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So you want to get a PhD in physics? The video!

by eri
Tags: physics, video
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Pengwuino
#55
Nov14-10, 03:24 PM
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Quote Quote by eliya View Post
All those people who just started their undergrad in Physics, or are still in highschool and know exactly what field they want to research are depressing me. I'm a freshmen studying Physics and I have NO IDEA what field in Physics is interesting me, and I don't even know if I want to go to gradschool. Sure, it sounds cool to be a scientist and work your brain hard, but I don't even know what it takes.
Luckily, I think that my way of thinking and uncertainty about what I'll want to do with a BS in Physics is what should be normal. Sometimes I don't even tell people that I'm a Physics major, because it makes me feel like one of these guys who say they want to research string theory. It's only my first year of it! I'm sure it's very different than upper division classes, and I might not want to do a BS in Physics then.
I wanted to be a firefighter when I was a kid. Then a teacher. Then an ice cream truck driver. Then a CFO. Younger people don't really have a clue what their fields are about or the implications of choosing that field until they're a bit more grown up. Like the video says, people read stephen hawkings books and think they wanna be an astrophysicist without having really a clue what physics is about. It's the same with people who watch CSI and want to be a forensic psychologist.
twofish-quant
#56
Nov14-10, 07:43 PM
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Quote Quote by eliya View Post
All those people who just started their undergrad in Physics, or are still in highschool and know exactly what field they want to research are depressing me. I'm a freshmen studying Physics and I have NO IDEA what field in Physics is interesting me, and I don't even know if I want to go to gradschool. Sure, it sounds cool to be a scientist and work your brain hard, but I don't even know what it takes.
Don't worry. It's probably better for you that you don't know what you are going to do. Experiment with a few things, and see how it goes for you.
cdotter
#57
Nov14-10, 07:54 PM
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Outside of finance, what types of industry jobs are available for a physics phd?
twofish-quant
#58
Nov14-10, 07:59 PM
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Quote Quote by cdotter View Post
Outside of finance, what types of industry jobs are available for a physics phd?
The video went through the three big ones. Defense, oil/gas, and finance.
cdotter
#59
Nov14-10, 08:11 PM
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Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
The video went through the three big ones. Defense, oil/gas, and finance.
Is that really it? I thought they were kidding.

What would a physics phd be qualified to do in a defense setting? Engineering?
D H
#60
Nov14-10, 08:36 PM
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Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
The video went through the three big ones. Defense, oil/gas, and finance.
They missed civilian government: NASA, NIST, NOAA, ... They also missed industry not related to defense, oil, and gas. The stats at AIP to me that the number of physics PhDs who completely switch gears and become quants is a smallish percentage.


Quote Quote by cdotter View Post
What would a physics phd be qualified to do in a defense setting? Engineering?
A lot of engineering is applied physics. Physicists still work on things that go boom, and on making those things that go boom do so in the right place.
twofish-quant
#61
Nov14-10, 08:47 PM
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Quote Quote by D H View Post
The stats at AIP to me that the number of physics PhDs who completely switch gears and become quants is a smallish percentage.
The stats that I've seen from AIP are just want people do immediately after their Ph.D. I haven't seen too many statistics that track careers over time. Would be really interested in seeing those.

A lot of engineering is applied physics. Physicists still work on things that go boom, and on making those things that go boom do so in the right place.
Yup. I know of a number of people from theoretical astrophysics that design hydrogen bombs. Someone has got to do it.

During the early-1990's, there was an largely successful effort by the US to hire ex-Soviet bomb builders and get them into the US. The logic behind this was that the Russian economy was a mess, and both the US and Russia had an interest in getting Russian scientists into the US. There's very little about hydrogen bombs that the US knows that the Russians don't and vice versa, and the point of getting Russian scientists into the US was so that they wouldn't end up in Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea.
cdotter
#62
Nov14-10, 08:53 PM
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Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
The stats that I've seen from AIP are just want people do immediately after their Ph.D. I haven't seen too many statistics that track careers over time. Would be really interested in seeing those.



Yup. I know of a number of people from theoretical astrophysics that design hydrogen bombs. Someone has got to do it.
Does that still happen? I thought that field largely died off (or went to simulations) after the nuclear test ban treaty.
twofish-quant
#63
Nov14-10, 09:14 PM
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Quote Quote by cdotter View Post
Does that still happen? I thought that field largely died off (or went to simulations) after the nuclear test ban treaty.
Someone has to write/maintain/debug the simulations.

For the most part, much of the work today involves running computer simulations to make sure that the bombs will still go off, and making sure that the knowledge is still there to be able to maintain and build new hydrogen bombs if necessary. It would *really* be a bad thing, if we found ourselves in a situation in which it turned out that the US couldn't build H-bombs, but Iran or North Korea could.

One of the reasons that all of the major powers were willing to sign the CTB, is that all of the major powers have enough computing power and physics Ph.D.'s so that they can be reasonably certain of their own H-bombs through computer simulations. This isn't true with Iran or NK, that don't have the computer infrastructure that the major powers have.

When I was an undergraduate in the early-1990's, there was this idea that soon all of the professors from the Sputnik generation would retire, and there would be a lot of new jobs in academia. This didn't happen in academia, because once someone retired they were willing to let the position go. This *did* happen at the national labs and defense industries, since apparently it's a very bad thing if no one in the US knows how to build an H-bomb, and so there's been a steady stream of hiring. Also, the number of people that are qualified for this position is reduced by security clearances. Most Chinese, Russian, or Indian physics Ph.D.'s aren't going to survive the security clearances.
Pengwuino
#64
Nov14-10, 09:59 PM
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Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
Someone has to write/maintain/debug the simulations.

For the most part, much of the work today involves running computer simulations to make sure that the bombs will still go off, and making sure that the knowledge is still there to be able to maintain and build new hydrogen bombs if necessary. It would *really* be a bad thing, if we found ourselves in a situation in which it turned out that the US couldn't build H-bombs, but Iran or North Korea could.
This reminds me of an article a couple years ago about a problem the Brits had with their nuclear subs (or something similar). Apparently a crucial material that had a fairly long shelf life required replacing... I think something about how they launched SLBMs. Well, long story short, they had forgotten how to make the material and no one had bothered to archive it and the company that made it had long gone bye bye. They had to track down everyone involved in that material to get more made . I hope someone remembers it better... it was a few years ago it happened.


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