08 December 2008

Some areas of study

In writing the recent note on what a PhD means, it occurred to me that it might be worth mentioning the areas that I've taken classes in. This, after agreeing with the comment that you can't presume that a PhD person has more than a 101-level knowledge in areas outside of what they study themselves. You can't presume it, but then again, odds are good that there are some areas where a person goes above the 101 level.

My schools used peculiar numbering schemes, so I'll partition it directly by who was in the class:

Graduate level areas:
  • Astrophysics: galaxies, interstellar medium, cosmology, astrophysical jets
  • Geosciences: geophysical fluid dynamics, geochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, numerical weather prediction, tides, radar meteorology, cloud physics, ...
  • Engineering: Engineering fluid dynamics,
  • Math: asymptotic analysis, partial differential equations, ...
Advanced undergraduate - graduate (at least 1/3rd of class graduate students)
  • Linguistics: syntactic analysis, computational linguistics
  • Paleoclimatology
Advanced undergraduate (mostly senior undergraduates, but some graduates as well)
  • History: History of Science, Intellectual History of Western Europe
  • Physics: Quantum Mechanics, Solid State Physics, Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Math: bunches, including probability, statistics, differential geometry, nasty things to do to ordinary and partial differential equations, numerical ways of beating on such equations and systems of equations
  • Physical chemistry
  • ... and probably several more

I'm leaving out a number of things because, well, I don't remember everything offhand, much less in order. But it's a sampling. One thing not missing is any lower level courses in astronomy and astrophysics -- I started with the graduate level courses. Also not missing is my courses in glaciology. I've never taken one, but my first (coauthored) paper was on the subject. I later wrote one solo on a different area of glaciology. Absence of courses is not a guarantee of absence of professional level knowledge. One thing, ideally, you learn along the way to your PhD (better if you get in practice while still in elementary school!) is how to teach yourself new subjects.

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