Is science worth the effort?

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Torlek42
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Is science worth the effort?

Postby Torlek42 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:46 am UTC

I was near the top of my class in high school (public school in Minnesota) and always thought I'd go for science in college. I'm in a liberal arts school right now, about halfway through my freshman year, and I'm not sure what to do. Calculus absolutely destroys me, got a D in Calc II (I'm pretty good at basic math though, 760 on SAT). Physics is going okay now but it's a ton of work. I like reading and writing and while I like science I don't find it that much better than other subjects. If I work my butt off, I can do alright in calc III and physics next term, but I'm wondering if it's worth the effort? Is a chemistry/physics major going to be years of confusion and stress that doesn't necessarily even mean a good (well-paying AND enjoyable) job? Should I switch to something I enjoy more like English? Or should I suck it up because it will get more tolerable and lead to a better career? BTW my GPA is about 2.5, if I don't get it up to 3 by the end of the year I lose huge scholarship money. =(

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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby ++$_ » Tue Feb 26, 2008 6:27 am UTC

Don't do anything just because of the career possibilities. Try English for a while and see whether it's better. If it is, go for it. You will get a job either way.

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Solt
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Solt » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:39 am UTC

Well in general terms of course science is worth the effort.

But for you, if you don't enjoy it don't force your way through it. Such is the path to misery. If you enjoy science but hate the math, biology is always a great option, or perhaps one of the softer sciences like psychology or economics or sociology. Note: the calculus will not stop if you are in physics. You WILL have to learn to love it.

Or yeah, there's always liberal arts. You'll have to be more creative when finding a job, but it's probably not much more difficult than if you have a technical degree, provided you can interact well with other people since that will be more important for your job.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby aleflamedyud » Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:02 pm UTC

From the sound of it, you should be able to learn Calculus, but you probably got a horrible professor or one who treated it as a "sink or swim" weeder course. That's usually how good math students suddenly get D in Calculus.

My advice is to do what you like. If you like physics, then by God learn physics despite your professors! Including the math!

Though I do sympathize with you on some wavelengths. People just don't seem to respect scientists any longer...
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cypherspace
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby cypherspace » Tue Feb 26, 2008 6:51 pm UTC

Don't do something just because it's going to get you a better job. Do something because you enjoy it.

That said, I think physics is about as rewarding a degree as it gets. You learn so much about the way the universe works on all scales, and it's just incredibly, incredibly interesting. I've never found anything more enjoyable.
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Jorpho
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Jorpho » Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:48 am UTC

It seems to me that there isn't an especially large number of careers for people with Physics degrees. And yes, I think it does matter whether you emerge from years of university study with something that makes you substantially more employable. Nonetheless, there's not much sense in studying something you dislike just so that you can keep on doing it somewhere for the rest of your life.

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Gatesunder
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Gatesunder » Wed Feb 27, 2008 3:49 am UTC

I heard something somewhere which I cannot explicitly site which mentioned that a good number of the people who graduate with 4 year degrees don't end up in a job in their major. Not to say that they didn't get good jobs, but more importantly it is saying that unless the job requires extremely specialized knowledge, you have a good chance of getting it with a degree that isn't completely parallel. It comes down to how well you apply yourself in your job search. Posting a resume on a website is something to do, but don't rely on that to get you employed

That being said, It would be advisable to major in what you have a passion for. I have heard talks by employers that said they would hire somebody with little to no experience, but with a passion to learn and grow than a person who has plenty of knowledge and a bit of experience, but lacks the enthusiasm for their career. This could also be interpreted somewhat cynically in that the employer is looking for cheaper labor to do a certain job, with which the lesser salary outweigh the training costs. Though I like to take the positive approach and think that passion is what's most important.

I've also been told that some recruiters or interviewers like to try and trick you into talking about something else to find out your true passion and if it's not in what they are hiring for then they would pass you up if a better option came up, which has a high likely-hood of happening.

But yeah, major in what you think you have a passion for. As someone else once said "Find what you love doing and get paid for it." And also, don't get confused into thinking that what you have a passion for isn't really what you have a passion for if you find it difficult at times. Do a bit of soul searching. Meditate on it if you're not too sure. And don't be too hasty . . . think tortoise and hare type situation. I hope this advice helps.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby evilbeanfiend » Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:42 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:It seems to me that there isn't an especially large number of careers for people with Physics degrees.


of course there is, perhaps not that many where you'd actually use much of your degree. e.g. I.T. and financial sector are pretty easy for physics grads to get into.

having said that, if the OP doesn't cope well with calculus then physics is only going to get worse
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Vaniver » Wed Feb 27, 2008 3:27 pm UTC

If you have to ask, the answer is no.

(Keep in mind that it's a different question for each subject; the various sciences are very different from each other)
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Jorpho
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Jorpho » Wed Feb 27, 2008 4:28 pm UTC

evilbeanfiend wrote:e.g. I.T. and financial sector are pretty easy for physics grads to get into.


Really? I.T. I can almost understand (I'd think you'd still have a little more luck there with a different degree), but why the financial sector?

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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby evilbeanfiend » Wed Feb 27, 2008 5:53 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
evilbeanfiend wrote:e.g. I.T. and financial sector are pretty easy for physics grads to get into.


Really? I.T. I can almost understand (I'd think you'd still have a little more luck there with a different degree), but why the financial sector?


apparently all sorts of economic + financial things can be modelled in a similar way that physical processes are. i think its mostly in market analysis stuff, you'd need to ask someone who is in the field for the specifics though (a little goggling throws up all sorts of statistical physics stuff).

probably the main reason that degrees like physics and chemistry virtually guarantee you a job is that there are a lot less people graduating with these degrees, as they are a) hard and b) expensive courses for the university to run
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 27, 2008 6:03 pm UTC

Don't forget that intro level work is always boring and feels meaningless. Bio I was all scantron tests and general bleh in a roomful of people who were just learning what a cell was. Chem was regurgitating reactions and monkey see monkey do for labs. BUT, Marine Invertebrate Zoology was beach visits, neato dissections, and discussions about evolution, Immunology was running ELISA's on yourself and your partners, watching leukocytes eat bacteria...

So if its something your drawn to, just stick it out for a year or two, it gets very cool.

As for the job market, meeeeeeeeeeh, I can't help you with that. I'm a lab tech, which is the bottom of the rung, and I don't make very much money. Upward progress in academia is limited I think, as post docs don't make fistfuls of cash, and tenure is pretty difficult to achieve. At non-research institution, teachers can do alright, but then you aren't doing science, but teaching it (which is still cool!).

I'm exploring the prospects of industry. But ask iop. He knows more.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Ended » Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:06 am UTC

Torlek42 wrote:Or should I suck it up because it will get more tolerable and lead to a better career?

If you don't enjoy it, then no. Science gets very hard very fast and builds strongly on previous understanding. If you don't enjoy it, it can be hell. Also, I think it's fair to say that the most important skills you learn in college/university are independent of your choice of major/subject.

Gatesunder wrote:And also, don't get confused into thinking that what you have a passion for isn't really what you have a passion for if you find it difficult at times.

This, though. This is good advice! Everyone finds things tough sometimes.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Dr. Canadian Ninja » Thu Feb 28, 2008 5:48 am UTC

Torlek42 wrote:Should I switch to something I enjoy more like English? Or should I suck it up because it will get more tolerable and lead to a better career?


Switch to English. This happened to me once. I went into chemical engineering because I thought that it would lead to a good career.

I got kicked out with a 0.15 GPA after my first year.

I'm now a history major with a 3.7 and a genuine love for my field. Switch.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:31 pm UTC

Ah yes, History, a field with a truly exciting and dynamic job market! :mrgreen: Museum curators unite!
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby alexgmcm » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:43 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Ah yes, History, a field with a truly exciting and dynamic job market! :mrgreen: Museum curators unite!


I always thought being a museum curator would actually be pretty exciting.. despite popular perceptions it can't be that boring.

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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:59 pm UTC

I have this conversation with my roommate all the time. He's one of the smartest dudes I know, and is getting a masters in Art History/Humanities at UChicago. He frequently suffers from a purpose of existence crisis, saying that he'll "won't be adding anything but noise to the world". History suffers from this as well, unless you plan on teaching it, theres not a lot of 'cutting edge' history work you can do.

Not that life's about 'contributing to society', but, for example, classics majors, aren't adding anything new content to the world. I say do what you love, but if your worried about making a difference, science is the way to go (I say).

That said, I think teaching, science, art, finance, and medicine are the only real humanitarian professions. So meh.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby silverwmoon » Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:09 am UTC

If it helps I got a D in Calc2 and a F in discreet mathematics (which I later retook and got a B). First year maths are killer courses, they're big, nasty, hard to pay attention too and (in my experience) made to make people double think what they are taking. If you love science, keep at it, it does tend to get more interesting. Everyone has a different experience, but mine (as a 3rd year) is that the higher-level courses get better, more interesting, easier and your profs are more approachable.

But yeah, in the end make sure you're doing something you WANT to do for the rest of your life, just in case.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Korandder » Fri Feb 29, 2008 3:10 am UTC

I think one of the purposes of first year math is to steer people away from the expensive to teach sciences.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby aleflamedyud » Fri Feb 29, 2008 6:55 pm UTC

Yeah, first year math seems to be nothing but weeder courses. I still can't believe I was marked down for using f(x) and g(x) instead of u and v.
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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Masuri » Fri Feb 29, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

Switch to English. A lot of my former English major buddies are incredibly successful - mind you, none are in a field that is tailored for their degree. They're doing computer stuff or managing people or other various non-English-major stuff. An English curriculum will make you a great communicator and that will open a lot of doors in professions that have nothing to do with your degree.

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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Pierre Menard » Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:16 am UTC

If you are at least somewhat interested in science, I would say try getting involved in some research. I had a similar dilemma during my freshman year - all of the science/math courses felt pointless, while the humanities were immediately interesting and, most importantly, engaging. Even literature classes felt relevant, since the problems dealt with in classics are the great problems of life. Luckily (I hope!), right when I was about to switch from engineering to journalism, I ended up in a very neat lab. My adviser made me design all of my experiments, and I ended up having to quickly relearn much of what I failed to retain from my prior courses. Immediately, I began to see how things profs covered in classes related to real problems, and learning felt immensely rewarding. Science is an activity and a process rather then a set of classes or static concepts, so I would encourage you to try to get involved. You'll know right away if its something you will enjoy as a career or not.

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Re: Is science worth the effort?

Postby Sungura » Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:08 pm UTC

Only you knows what is best for you. Make a list of what you like/dislike about English and Science, and the pros and cons of each. Sometimes that helps to clear thinking.

First year can be bad for a lot of college people. We have a joke at our school that orgo 1 turns the pre-med's into business majors. Every school has their "weed out" classes - ask around to 3rd/4th year students who've been around which classes those are at your school. Perhaps that will help with persepctive. I enjoy math and science, but I got a 3.2 in calc 1 and 2.8 in calc 2. Calc isn't my thing AT ALL! But then I got to classes like graph theory, cryptography, numbers theory, linear algebra, etc and had fun again.
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