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A question from DD: which science degree?

(59 Posts)
GnomeDePlume Sat 25-Feb-17 22:22:45

DD is in year 12 and looking at degree courses. She is studying Maths, FM, Physics, Chemistry. Currently predicted grades are A*, A, A, B. Maths is without a doubt her strongest subject.

She loves being in labs and understanding how and why things work. What she loves about physics & chemistry is that it isnt all known, that there are still lots of things to discover.

So the question is: which science degree? Head would say maths, but her heart says physics or chemistry.

Which degree will help her into a science career the best?

Oh, and she doesnt want to teach (honestly, god love her, but you wouldnt want her teaching kids)

BeachysSnowyWellieBoots Sat 25-Feb-17 22:27:48

She should look at Medical Engineering. A friends dd is in her 2nd year, really enjoying it but hard work....

foresttrees2 Sat 25-Feb-17 22:30:40

I studied physics and it got me a career - ultimately what is she interested in? But I wouldn't recommend if you are not passionate about it, are there any particular topics she is keen on?

ladyvimes Sat 25-Feb-17 22:33:58

Could she do a combined degree like physics and maths?
I suppose it depends on what sort of science career she wants as pretty sure the range is massive!!!

TotallyEclipsed Sun 26-Feb-17 00:39:18

Physics is pretty much applied maths and arguably closer to the maths taught in school than a straight maths degree. She could chose the theoretical options to make it even more mathsy, it would be my choice for understanding how/why things work.

hellsbells99 Sun 26-Feb-17 01:44:49

I would look at something like a mechanical engineering course that gives the option of specialising in medical engineering.

sendsummer Sun 26-Feb-17 04:25:11

From her predicted grades and her liking practical work and discovery, I would say physics since her chemistry is relatively weak. Physics with maths would mean less lab work. As a PP said, physics at university requires very strong maths anyway.
Engineering is another possibility that she would be well suited to with her abilities but if she likes the idea of basic science discovery then engineering may leave her frustrated. Worth a look though.

sendsummer Sun 26-Feb-17 04:30:19

Here for example is a variation on physics from a well regarded physics department.
www.phys.soton.ac.uk/programmes/f390-mphys-physics-nanotechnology/#modules

MsHippo Sun 26-Feb-17 04:38:08

She could be me! I was in the exact same situation and chose physics which I loved and now have a great job in the field.

The other option she could look at would be Natural sciences (Cambridge, but also Bath, Southampton etc offer this) which essentially allows you pick modules from the different science subjects, and then I think specialise in your later years. It's a very well respected subject and might be perfect for her if she can't quite choose.

GnomeDePlume Sun 26-Feb-17 08:30:59

Thank you all very much. I will discuss this with her. This is and will be her choice to make but she is currently finding the choice difficult.

For physics do placement years add to the experience/usefulness of the degree? Is a 5 year MPhys with a year in industry a better entry to the job market than a 3 year BSc?

Just to add confusion to the mix DB who is a physicist now thinks he should have done a maths degree. Mind he was at uni when Einstein was a lad! So his input isnt helping much!

GnomeDePlume Sun 26-Feb-17 08:38:20

She isnt planning to apply to Oxford/Cambridge as she is worried that the intensity of the courses would be too much. She wants to have the time to explore the subjects she studies. She find that to learn something she has to properly understand it which takes time.

CMOTDibbler Sun 26-Feb-17 08:39:36

Physics. It opens up so many paths. I'm a medical physicist, and I love it

PurpleDaisies Sun 26-Feb-17 08:45:13

Another physics grafuate here. I absolutely loved it. If she's torn between physics and chemistry something like this might suit...

www.nottingham.ac.uk/ugstudy/courses/chemistry/msci-chemistry-molecular-physics.aspx

GnomeDePlume Sun 26-Feb-17 10:11:16

What does a medical physicist do please?

CMOTDibbler Sun 26-Feb-17 10:29:01

There are lots of different types - the main areas you might specialise in are radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, radiation protection, diagnostic radiology, MRI, clinical engineering, physiological measurement and ultrasound. I specialise in radiotherapy (though this requires imaging physics as well) in which physicists do a really wide range of tasks, but all centred on ensuring the patient gets exactly the amount of radiation the oncologist has prescribed to their tumour and minimal amounts to the critical organs. Lots of opportunity for research - some physicists just do research, some do it alongside their clinical work.

Theres also opportunities to work for manufacturers training users, or providing highly technical support to users which also gets you some travel :-) Theres a worldwide shortage of physicists too.

More info about careers in Medical Physics here

sendsummer Sun 26-Feb-17 11:00:30

For physics do placement years add to the experience/usefulness of the degree? Is a 5 year MPhys with a year in industry a better entry to the job market than a 3 year BSc?

From my understanding, the 4th Year of a MPhys is mainly a research project and therefore is worthwhile for those continuing in science or applied science. The value of the industrial placement depends on how good it is of course but I think there is usually some flexibility between degree pathways so the final choice can often be left to the second degree year.

Just to add confusion to the mix DB who is a physicist now thinks he should have done a maths degree. Mind he was at uni when Einstein was a lad! So his input isnt helping much!
I have heard similar for people wanting to pursue an academic career in pure physics and definitely for theoretical physics. However to make it in that sort of research I imagine that one has to be an outstanding mathematician.
If your DD is finding FM reasonably straightforward and s happy to focus on maths / theoretical physics then perhaps she should consider your DB's advice.

user7214743615 Sun 26-Feb-17 13:19:46

What she loves about physics & chemistry is that it isnt all known, that there are still lots of things to discover.

Huh? And there is no maths research? No maths to still discover?!! (That will come as a surprise to the maths departments around the country!)

In all seriousness, at research level and in industry there are simply no clear cut boundaries these days between "maths", "physics", "chemistry", "engineering" and other sciences.

There's also no sense in which any one science degree is particularly better for careers than others. A science/maths degree from a strong university combined with good work experience will open many options.

I would very strongly discourage students from specialising too much from the outset, as no school student knows what they will enjoy at university level. It's not an accident that stronger universities offer "physics", "chemistry", "natural sciences" rather than "astrophysics" or "nanotechnology". Go to a number of subject talks at a few universities to choose between physics, chemistry and natural sciences - and don't discount engineering either, because the profile you describe fits very well with engineering too.

BTW agree with others above about looking at theoretical physics and physics with maths degrees. Lots of exciting research in theoretical physics and applied maths!

sendsummer Sun 26-Feb-17 13:59:57

User what you says makes sense although does it mean that universities like Southampton are weaker at physics because they offer 'specialised' physics degrees? Should prospective students be put off for example physics at Southampton then?

gnome's daughter loves being in labs which is why I wonder if maths or theoretical physics is right for her despite her ability in maths.

floorboard Sun 26-Feb-17 14:09:17

I have a physics degree. And another in engineering, and I'm currently doing MSc in engineering.

I'd say she needs to go foremost with her heart in this (and I say that as someone who is like Spock in terms of logic over emotion) any science degree is such a slog that you are going to have to love it a hell of a lot to see it through.

My first degree was the physics, in hindsight in terms of my strengths I'd have been better doing engineering but I had the passion for physics even if I never found it easy. It's been a fab degree for employability, all my course mates have gone int stuff as diverse as law, medical physics, management, computing. Basically it opens doors in any career where logic, maths and systematic method of work is important. I'm now an engineer and I still get the odd 'wow, when I say what my first degree was in. And I seem to have a better understanding of the deeper concepts because of the physics.

user7214743615 Sun 26-Feb-17 14:19:05

I don't believe that universities such as Soton do offer particularly specialised degrees at undergraduate level but where they do it is to attract students (physics being an undersubscribed subject at present). Most students at places like Soton will be on BSc/MPhys Physics or Physics with Maths, and will then specialise into preferred areas only in 3rd/4th years. It's very common for Masters courses to be specialised e.g. Nanotech, Quantum Technologies, Particle Physics etc.

A few students may be on more specialised courses such as MPhys Particle Physics or Astrophysics, but these will be set up so most of the early modules are shared with straight Physics (and hence students can easily transfer in and out for the first 2 years).

I'm not sure whether school experiences are enough to tell you whether you like lab work or not. Again, probably something to explore on open day visits.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 26-Feb-17 14:33:34

She might want to think about doing a Headstart course http://www.etrust.org.uk/headstart/whatisheadstart

ErrolTheDragon Sun 26-Feb-17 14:41:12

daughter loves being in labs which is why I wonder if maths or theoretical physics is right for her despite her ability in maths.

Her predicted grades in the FM (which is maybe the relevant one when considering uni maths?) and the physics are the same. If she loves labs then I'd have thought that the non-theoretical physics would be ideal (I'm sure they do quite a bit of theoretical and plenty of maths too!).

GnomeDePlume Sun 26-Feb-17 14:42:27

The creature from the deep has risen so I have had the chance to talk with her a bit further.

What interests her at the moment is the production of energy so at the moment where she would want to end up is in one of the energy industries. In terms of subject what she particularly enjoys is where maths, physics and chemistry join up.

One thing that concerns her about the chemistry & maths or physics and maths is finding that the maths is taught separately and isnt integrated.

What we really need is a time machine so she can go forward and then look back on different courses to see which was the best!

ErrolTheDragon Sun 26-Feb-17 14:55:09

Wow... 'production of energy' ... that could be nuclear fission or (!) fusion, renewables (materials science, various engineering disciplines; energy storage looks to be a huge area for development (materials, electronics, chemistry)....

What we really need is a time machine so she can go forward and then look back on different courses to see which was the best!

Heck, yes.grinThe 20/20 vision retrospectroscope would be so useful! Mine, a year further down the line, is having to decide between two excellent but decidedly different courses. But in a way, so long as they choose a good solid course at a good place (which with those predictions she'll be able to do) they're unlikely to really go wrong.

Allthebestnamesareused Sun 26-Feb-17 14:58:53

I would say if she is only predicted a B for Chemistry definitely not that then.

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