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how, can I combine my physics degree with computer science?

Hello, I have a degree in applied physics now I wanted to specialize my knowledge in computer science. I have had a huge interest in IT since I was in high school. now I got the opportunity to study for my masters in the USA. but in my visa interview, I think I couldn't convince them or show them my interest toward of this field and the reason why I switch my field. can you give tips, information, or application on how can tell them the relation between them and what can I build with these two fields when I return to my home country? and I'm working in a system software implementation company as a system trainer. please need your help!

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Dr. Drew’s Answer

There are some simple answers and more complex answers. The simple answers are about the synergies that computer science can add to physics. There are many very gifted physics people out there, but many of them are handicapped by not being able to fully expand on their ideas via programming or simulations. Computer science dovetails very nicely into physics especially in the experimental area. But being able to build, adapt and direct the computer code to match what you are doing can greatly enhance your productivity and career. In this case you could probably benefit from a minor in computer science and focus on programming. On the more complex side, there are many opportunities in computer science for someone with a physics background; anything from chip design to quantum computing can benefit from such a background.

Look at it this way, mathematics is language of the universe and computer science is the expression of that language. Being able to put your ideas into evolving code can make it easier to visualize and analyze complex systems without having to work with a middleman who may not translate your ideas well. Designing hardware can help you move forward in areas that are currently restricted because the rights tools do not yet exist. Even just a good understanding of how systems interact can help you design and refine experimental models.

To put it simply, physics and computer science are a natural match.
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Andrew’s Answer

The short answer is that there is a subdiscipline in physics called computational physics, a marriage of physics and computer science. You may want to explore obtaining a graduate degree in this field.

Furthermore, computer science is organically integrated in physics, from theoretical to experimental domains. I received all my degrees in physics (BS, MS, PhD), and I spent two decades developing large-scale computer programs for my research at NASA. A colleague with a PhD in physics worked as a system engineer in one of the research group with which I associated because there was so much demand for computer skill in research.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help. bETHELEM
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Brian’s Answer

As a physicist who ended spent the last 20 years as part of the team developing and manufacturing chips for IBM, I can tell you that the skills you developed while attaining your applied physics degree apply well to roles more typically associated with computer scientists. If you think about it at a high level, Physics is all about modeling physical phenomenon using the language of mathematics. Your labs were all about validating that the math works in the real world. In the end code can be thought of as a model that comprehends the "rules" defined by the problem that you are trying to solve, whether it be modeling physical phenomenon or a business process.

So how do you make the leap into grad school. One option is to do some coding projects based on some of the things you learned in your physics classes. Use those projects to learn programming languages and techniques, just as importantly as the coding, make sure you can clearly present your projects and explain what issues you ran into, what choices did you have to make, and why you picked a particular solution.
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John’s Answer

Well, many scientists, whether they be physicists, biologists or chemists use computer skills to develop instrumentation for clinical studies. Such as ECG monitors Near Infrared monitors, blood pressure monitors and the like. The way the computer skills would come in would be useful for developing an algorithm for the instrument that they work on developing. Our lab has worked on a Near Infrared Spectrophotometer or NIRS to monitor cerebral oxygen saturation in children going thru bypass surgery. If it is successful there can be a lot of money in it.
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Drew’s Answer

I am not familiar with the visa application process. The Occupational Outlook by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics
describes computer hardware engineers (What Computer Hardware Engineers Do)

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as circuit boards.
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

Your applied physics training sounds like excellent background for a master's degree in computer hardware engineering. I don't know any school that offers a master's degree in this profession. You may need to find something similar, perhaps electronic circuit design or microelectronics. In May 2021 the median annual wage for computer hardware engineers was $128,170.

Drew recommends the following next steps:

Copy the entry from the Occupational Outlook computer hardware engineer and take it to your next visa interview.
Thank you comment icon so can I be a computer hardware engineer with the background I have plus a master's degree in computer science? bETHELEM
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Zach’s Answer

Physics lends very well to computer science. In learning physics you have developed skills to learn models, prove their workings, and solve problems with these models. Those same skills are applicable to learning models, data structures, and algorithms in computer science and solving problems with programming. You will be able to look at a system and/or problem you are trying to solve, break it down, and find a solution. This could be programming for research (public sector or private i.e. R&D), data science, business processes, etc.

If you are looking for ways to show that such a switch is truly of interest to you I suggest building a relevant passion project, finding some open source projects to contribute to, or completing some programming and CS courses or certifications.
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