All About NUS Physics 2023

In lieu of results release, we have prepared a few frequently-asked questions about NUS physics! Seniors from various years, backgrounds (poly, JC), and genders have given their thoughts on these questions!

[Year 4], [Year 2], [Year 1]

What made you choose Physics and at NUS? 

[Year 1] I chose Physics at NUS because physics has been a passion and interest for me for a very long time. I feel that studying Physics is a gateway for me to understand the physical world around us

[Year 2] Physics feels like a ‘unifying’ science to me. I like learning about WHY things work the way they are, and the deeper down you go for each science the more you realise the answers basically lie in physics. So, Physics! 

NUS because as a local, my fees get subsidised so it’s cheaper than going overseas. Also, I find it hard to step out of my comfort zone so I wasn’t ready to do that anyway. NTU is far away enough that I didn’t really want to travel there every day. Other SG universities don’t really offer Physics from what I know. 

But most importantly, NUS allows me to great flexibility with my major– I’m a super indecisive person and I couldn’t decide between Physics and Literature so going to a university that would allow me a bit more time to explore both (and do both, if it came down to it), was absolutely vital. I don’t regret my decision at all. 

[Year 4] Physics is something that was not really taught very theoretically in Polytechnic, they mainly focus on industrial application and taught you how to work but not where this interpretation and understanding comes from.

I chose NUS because NUS is convenient to get to and the professors here are really nice.

What is physics at an undergraduate level really about?

[Year 1] Physics in the undergraduate level is about building a solid foundational understanding of the tools we use to understand physical phenomena, which eventually leads to further studies

[Year 2] Honestly? Mathematics (and also problem solving). To put it crudely, Physics is basically mathematics but real life. There’s a large scope of things you can learn from modules at an undergraduate level, but you realise that you actually don’t know a lot… Postgraduate is where the depth starts, I think 

[Year 4] Physics taught at lower undergraduate is to teach you concepts and prepare you for upper level undergraduate. For upper level undergraduate, you can either take more application based modules or theoretical modules, depending on your preferences.

How does one determine if they are suitable for this major?

[Year 1] Attitude and Aptitude. Do you have an interest in the subject and are you ready to take on the rigour of the course? Are you familiar with the skills required to study physics ( prior experience / mathematics)

[Year 2] The first few questions you have to answer is: 1. Can you do mathematics? 2. Do you enjoy learning Physics? 3. Can you be patient with yourself if you don’t understand something? (Also, areyouamasochist?)

If your answer is “yes” for all of them, then I would say you have a good chance. But if you try out Physics in NUS and realise that it’s not for you, there’s no shame in that too! With CHS, you can swap majors quite easily and just change Physics to a minor.

[Year 4] Umm to answer it depends on yourself, personally I think one good trait for being suitable for this major is to really push yourself in learning mathematics well because it the natural language of physics as well as being independent in your self-directed learning. These life lessons is hard but they are rewarding :’) I personally think that doing well in EM tests you on both for your physics concepts and mathematically understanding.

Were you academically inclined towards physics in sec sch/jc/poly which led you to become interested in it?

[Year 1] I have always been interested in the sciences since i was young, throughout school, I come to realise that physics is a fundamental science that really allows me learn more about how the universe works.

[Year 2] I think I hovered between average to occasionally above average for Physics. I consider myself pretty average to be honest– I never really went for Olympiads or special tests and the one time I did, I just got a participation certificate HAHAHAHAH. But I really, really enjoy learning, and I get a great satisfaction from being able to understand “why” and “how”, even if it takes a while. 

I was more inclined towards English/Literature in sec sch/jc (which I’m actually doing right now together with Physics as a double major), but I also had a great interest in Science as a whole. Since I couldn’t decide between Physics and Literature, I just decided to do both :D 

[Year 4] Well as I mentioned earlier, polytechnic did not really cover much of the theoretical physics and mostly some of the stuff just drops from the sky.

How’s your experience at NUS’ physics so far?

[Year 1] NUS physics consists of a very close knit community, facilitated by the physics society of NUS. Professors are always ready to help us better our understanding of the subject. That being said, Physics is not an easy subject, and will be a very rigorous course.

[Year 2] The physics community at NUS is great! We’re quite a small cohort so you tend to recognise people. The profs so far have all been really open to consultations and such, so it’s been a nice experience. I did have a bad breakdown in my first semester and I nearly wanted to quit, but I think the isolation of covid semester contributed to most of it… so I’m still here.  

[Year 4] It’s a lot of hard work but it pays off in the end, you become more mature in the sense that you become more sceptical about the myths and fake marketing techniques that people sell to you. I am watching you 3M polarizing light

What are some jobs you can do straight with a Bachelors in physics?

[Year 1] With a physics degree you could become an educator, or take up jobs relating to research. (frankly I not sure and I am scared lol)

[Year 2] Physics is quite a generalist course, I feel. From what I’ve heard, physics graduates can go into unrelated fields like data analytics and finance. I think going into R&D is also possible and I’ve heard of companies funding postgraduate studies. What jobs you can do also depends on what you do with the knowledge you learn– physics generally supplies you with the ability to break down complex problems and focus on the important details to solve them, which is a pretty important skill that can be used for plenty of jobs.

[Year 4] Some jobs that you can always do right after graduating is find a job as a research assistant, some prefer to work in the education sector (that’s not my thing really).

What are the assessment methods and curriculum in Physics generally like? (group work)

[Year 1] Most assessments are done via assignments to examinations, there may be some quizzes during lecture or online. PC1101 as a CHS introductory mod does have a group project component

[Year 2] Other than the introductory module where we had to write a short paper as a group, physics has very little group work. Assessment mostly comes from take-home assignments which you can discuss with your classmates (highly encourage this) and the typical examinations you experience in secondary school/A Level. The curriculum is on a module by module basis. For junior college and secondary school, it was just “Physics” and then you learn a bunch of topics every few weeks. For university, each topic is a module, so you spend three months learning that one topic through a module. Your science practical is also now just a module called “Experimental Physics”, where you submit lab reports and do presentations on the experiment you are doing. 

[Year 4] Common assessment methods are usually assignments, mid terms and finals. I personally preferred assessments that are mostly focused on assignments because I don’t really believe that sitting for 2 hour exam determines your ability in physics due to stress and time pressure.

Have you ever considered pursuing math in university?

[Year 1] No.

[Year 2] No. Math feels too abstract and I like being able to see what’s going on and I feel like I can’t really do that with math, my brain can’t handle it hahahahah.

[Year 4] Honestly, given the number of math modules that I have to take, I did consider a minor in mathematics but then it was too much workload for me and I ended up taking a minor in medical physics instead.

If you were to give a general summary of what your major is all about, to people who have no idea what it is, how would you describe it?

[Year 1] You will be embarking on a journey to discover the secrets of the universe and how it works on a fundamental level.

[Year 2] I have no idea… I feel like the more I learn the less I know…. But I do feel like it's a foundation for understanding a lot of subjects. Physics is like if we tried to put the world in words, which is funnily enough also Literature! 

[Year 4] You learn a lot of stuff that some people don’t really think about in their daily lives.

You also learn about common misconceptions in life, microwaves give us cancer, earth is flat (I wonder if people really think this is true, if you think it’s true please see your nearest physicist), etc. it’s time to debunk these myths

Do y’all also have to spend the whole day studying or what not?

[Year 1] Physics is a very rigorous course. I spend most of my time studying. Do not expect to be as free as some of your other friends in less rigorous majors

[Year 2] Depends on yourself. I can barely study for 15 minutes at a time, so it can take me several days just to complete something (I’m writing this response while procrastinating my homework). You don’t have to study the whole day but do your best to keep on track with the module or it’ll snowball (I say this from experience and also my current suffering). I make sure I have time for breaks because they’re important for helping your mind rest. If you spend the whole day studying, you’re just asking for a burnout and that’s far from ideal. A semester is like a marathon, if you sprint all the way you’ll probably go halfway before your lungs give out– just do a gentle jog but don’t stop. 

Are the professors and lecture content provided in NUS, nice and sufficient?

[Year 1] The quality of lecture content and the friendliness of the professors varies from person to person but are generally ok

[Year 2] Some of the modules (such as Experimental Physics I) require you to read up on the content yourself. I sometimes refer to a textbook to supplement things that I don’t understand, but overall I would say it’s been sufficient. You can ask the profs for what textbook they’d recommend for the course. Also, slightly tangential but: PLEASE DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK THE PROF QUESTIONS!!!! I MADE THIS MISTAKE IN MY SEM 1 BECAUSE I FELT DUMB BUT HONESTLY JUST EMBRACE BEING DUMB LIKE JUST ASK IF YOU DONT KNOW!! BETTER BE DUMB FOR LIKE 10 SECONDS THAN BE DUMB FOREVER OKAY?

[Year 4] Some professors and lecturers are more lenient while others are tough love, but they are all very approachable, remember do not be afraid to ask for help.

Usually lecture slides or notes they provide is more sufficient but occasionally there are some things that you may missed from the lecture (either you were sleeping or busy scrolling but I don’t judge XD) that you need to catch up on.

Do physics students have a life outside of physics?

[Year 1] You are highly encouraged to do so

[Year 2] Of course! But it also depends what modules you’re taking that semester and how much time they take up. I encourage you to go join some CCAs with activities you’d never think of doing, like ballroom dancing or skateboarding or rock-climbing or pole dancing. Explore new things! University isn’t just about studying!!!! ALSO JUST A SIDE NOTE, don’t scoff too much at the NUS common curriculum– you really can learn lots of interesting things from there (one of my personal favourites is HSA1000 where I learnt about orientalism and race because it sort of shifted my worldview and opened by eyes to things I never really thought twice about). Humanities is just as important as the sciences. They are 2 halves of a whole!

[Year 4] Yes, please touch some grass :D

But jokes aside, yes we all have lives, we don’t just solve differential equations in our room all day, we gym, we socialise (other than physics students of course and other than the topic of physics) with friends and classmates.

Some of us even do sports, yes sports like swimming etc. We don’t just stay in our room all day like a hermit crab and play Valorant :D

This article was updated on 28 February 2023