Thursday, June 03, 2010

Physics in NUS part 2

Today I got an email like this:

I was wandering on the Internet and found your blog. I see you're a physics major at NUS, so I guess maybe you can help me with these questions as I'm pretty baffled about physics at NUS. Would you, please?

- What is the forte of NUS Physics department? (Quantum I guess, because I see a lot of researches done in this field)
- What about the research opportunity available in those fields?
- And how about the physics professors at NUS and the learning environment?

I would appreciate it very much if you help me with those questions. Thank you.

And I replied:


Sorry but before giving my opinion, can you please give me some relevant info about yourself? This is for me to create some more personalized advice instead of the generic ones you can find in my blog.
  1. Are you planning to come to NUS for undergrad study or grad study?
  2. Which country are you from?
  3. What's your interest in Physics? Theory? Applied? Which field? Comology? Quantum? or just not yet decided? (it's ok to be undecided yet)
  4. What other University are you considering other than NUS?
  5. When are you coming in NUS if you decide to come? This coming academic year 2010/11 or the next?
  6. Have you read this page?
Thanks for reading my blog.

And I got back the reply:

1 - I'm coming to NUS this year for undergrad study. Actually I was accepted to Electrical Engi. (because it's my first choice when I applied), but it's just a pragmatic choice and unsuitable to me (I know it for sure, but it's still a practical choice), so I'm considering to switch my major to physics. At least, I know I love physics. Besides I got a scholarship from NUS so there won't be anything distracting me. I'm quite sure that NUS will consider my request to change course, as my interviewer in the scholarship interview told me so.
2 - I'm from Vietnam. Vietnamese physics major at NUS is quite rare, right?
3 - Undecided I guess. But not applied physics certainly as I tend to like pure physics things. The 2 things most appealing to me right now are Quantum Physics and Cosmology.
4 - The other one is NTU. Actually there were more, but I gave up on them due to my financial need.
5 - Yes, AY 2010/2011, starting in August 2010, which means I have 2 months to decide.
6 - Yes. But (sorry for saying this) I found it quite generic. I mean, most info can be found on the website.

And then I replied again:

Xin Chao,

Haha, thanks for telling me that, I do enjoy studying physics here.

  1. I'm glad you choose physics over engin (me too!)
  2. You can say so, about 2% or less of the people in Physics is from Vietnam.
  3. Me too!
  4. I don't know much about physics NTU, so can't say much on that, but I still think (bias due to me being in NUS) that NUS physics is better!
  5. Ok, hope to see you as a junior.
  6. Yes, it's ok, I refered to the website while making it. At least it brought you to email me.
- What is the forte of NUS Physics department? (Quantum I guess, because I see a lot of researches done in this field)
Yes, there's also a lot of other directions in applied physics, in cosmology it is not strong here, but things are getting brighter as they just introduced a new module "Cosmology" last semester (I'm taking it next year)

- What about the research opportunity available in those fields?
All fields, so far that I see (quantum, applied, cosmo) have some students doing research in it. Even theorectical black holes! (by Prof. Edward Teo, student of Stephen Hawkings, was my group's supervisor) It's just that sometimes people tell you it's weak or strong in it only reflects the number of students (and profs) that are doing research in this field. Let that not bother you, more people in one field means more help you can find, less means less competition you'll face.
Besides, you're only here for undergrad study, so relax on the research part first. Did you know about SPS? I highly recommend it to you. Oh and undergrad here doesn't mean grad study here, although the 3 year bond is kinda tricky and hard to go around.

- And how about the physics professors at NUS and the learning environment?
I don't know about other Universities, sorry can't compare. But there are a few very good lecturers here, this doesn't mean that the rest are bad, some are good some are bad, it's the same in all Uni I believe. The learning environment? I'm not so sure, I heard the others around me say that NUS is very stressful...... I'm playing games most of the Anyway, it'll likely be tougher than your high school, so don't be cocky if you're good at physics, you still need to work hard. Anyway I'm in SPS room most of the time, and the people there are like my family away from home, so I can destress there.

Year 1 physics is boring here, you can go read year 2 stuffs then, or have more time to enjoy other aspects of Uni life (CCA).
Year 2 physics really need understanding to score.
Year 3 physics is nice and challenging, lots of maths and concepts.
Year 4 physics is like upgraded year 3 physics, challenging and fun.

Anyway for me, doing physics is understanding. The practical way I know of to do the exam is to do past year papers to prepare oneself. Nothing disappointing there I think. Cheatsheet is a good bonus that some of the lecturer let us bring during exam. Maybe that's another practical way.

Oh and to introduce myself, I'm a year 2 physics major from Malaysia in SPS, USP and double major in Maths. And unless you're like me or better that takes so many modules in a semester, there's definately enough time to understand Physics.

There's a Research Centre of Excellence just for Physics,
And it's expensive, so I don't think that Singapore doesn't care about physics!

Lastly can I publish some of the advices here to my blog? I haven't updated it for so long now. Thanks!

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