Here’s your chance to decide my life for me!


As you might know, before I got into Cognitive Science I was an Astrophysics major. When I left, I had nearly enough credits to get away with a minor in physics, so I decided to take two last courses and get the minor.

I’m taking my last physics course in the last semester: PHYS 239, electromagnetism. Today, I finally verified that because COGS is a specialization instead of a major, I can’t officially get the minor, so I’m reconsidering taking this course. Here are the pros and cons of taking the course:


  1. I can tell future employers that I technically have a minor in physics, even if it wasn’t awarded.
  2. I can feel like my time spent in the physics department wasn’t entirely wasted.
  3. If I don’t take the course, it’s like I abandoned physics.


  1. It’ll mean time taken away from my thesis
  2. I have to pay $500 for it
  3. I essentially have the minor anyway, I’m just half a course short and that looks just as good for an NSERC grant or whatever
  4. It’s just a minor
  5. Cutting your losses is something I’m not good at, so I’ll feel like I’ve made some sort of breakthrough.

So now it’s up to you: do I take the course?

  • nananabatman

    i would say no. it isn’t worth it, unless you love the material.

    i had a similar dilemma but for me it was that i was missing the lab component in some chemistry classes so i couldn’t get the minor. i have the right number of courses, but not the lab component.

    employers don’t care. they care that you have a degree. you’re applying for a science job and have an arts degree? fine fine! c’mon in! grants and scholarships may be a little more picky, but if you are hoping to continue in cognitive science, what is another physics course going to get you anyways?

    don’t do it!

    - my two cents

  • steph

    a quick caveat: keep in mind i’ve had a rotten experience in all three of the e+m courses i took in undergrad.

    E+M is, surprisingly, one of the more useful things to take from a physics point of view. The formalism and the structure of the math that’s used carries to all sorts of other things, and because it’s well understood, it’s often used as toy problems to help solve more complicated problems (gravitational ones especially, though that’s an awful lot more relevant for free than you probably). It’s a great underpinning for physics knowledge in general

    That said, when it’s taught badly, it’s unbelievably frustrating, and a huge waste of time. I wont ramble on and on about the fourth year class I took in it (it was a year ago and I’ll still angry about the whole thing) but it was, hands down, the worst class I’ve ever taken in university, and I took first year biology. And you know how I feel about biology….

    So, after this lengthy answer, my advice is this: gauge the prof, and see if you can extrapolate a rough idea of how much you’ll learn. Talk to the prof, see if you can see what sort of material’s being covered, and if you want a more specific opinion, by all means talk to me. Don’t drop it just yet, you’ve still got plenty of time. Get more information then decide.

    And time spent in a physics department may not be directly useful, but it’s certainly not wasted. Not that I’m biased or anything….

    Also, I’ve been meaning to ask you, would you be interested in writing an article for my journal? Next issue’s on interdisciplinary physics, and an article looking at some sort of intersection between physics and cognitive science (brain science?) would be really great. Let me know, I’d really appreciate it.

  • WCG

    I’d vote for the physics course, but my reasons are sort of specious: I just think physics is cool.

  • jason

    E&M makes me want to jab accupuncture needles into my eyes.

  • jin

    May someone invite me to facebook???


  • The Rev

    Go for it. It’s more of a pain to learn science outside of school than it is inside of it.

  • WCG

    If you get a degree in Physics do they give you a science pole? I’ve always wanted one.