Pardon me for talking shop for a minute, but I have a question for the group.
The subject of a coming controversy in my program has to do with the curriculum. As it exists, the four “upper level” physics courses undergraduates are required to take are mathematical methods, analytical mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. In addition, one must take four other science or math courses numbered 300 or above, the reason being that the degree is Applied Physics, whatever that means. One choice is, of course, quantum mechanics.
It would probably not shock you (based on my research) to learn that I advocate making quantum mechanics a required course. The vocal opponent to the idea is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a solid state physicist, though her argument is simply that the lack of a QM requirement is what sets the program apart from a regular physics degree.
Now, why is that important? you may ask. South Carolina has a rule (arcane, I say) that any new degree program in the state must be “needed”. Either there should more students in the state than can be serviced by the schools currently offering it, or the program should be sufficiently different from those at other schools. Our program falls into the latter category. The original members of the program, both of whom are still here and one being the vocal opponent, framed the degree as being versatile; an AP degree allows the holder to pursue a large range of career paths. It has been explicitly stated to me that we are not in the business of churning out physics grad students, although they may do so if they choose. In any case, it’s now been four years since the program was implemented, and there’s no rule stating that we must continue to justify the program.
However, I am willing to stipulate that retaining the “Applied” label (again, there is no clear definition of the term, the one given above was chosen) is in our best interest. But is stat mech more important than quantum? The opponent argues that everyone needs stat mech, but not everyone needs quantum. To her credit, she concedes that I may feel the opposite, which indeed I do.
So I throw the question to you, gentle reader: what is more important, statistical or quantum mechanics?