Can I do physics research from home?
Graduate School for Theoretical Physics [closed]
The reason I asked about your perception of austerity in the comments is because I believe it is very easy for students to be misled by questions like Gils about the role of austerity. This is about a little more than just using correct mathematical reasoning, it is about making all arguments and postulates completely precise in a way that students are seldom exposed to.
Physics courses are not a really good indication of the level of rigor among theorists within a given department, but rather the level of rigor that students should be exposed to. In a math department, the expected accuracy is higher for students because mathematicians have to be strict. In a physics department, however, the bar is often a little lower. This is because the department trains not only theoretical physicists but also experimenters (and in fact, these generally make up the majority of the class). That's a lot of physics known, and so there is a tradeoff between rigor and the amount of material covered. In addition, some courses will be taught by theorists and some by experimenters, and the instructor will not always teach in his or her area of expertise.
As a graduate student, this all changes as the level of accuracy with which you work largely depends on your area of expertise, your approach, and your manager. It won't be the kind of compromise that is necessary when it comes to large classes in a diverse department. Because of this, I fully agree with Moshe's comment above
I don't think this is a particularly efficient way of making life choices. Instead, maybe it's a good idea to speak in person to some professors, postdocs, and students (Chicago should have great people to talk to) and get advice from you and your preferences. If you do, keep in mind that physics / math research has nothing to do with UG courses, and maybe it is not a good idea to have a priori ideas about how things are, or should be, before you get more experience to have.
To give you a concrete example of how rigorously strict is not strictly determined by the department, I held positions as a doctoral student, postdoc or faculty in the following areas: mathematical physics, materials science, computer science, combinatorics and optimization, and physics. Many others are in the same boat and spend time in one department before moving to another, not because their research interests have changed, but because there are several departments that view their research as "topic-related", so to speak.
While Cambridge has DAMPT (which is different in the record from DPMMS, the department of pure math), Oxford has the Peierls Center for TP in physics and a separate math department. Do you think there is a major difference in the type of faculty you hire?
There are certainly different types of theoretical physicists out there with different concerns about the math underpinnings of their field, but the kind of rigor you talk about doesn't seem to correlate well with the department.
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