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Reed physics

wandarzwandarz Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
I am considering applying for Reed this year. My fields of interest are Physics and Mathematics, and I am interested only in scientific research.
I heard that physics is great at Reed, but is it comparable with courses at Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Williams etc.

I know that this topic is probably already covered and I am sorry for reposting.

Replies to: Reed physics

  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 29,307 Super Moderator
    Here are the Reed physics courses for comparison: http://academic.reed.edu/Physics/courses/
  • International95International95 Registered User Posts: 1,611 Senior Member
    There isn't a lot of time to do many physics electives at Reed. Obviously course diversity will be greater at Pton and Yale, but given the number of physics PhDs Reed churns out every year (highest *number* amongst all LACs), I would say that the quality of the courses is second to none. Just apply to Reed. Worry about where to go later (unless you're applying ED).
  • keffkollectivekeffkollective Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Reed physics is very, very good, and purportedly has a very good reputation among graduate schools. Physics classes at Reed are very theoretical (if you're more interested in the practical side of physics, I would recommend somewhere else), and most of the upper-level ones seem more like applied math than physics. International95 is right though, in that you don't have much room for electives -- a physics elective will not satisfy any requirements towards a physics major besides fulfilling the 30 units to graduate.
  • kd1993kd1993 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    edited November 2014
    I am a current Reed student (a sophomore who had enough transfer credits to be asked to declare his major, so I guess I'm technically a junior) and I transferred in this year, after 2 years of college in my home country. I chose Reed over Cornell, among other places, against the advice of many people who were worried about the prevalent "counter-culture" here and the "SEVERE drug problem" and believed that the reputation of an Ivy is a good reason to attend the said school. Let me try and give you a good enough reason to attend Reed for Physics, consider this - on being accepted to Cornell and having received marginally less aid than at Reed, I emailed one of Cornell's Physics profs who listed a Reed alum as a current PhD. track grad student in his research group. He asked me to not worry about reputation or difference of course rigour and simply make the decision based on the fact that I'd have to pay just a little more at Cornell each year. In his books, Reed Physics graduates are well prepared to enter research environments, top grad schools like Cornell, and that while course offerings may not be as vast as that at a big uni, students here learn enough, well enough, to compete with the very best minds after their life at Reed. This exchange pretty much clinched it for me, I sent my acceptance to Reed the very next day.

    Coming to what I feel about Reed, having been here for 3 months: I transferred here purely because I wanted to major in Physics. I had never visited Reed, nor the US before August 2014, and I made my decision purely based on what I read on the internet and from conversations with people (also David effing Griffiths!), but I believe I could not have made a better choice. That said, try to visit Reed once, as that might help you make up your mind. It is a small school, the academics are excessively intensive at times, and Physics upperclassmen are quite hard-pressed to find time for other activities should they want to do well in their classes. The math course pre-reqs for physics courses are courses for prospective math majors too. Thus, students more interested in Physics might find the highly theoretical approach a bit tedious at times, though I sometimes moan about this aspect of the courses, I really am learning real math and it satisfies my curiosity. The profs are exceedingly smart and very dedicated to their students, the student body while slightly weird is quite accepting, most students are intellectually driven and I've found myself out on the quad discussing linear algebra, electrodynamics, religion, etc. even on a Friday night. Coming to the drug "problem" at Reed, it is as bad as at any other school, only that Reedies are more open about using marijuana, among other substances, instead of doing so on the sly. ( awesome CSO's)

    Now, about Physics, places like Reed (comparably Swarthmore, Carleton, Grinnell) will not offer you the diverse research and course opportunities present at big research universities. Lack of grade inflation also means that without solid recommendations all but the best students here might have some trouble getting great summer research opportunities. But, I have no regrets being here. I feel engaged (though overworked!) and happy, and I know that any student who is liberal, intellectually driven, passionate about work and is open to accepting a slightly different student body will be happy at Reed. This college drives you nuts with work but, as they say, if you attend Reed you are choosing to invest in the "life of the mind". You will receive a solid education in Physics here. :)
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,718 Senior Member
    edited November 2014
    vs Cornell, there are material differences in available course offerings that could possibly prove germane to someone contemplating a physics major, depending on how their interests evolve over time (at Cornell).

    Mostly these are branch-out opportunities. Its College of Engineering houses a top-rated department of Applied and Engineering Physics which has obvious synergies. But other engineering departments may also ultimately interest you; eg fluids in mechanical engineering, optics/lasers in electrical , solid state in Electrical and Materials Science, etc, I imagine there are areas of possible interest relating to aspects of Biology,which have synergy with its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. These types of cross-disciplinary explorations are common there.

    Within the straight physics major in the arts & sciences college itself: at least when I was there, the upper-level math courses for physics majors were geared to them, unlike what was described above. Though the theoretical pure math courses were also available if desired. Perhaps more importantly, " Advanced undergraduate students may also consider our graduate course offerings."

    The potential value of these extra course options is real. Many students do not accurately know, before commencing college, what might ultimately wind up interesting them later, as they are exposed to more fields.

    I know someone who came to college intending to be a physics major and wound up getting a PhD in art history.
    At Cornell I knew someone who came in to study physics, wound up switching colleges to major in Materials science. someone else who came intending to study chemistry, decided later to switch to physics, then switched to Geology. (I didn't ask him but he may well have taken some related courses in the engineering college too); a couple engineering students who got turned on by economics, once they were exposed to it, and switched colleges for that. etc. I myself took an independent study course in a related science area in the Agriculture college, because I was interested in it. While it didn't change my life, as it turned out, I was glad to have had the option to take it. ,

    By analog to post #1,here's the catalog course info:


    (others within engineering, too numerous to post)

    Also a suggestion, when comparing courses it is better to look at the courses actually given each of the last two semesters, rather than all the courses listed in the catalog. Because the latter may include courses that are not always actually offered. This is at any school, not these two particularly. I give this caution because my D1 attended an LAC (not Reed) where many courses listed in the catalog were not actually currently offered, or offered only every other year, .
  • International95International95 Registered User Posts: 1,611 Senior Member
    Reed actually writes on its catalog whether or not course X is offered this year.
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