Need Freshman Course Advice


I am intending to major in physics with a minor in nanoscience. The objective is to attend grad school for doctorate (exact doctorate depending on school attending, but something in the field of nano-materials science or physiochemical engineering (oddly enough, it is better to get a physics rather than chem major for grad schools in this field).

In terms of high school classes, I took a high school level algebra physics course in middle school, and AP Physics C: Mechanics in high school (an entry pseudo-college level course with basic calculus). I have also completed both AP Calculus AB and BC.

So far, I want to jump into classes related to my major (and obviously satisfy GE requirements), so I’m thinking of signing up for the most advanced “normal” physics class Physics 1901-1902. Based on my background, is this a good choice or would I be ready for 2250W? Do these two classes have a separate lab which goes with them (I know 1601-1602 has 1601L-1602L, is this the same for 1901-1902?).

As for Math, 1300 seems the obvious choice based on background. Combined with the Writing Seminar requirement this means a schedule of:

Writing Sem Req. (also satisfies a Soc. Sci Req.)
Mathematics 1300
Physics 1901 (or 2250W?)
Physics Lab?

This leaves between 0-2 classes remaining (if there is a lab, that takes four slots, and students take either four or five classes, such that a lab and four class schedule would have no more room while if there is no lab and I go for five courses there would be two more available.

Should I take four or five courses, and regardless does anyone have any recommendations? I would especially appreciate one that would fulfill a prerequisite for either the physics major or nanoscience minor. Thank you for reading the longwinded question.

I think Physics 1901-1902 is required for your major. You can’t skip it and move on to 2250W. Is that not the case? Further I think 2250W requires that you have taken 1902. Take a closer look at the course catalog. Some of it is confusing right now because Vanderbilt just changed the entire course numbering system – it’s giving me a headache just trying to figure out which courses you’re referencing!

Physics lab is actually only one credit hour, though it is technically four hours long. It requires very little effort/time outside of the actual lab.

Most students take 12-16 credit hours during their first semester. I say the fewer the better. It’s much easier to take a heavier course load once you have adjusted to life at Vandy. Many students receive their lowest grades during the first year.

To answer your question, 1901-02 is required, but the “condensed catalog” they sent me in late May says that “students with a developed background in calculus based physics may request the 2250W course in place of 1901 and 1902.” Based on this I thought I could possibly ski to 2250W and use the extra course to take something else (go deeper into physics, take another science course to be a little more versatile, etc.) I was wondering if my background would qualify to even ask.

Thank you for clarifying about the lab credit hours, that is good to know for planning.

In terms of credit hours, I am intending to take 14-16 credit hours. If the lab is one credit hour, then my schedule is as follows for first semester (I am assuming that 1901 is semester one and 1902 is semester two. Is this correct?)

Physics 1901 (3 CH)
Physics 1901L (1 CH)
Mathematics 1300 (3CH)
Writing Seminar (3CH in my case, some are 2CH)
this leaves 4-6 more credit hours, or 1-2 more classes. Any advice on what would be good for these (if priority one is classes to help major, priority two classes to help with nanotech minor, and priority three is misc. general ed classes).

Thank you again pancaked, you seem to be the main active person on the Vanderbilt board.

I really don’t know anything about that physics course, so can’t offer you any advice there. I would reach our to your adviser and ask his/her opinion.

The nanoscience minor only requires 15 credit hours. Many should overlap in some way with physics, and most are upper level courses that you can’t or shouldn’t take now.

I would just look to fill any random general ed requirement with an interesting course. Many students take courses in the Managerial (MGRL) department – tend to be pretty easy and interesting, with fantastic professors. Not sure what they’ll fulfill in AXLE. You might also consider taking a foreign language, if you need that.

The sample program on the physics department website recommends for your freshman year:
Writing seminar
Liberal Arts Elective (they recommend Humanities for some reason)
Foreign language

They actually don’t place introductory physics until Sophomore year, but no harm in doing that early.

I looked at the course catalog and it’s clear that nanotechnology minor classes should be taken later as you said. Since I am already taking physics and math that covers the major. I will be fulfilling my language requirement by taking the SAT in French.

I suppose this leaves two slots for GE requirement fillers. Any tips on these (classes I should take early as possible because they fill up, particularly interesting classes etc.)

Also Pancaked, are you an alumnus or adcom (just wondering as you seem quite knowledgable on the subject).

There are a ton of courses to chose from, you just kinda have to browse the catalog and look for something interesting. You might consider General Logic, it’s a very popular first-year course. With all the courses available, it’s kinda hard to make recommendations. I was always partial to MGRL and ENGM courses. The most easy/interesting AXLE courses tend to be filled by upperclassmen. The nice thing about enrolling in 15 or 16 credit hours is that you can easily drop one of the courses if you go to the first few classes and don’t like it.

I am an alumnus, just graduated.

Congratulations, Pancaked!

Thank you @MImama :slight_smile:

Congratulations, Pancaked. You’ve been such a good support on this forum. I’m curious about your plans going forward. Do you mind sharing?

Feel free to PM me, but I’ll be working as an engineer in a chemical company as part of a talent development program.

Pancaked, what a great first job. You have represented your alma mater with such evenness and grace here and with the voice of a current student with true credibility. Best wishes and hope you still answer queries here.

@Faline2 Thanks for the kind words! I’ll be sticking around for as long as my advice stays relevant. Vanderbilt changed a lot just in the four short years that I was there so I have no doubt that will continue. It is evolving.