So far my love for physics is based only on concepts I learned or read on my own. This year I started studying from books and material I found in the internet, following advice from forums like this one, checking MIT OCW and so. Even though my self-study has been short, I seem to understand the concepts and equations. My math knowledge reaches up to differential equations, vector calculus and linear algebra. I know nothing about tensor analysis, differential geometry, Fourier transforms, complex analysis, Hilbert spaces, generalized functions, integral transforms, Green functions and many other useful tools for any physicist. My physics level is just general physics, I learned some lagrangian and hamiltonian mechanics on my own (Marion), some extra concepts on EM theory (Griffiths), only an introduction to QM (Griffiths), almost none of Statistical Mechanics. I am sure I can understand new things if I get the time to review them, luckily my brain is not rusty even after 4 years of not being sat in a classroom.

I looked for advice into my university's graduate program. They were announcing positions available for a master's program in physics. I was curious about taking the challenge and see where I was so I applied, passed the test and the interview (I still don't know how, I even said I wanted to do Cosmology and they deemed it doable, they said my academic record and my evident, almost desperate enthusiasm for learning physics were good points in favor). I thought I would be rejected due to my lack of physics background, nevertheless I was accepted and even granted with a scholarship (I won't pay any tuition fees, receive a stipend -enough for basic needs, less than half of what I currently earn- for two years and even have health insurance; in exchange they demand full time dedication and presentation of a master thesis at the end of the two-year program). I should be exploding in happiness but I feel I have been wrongly accepted or maybe the interviewers (who are PhD professors from the faculty) didn't care enough to make sure they are accepting the fittest candidates.

They said I will have to take Classical Mechanics, EM and QM. I have been checking the syllabi of those courses and they start already at an advanced level, i.e. CM will start with Langrangian and Hamiltonian mechs right away, using Goldstein and Landau's books. EM will use Jackson and Landau. QM will start with operator theory, quantum dynamics, Schrodinger and Heisenberg interactions, propagators, density matrix, perturbation theory, etc. (all of that sounds like chinese to me) and suggest Merzbacher, Sakurai and Cohen-Tannoudji as reading material. I have acquired the recommended books and checked them, they are heavy weights, tough to swallow, at least for me, specially Landau-Lifshitz' collection.

All of it sounds as interesting and challenging as frightening and a bit irrational for me. Although I'm in love with the idea of changing my career path and start doing something I know I will enjoy, I want to remain rational and be sure I'm doing things in the most thoughtful way so the risk is minimum and I can surely assimilate as much possible from the Master's program without having a stroke, overloading my brain or going crazy. I consider this is my first step towards my long standing dream of becoming a physicist and I want to do it right, there is only one life to live.

I don't know whether to accept my position in this program or keep studying on my own and hope for the next announcement to apply again, IF the faculty staff agrees with my deferring from the program. I'm afraid I might disappoint them and make them no longer want to let me apply next year, for example. Would I be too old to start? Am I going through the right train of thought? I need advice from people who are experienced in physics and, if I am lucky enough, maybe someone else here has gone through this issue.

Many thanks in advance to all of you.

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