Cosmology: a good career choice?


by jon_pan
Tags: career, choice, cosmology
Entropee
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#55
Sep21-09, 07:57 PM
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Quote Quote by Locrian View Post
So you have some terminal illness (or other serious difference in your force of mortality) that's going to knock you out before you hit the workforce and - for reasons that aren't apparent to me - want to spend your last remaining years studying in a school rather than out in the world doing something fun or useful or helpful or hurtful - or whatever. That's your choice and I'm glad you've made it and are sticking to it.

However the typical student entering college has an extremely high probability of being alive to graduate and find a job. They should weight their decision making with the appropriate probabilities, since not considering the consequences will probably have, well, negative consequences.

In short, the above advice is really, really bad advice for almost everyone.
Well thats your opinion but id rather enjoy what time I have, you seem to take most everything for granted, not saying thats a bad thing.
xcualquiera
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#56
Mar9-10, 10:28 PM
P: 10
Well, I'm in the same picture. My dream is to study Cosmology. I have taken Math and Physics majors in order to study Cosmology. After reading this thread over and over and once again, I decided I will spend a year in a MS in England doing what I love and then spend another year in doing an actuarial studies MS...if needed. Does this make any sense to anyone?
mal4mac
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#57
Mar12-10, 11:02 AM
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Quote Quote by ek View Post
What is better than searching (and perhaps finding) for the answers to the most important questions?
Beating your head against a brick wall? :)
pjudge
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#58
Apr15-10, 01:39 AM
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I just think it's ironic that the people that are out of the jobs and bashing dedicated future physicists just so happen to be the ones who are most on this single forum. Need I say more? Getting a phd and job in physics requires more than just a mental attitude towards dedication, it requires a lifestyle of it. If you really care about physics, why need consideration beyond that? If you really care about it, it ceases to be a career. It's a philosophy of life. If it's not a philosophy of your life, you should work towards that end because pursuing physics will require it.
xcualquiera
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#59
Apr15-10, 11:03 AM
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Quote Quote by pjudge View Post
I just think it's ironic that the people that are out of the jobs and bashing dedicated future physicists just so happen to be the ones who are most on this single forum. Need I say more? Getting a phd and job in physics requires more than just a mental attitude towards dedication, it requires a lifestyle of it. If you really care about physics, why need consideration beyond that? If you really care about it, it ceases to be a career. It's a philosophy of life. If it's not a philosophy of your life, you should work towards that end because pursuing physics will require it.

Yes, I step back with my comment. I agree it is a philosophy of life. I can't imagine anyone who has passionately devoted so many years to physics starting a completely different job in public relationships and the private sector without a painful cost of living style.
twofish-quant
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#60
Apr16-10, 10:28 AM
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Quote Quote by xcualquiera View Post
Yes, I step back with my comment. I agree it is a philosophy of life. I can't imagine anyone who has passionately devoted so many years to physics starting a completely different job in public relationships and the private sector without a painful cost of living style.
I can since I've done it.

One thing that you do learn once you get into graduate school is the politics of science, and the political skills that you learn doing physics are pretty much the same as the political skills that you need anywhere else in the world.

Among the people that are doing physics, *no one* is unemployed, and everyone ten years post Ph.D. is living at middle class or in some cases upper class standards of living. Don't go into physics for the money, but don't avoid it because you think that physics means a life of poverty because it doesn't.
FarFromHome10
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#61
Nov26-10, 09:48 PM
P: 1
I've been waiting sixteen years to follow my dreams of studying space professionally.
What major can I follow in college to pursue that?
(without the fear-installation of the previous comments)
petergreat
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#62
Nov26-10, 10:04 PM
P: 270
Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
One thing that you do learn once you get into graduate school is the politics of science, and the political skills that you learn doing physics are pretty much the same as the political skills that you need anywhere else in the world.
Too true. I only recently realized that even grad students need to give talks everywhere to advertise their work, otherwise few people bother to look at their papers. I also realize how much popular science (which I read avidly when I was in school) is written not intending to educate people, but to create hype about their subfield to attract public funding.
twofish-quant
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#63
Nov27-10, 12:12 AM
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Quote Quote by Locrian View Post
Nope. I have a suspicion that the statement you made about astrophysics/cosmology students getting drafted off to private financial firms is misleading.
I have some first hand experience in this sort of thing. :-) :-)

It isn't that I don't think individuals from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc are regularly hired by big finance or Wal Street firms. It's that I think it has nothing to do with their studies in cosmology.
Harvard, Princeton, and Yale cosmology Ph.D.'s tend not to get hired by Wall Street firms because they can usually find a job in a national lab or academic post. The astrophysics Ph.D.'s that tend to get hired in finance are Ph.D.'s from other schools, because they are locked out of the academic job market.

I could be wrong though. So I asked for some suggestions of firms with the intention of contacting them and seeing what they said.
You'll probably reach the wrong people. One problem with getting a physics Ph.D. job in finance is that if you talk to someone in HR or someone that does general recruitment, they are usually pretty clueless. Also the firms that hire physics Ph.D.'s are the firms that you've heard in the news. Morgan-Stanley, Goldman-Sachs, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse, and those are just the investment banks. There are also hedge funds (Blackrock, DBShaw, RenTech, and probably fifty others that I haven't mentioned.)

There aren't a huge number of jobs, but there aren't a large number of applicants. In a good year, a bank may hire about a dozen or so physics Ph.D.'s, and your typical investment banks will have about 100 or so STEM Ph.D.'s in a head count of 30,000. But a 100 Ph.D.'s is a lot of hiring.

I have a BS in physics, have worked in industry for the past couple of years, and am in the process of choosing between a PhD in physics (and the resulting area of study) and an MBA. I've spent the last few weeks examining information such as what is found in this thread.
Do what you love. If your primary consideration is career, the MBA will be better. If you are totally committed to learning physics, then go with the Ph.D.
twofish-quant
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#64
Nov27-10, 12:15 AM
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Quote Quote by physicsgrad View Post
IAM SURE BEFORE U(WE) DIE U WILL CONTRIBUTE SOMETHING TO COSMOLOGY!REMEBER U WILL BE THE MOST RESPECTED IN THE SOCIETY MORE THAN CEO OF BOEING OR ANY BECAUSE U R THE GUY WHO CAN ANSWER HIS QUESTOINS!
GOOD LUCK
No you won't. :-) :-) :-)

That's when you figure out whether or not you really have passion, when you realize that people don't look up to you for what you are doing. This is particularly a problem in industry. I do all sorts of cool semi-physics stuff, but I can't take credit for any of it. They don't even like for me to talk about what I'm doing.

So no credit. But sometimes it's cool to discover something interesting, even if no one else knows or cares that you did it.
twofish-quant
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#65
Nov27-10, 12:23 AM
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Quote Quote by Catherwood View Post
Before we start, let me admit that I am somewhat bitter about higher level physics as practiced in North America. I did a Ph.D. in astrophysics - one of the most serious mistakes I ever made in my life.
One of the ironies here is that I think my getting a Ph.D. in astrophysics was one of the best decisions that I've ever made. I think one reason I love my Ph.D. is that I got out of academia as quickly as I did. I work in a big financial firm, and the irony is that my work is much closer to my ideal of academia than a lot of people that stayed in the university, which is one reason I left.
twofish-quant
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#66
Nov27-10, 12:30 AM
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Quote Quote by Amanheis View Post
And he said that physicists are always very employable, just because of their problem solving strategies that they acquired during their PhD or whatever.
That's been my experience.

Also, it is hard to get a job with a physics Ph.D. However, it's even harder to get a job without a physics Ph.D.

The other thing that helps is not to be picky about the job that you do. If you just want to get a job. That's easy. If you want to get a job in which you do "interesting things." That's also not to hard. If you have some very set ideas of the type of job that you want, then it gets harder. For example, if you absolutely refuse to do programming, then closes a lot of doors.

The plot shows the absolute unemployment rate, green is the total. So the 2% are exactly the cosmologists? And why should it be that different in the USA? Some official numbers would be interesting.
No one that I know of with a physics Ph.D. is unemployed, and everyone is doing something upper middle class. I know of some physics Ph.D.'s that aren't thrilled with their job, but that's something different.
twofish-quant
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#67
Nov27-10, 12:36 AM
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Quote Quote by pjudge View Post
If you really care about physics, why need consideration beyond that? If you really care about it, it ceases to be a career. It's a philosophy of life. If it's not a philosophy of your life, you should work towards that end because pursuing physics will require it.
However, if physics is a philosophy of life, then you may find yourself happier outside of academia. If someone offered me a job as a professor teaching astrophysics at $80K, then I'd take it in a second. Except that those jobs aren't there so I have to get as close as I can to what I want to do.

The problem with working as a post-doc for $30K is that they just will not let you do post-docs for the rest of your life, so you have to figure out what to do once that ends.
twofish-quant
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#68
Nov27-10, 12:44 AM
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Quote Quote by SpaceTiger View Post
The information is third-hand, so I don't know which companies or how reliable the source is.
I can answer questions first hand. :-)

Essentially, the equations that describe option prices are random walk which your basic diffusion equation. (Look up Black Scholes equation). That's one game. Another game is algorithmic trading. Suppose you go into your discount broker and sell 1000 shares of Exxon. At that moment, it's unlikely that at that very moment, someone wants to buy 1000 shares of Exxon. So what you do that you sell your shares to a trader that hopes to keeps it around hoping to resell the shares when someone that really does want 1000 shares of Exxon shows up.

Except that nowadays, you can automate that with a program that buys and sells shares using some algorithm that someone wrote. This involves people that model these sorts of things, and then someone else that programs the computers.

Also every investment bank and hedge fund has this big giant supercomputer in the back room and you need thousands of people to babysit those computers.
PhysDrew
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#69
Dec7-10, 06:41 AM
P: 64
I looked up the black scholes equation and it looks fascinating. I'm currently studying a double degree in maths and physics (astrophysics), and was thinking of taking mathematical modelling, computational maths (primarily MATLAB) and some statistical modelling/applied statistics subjects, in your experience would these be adequate to move into the finance industry?
twofish-quant
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#70
Dec7-10, 09:54 AM
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Quote Quote by PhysDrew View Post
I looked up the black scholes equation and it looks fascinating.
Glad you think so. The interesting thing about the black-scholes model is that it's wrong, and the black-scholes model doesn't work for any financial derivative, and hasn't worked since 1987.

So what does work? Well it changes, and that's why they are looking for people with physics backgrounds.

I'm currently studying a double degree in maths and physics (astrophysics), and was thinking of taking mathematical modelling, computational maths (primarily MATLAB) and some statistical modelling/applied statistics subjects, in your experience would these be adequate to move into the finance industry?
There are lots of different ways in, and lots of different jobs. It so happens that a few of those jobs need people with astrophysics skills.

Curiously enough, if you are interested in going into finance through physics, you are better off focusing on physics rather than finance. There are some "hard core simulations" in finance in which the type of experience that people are looking for are people with deep computational fluid dynamics experience.
PhysDrew
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#71
Dec7-10, 06:22 PM
P: 64
Thanks for the info, yeah I've got some CFD coming up in my comp maths units, so looks like I'm on the right track at least.
Thanks again
twofish-quant
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#72
Dec7-10, 06:50 PM
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Quote Quote by PhysDrew View Post
Thanks for the info, yeah I've got some CFD coming up in my comp maths units, so looks like I'm on the right track at least.
Thanks again
Something else to remember is that you can only learn so much in a classroom. At some point (and the earlier the better), you'll need to go out and figure out stuff that no one else has figured out. Something that is worth doing is to try to download some astrophysics code from the internet and try to get it running, Also, some of the knowledge that is valuable is "procedural" rather than "declarative" (i.e. you can't learn how to ride a bike by reading about it.)

This makes it pretty hard to answer the question "what should I learn to get into finance?" It turns out that the bits of knowledge that are really high value are things that people haven't quite figured out, and haven't been written down.


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