Before college, preparing for entrances introduces us to the topics of Newtonian Mechanics, Electrostatics, Thermodynamics and Modern Physics out of which are churned out those myriad questions involving systems of pulleys, capacitors, wedges, spheres and whatnot. But what we are offered in those two years is a cocktail of Physics and Mathematics that has been mostly developed over the last 500 years (since the time of Newton and his predecessors). Getting comfortable with all the physics being taught at the intermediate level one usually notices how even almost every engineering science ultimately traces its roots to some very fundamental Physics, and the fascination of this can be enough to spark a flame for Physics. It is imperative that one knows to what extent the jungle thickens as he ventures further into it which is the moment after his intermediate studies end and the academic life of college starts. It depends very slightly on the college or the discipline you have chosen for yourself, but most top tier colleges offer some Physics courses in the first year that are common for students from all disciplines. This is the time when you may not have even recovered from the hangover of the mechanical and objective way of looking at Physics problems as a legacy of the two years before, and you are expected to be able to solve even more rigorous situations subjectively. For some of you, the fresh new techniques of calculus that you have recently been only introduced to in Mathematics and are expected to apply in solving the physical problems as well can be a little daunting for now. But they start forming an essential part of almost every course you study in your undergraduate life. And it only helps to have formed a solid understanding of their use and application before starting off with college. For those of you going for undergraduate degrees in Physics, the scene could get a murkier in the next three or four years after the first year when you finally start with 're-learning' the concepts that you studied in +2 in a more rigorous and general way. The 'mathematics' that is involved throughout an undergraduate Physics course has a radically different genre than what we get used to at the intermediate level. Recounting my own experience from second year on wards, I took courses on Classical Mechanics, Optics, Electrodynamics, Mathematical Methods for Physics, two Quantum Mechanics courses, Statistical Mechanics, Nuclear and Particle Physics - all of which focus on the theoretical aspects of fundamental Physics, and without Advanced Calculus, it really doesn't make much sense! Other courses like Computational Physics, Atomic and Molecular Physics and Solid State Physics, and the lab courses have more to do with Applied and Experimental Physics.
The undergraduate programmes in Physics in IITs and BITS Pilani are usually designed so as to give you a very brief introduction to the major fields of research active in the present time, all the while equipping you with the necessary fundamentals skills and aptitude that'd be essential if you ever decide to take up research as a career option. But a lot of this comes with serious effort from the student's side as well. To be honest, 4 years is too short a time to have a achieved a strong grasp over each of the courses you study, when each of them last only a semester long and before you actually start getting a feel of the subject (assuming you haven't given up already!) the grades will have already been awarded. And with courses of another major also on your hand (in the case of BITS), following every course up to the brink of satisfaction can turn out to be a painstaking task. However for those of you who do manage to sustain the same enthusiasm to pursue research in Physics and related fields as a career option, working to fill up any gaps in the basic concepts and skills these courses introduce to you becomes indispensable. Regardless of the hectic coursework, the professors are always eager to help provided you seek it! The curriculum is peppered with elective courses on Astronomy, Quantum Computation, Relativity, Semiconductors etc. that can help narrow down the specific research topic that you might want to take up in future. For me, the Project type course offered as a part of my curriculum helped me learn the basics of documentation and presentation required for a generic research work. A further advantage can be from Summer schools and research internships that again serve to add to your experience and help you form a clearer picture of your specific goals. A time well spent in the summers and winters can be crucial in filling up any vacuum that you might be feeling even after spending the last semester on some topics.
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