## Are you happy being a Physicist?

 Quote by Andy Resnick "Being a physicist is a great privilege. Be worthy of it. Most of humanity spends its life doing boring repetitive tasks."
After my time in HEP, I concluded most of work in HEP extremely boring and repetitive. Mostly my time was spent configuring packages made by lousy physicist/part-time programmers, running days of simulations to get enough statistics, fine-tuning cuts to lower some upper bound by 5%. So this is on the low level, but even on the higher level, months of this work is just spent to re-measure some branching ratio because more data was collected. Then you publish a paper describing how you did things not-so-differently, but due to the higher statistics, you get a more accurate result.

Now imagine that a typical experiment takes as much as decades of data.

For me, the "non-boring, non-repetitive" rosy image of physics has long since burned.

Mentor
Blog Entries: 27
 Quote by mayonaise After my time in HEP, I concluded most of work in HEP extremely boring and repetitive. Mostly my time was spent configuring packages made by lousy physicist/part-time programmers, running days of simulations to get enough statistics, fine-tuning cuts to lower some upper bound by 5%. So this is on the low level, but even on the higher level, months of this work is just spent to re-measure some branching ratio because more data was collected. Then you publish a paper describing how you did things not-so-differently, but due to the higher statistics, you get a more accurate result. Now imagine that a typical experiment takes as much as decades of data. For me, the "non-boring, non-repetitive" rosy image of physics has long since burned.
Or maybe you weren't prepared or didn't realize that being in HEP involves doing mostly that!

I spent a summer in between my Junior and Senior year interning at Fermilab, and what I saw first hand sealed my decision on NOT doing high energy physics. And every time I hear on here of kids who haven't seen what is the reality in many of these fields wanting to do "theory" or "particle physics", I cringe. I'm not trying to stop anyone. But as I've said earlier, you need to go into this with eyes fully wide open and not simple based on the romanticized version of what you see on TV or what you perceived it is.

If students who wish to go into physics in this forum get to realize that (i) physics is such a huge field (ii) different areas offers different nature of work and (iii) many areas of physics offers such a tremendous job opportunities compare to the ones that most people are familiar with, then we have done a tremendous service already.

Zz.

 Quote by twofish-quant I think it's good for that.
That's why different people are suitable for different careers. Science is good for you because it's soothing you, for me it's bad because it drives me crazy. Gamedev is good for me but for you it may not. There are dozens of different people suitable for different stuff. That's how the world works.

 Quote by twofish-quant No there isn't, but as long as there is *something* out there that is not totally awful, things will work. Just from random chance, something out there will work.
Yes but finance is still bad choice for many theoretical physicsists (especially those "paper and pen" ones). For you getting PhD is part of your lifestyle and that's fine but you can't say "PhD in theo physics was great for me so it'll be great for you too" because it's not true.

I find economy very interesting subject but it doesn't change the fact that for many physicists it's boring. For them even being a number crunching code monkey can be boring and the only thing that keeps them doing it is the fun factor - "knowing sth more about particle physics" is a reward for them. Reward that can't be trade-off with money.

Physics PhD is not a reward for everyone too. I also know several physics PhDs and they would choose engineering degree over physics it they could choose again (many of them actually did it). If you completely destroy the only fun factor that motives you it can turns out that you enjoy designing a car or new material more than babysitting super computers.

 Quote by twofish-quant There is a trade-off between "money" and "enjoyment."
There is but it's not linear and totally different for every person. I don't want to be poor but with decent income I wouldn't trade fun factor for more decent income.

You also can't trade off 0 fun for insane amount of money (at least not in my case). If I could earn insane amount of money by your "pig farming" I would do this for 1-2 years so that I can save some money which could help me achive my goals. However I wouldn't like to do this until my retirement.

Well I know - at least in my country you can support your family with gamedev income (you are actually in top 10% of income) but you can't do this with physics. So I don't need to switch fields.

 Quote by twofish-quant If something was totally fun, you wouldn't have to pay people to do it.
Not true. You pay people to do sth because you can earn much more money with their skills. That's why Wall Street pays for your skills and academia not. In current world you can get rich with market modelling but the same model for supernova won't get you single $. Part of the reason that you pay ppl for sth even if it's fun for them it to get the work done. You can do some great stuff without money but it's an exception not the rule. There are things that you won't achive with people working for free no matter how hard you try. More or less if you do sth just for fun you do whatever you want whenever you want. You can get indie game/amateur astronomy done like this but it just won't work for Diablo 3 or Cern. So you need to pay people so that they won't work on a whim. Now you can say that it's less fun but I don't agree. Sometimes it is sometimes it's not.  Quote by twofish-quant The reason that physics Ph.D.'s make more money doing finance than physics, is that physics Ph.D.'s don't want to do mathematical finance, so you have to pay them more. The reason that physics Ph.D.'s make more money doing finance than physics, is that finance is a field which generates much more income than physics. You said before that PhD salary in finance is pretty standard. I think there are many people who see finance as their first choice and yet they earn much more than physicists. Finance isn't boring field. It's rich field so it can pay you more. If you work in applied branch of physics that generates money you don't earn peanuts too.  Quote by twofish-quant Neil Armstrong spent three days on the moon after a decade in which hundreds of thousands of people put them there. It's for the glory.  Quote by twofish-quant By whom? By the "system".  Quote by twofish-quant Something that is true for me is that you get more social respect for doing things different, than doing things the same way. Social respect only among people similar to you. Other won't trust you much.  Quote by twofish-quant Most people in China are poor. Most people in China don't want to stay poor, and if they can't get rich, then they'll have a revolution. Making a billion people rich involves a huge investment in science and technology. True but US, China, Russia, India, Brazil can afford it and need to do that mostly because they are huuge countries with maaany people like you said. All those countries are or have potential to be quite independent super-powers. In Europe situation is very different through. You have so many so different (culture, tradition etc.) countries packed on small area. No wonder it's so messed up. Our government doesn't invest in science and technology, problem is solved in different way. About 30%-40% of our nation works abroad. I am not sure if I'm correct but I guess it's all about politics. China is big and that alone allows it to say "ok so now I'm going to invest in technology and become new-superpower". Small countries that are in economical and political union with local super-powers (Germany, France) can't do sth like that because we were meant to be an agriculture country with cheap labour force that supports economy of local super-powers. Super-powers wouldn't like another super-power next to them and they really need someone who will take care of their old people or gather stuff from their plantations. They even need medical doctors and engineers so we can't have great industry, research unis or pay a lot to our doctors. Now the scary part is that crisis didn't hit us hard. It didn't and yet we are poor and stagnant. The sign of being "developing country" is that you develop and if we aren't it can mean that we've reached our peak in this world. It's scary. Now I think that maybe US is stagnant because you can't develop infinitely not because sth is blocking you. You say that US should invest more into science but from what I can see many US scientists aren't productive. Money won't solve the problem because there is not enough work to do. So it's great that another countries are developing because if US or Europe doesn't need well-educated people who want to do innovative stuff, there is a place we can all go to.  Quote by ZapperZ Or maybe you weren't prepared or didn't realize that being in HEP involves doing mostly that! Research in materials is similar. You babysit big cauldron for 15 years and you test samples that cauldron pops out. Is reasearch in your field more interesting? I feel like it's the nature of engineering and physics field to be a little mundane and repetitive.  Quote by ZapperZ If students who wish to go into physics in this forum get to realize that (i) physics is such a huge field (ii) different areas offers different nature of work and (iii) many areas of physics offers such a tremendous job opportunities compare to the ones that most people are familiar with, then we have done a tremendous service already. I think you should made a guide about job opportunities in different braches of physics (not only accelerator one) and nature of work done there.  And every time I hear on here of kids who haven't seen what is the reality in many of these fields wanting to do "theory" or "particle physics", I cringe. I'm not trying to stop anyone. But as I've said earlier, you need to go into this with eyes fully wide open and not simple based on the romanticized version of what you see on TV or what you perceived it is. Well, the good news is that if you have a romanticized notion of what HEP is, you will get that disabused after roughly a month of working towards your phd- plenty of time to find another advisor and find something else you'd rather be doing. To me, the more pernicious problem is the lack of discussion within programs of the job opportunities outside of academics. When I talked to my advisor and to the career counselors, I was given the understanding that there are opportunities for HEP phds to keep working doing some sort of scientific research outside of academia. i.e. "There is a shortage of scientists in industry"/"Most phds go on to do research in industry." It takes years to find out that isn't very true- you have to see multiple students graduate, and actively keep in contact to find out where they end up. By then, you are a third or fourth year grad student, and its very late to switch gears. Personally, I loved my phd work and its been a struggle to come to the realization that I will never again be able to do the work. Its been an even bigger struggle to learn that despite a phd in physics, I'll almost certainly never find work doing any kind of scientific research. If I could do it again, I would pursue a field that I liked slightly less but had a better chance of giving me a long term scientific career or other job I want (a phd in econ or CS is much more likely to get you a professorship then one in a science,etc). If your utility is High energy physics > other scientific research > other sort of work, getting a HEP phd is the wrong move. Mentor Blog Entries: 27  Quote by Rika Research in materials is similar. You babysit big cauldron for 15 years and you test samples that cauldron pops out. Is reasearch in your field more interesting? I feel like it's the nature of engineering and physics field to be a little mundane and repetitive. I disagree. As someone who was trained as a condensed matter experimentalist, I was responsible for a huge potion of my research. I wasn't one of hundreds of collaborators, and I get to design and explore various systems and experimental techniques. In fact, I've even had to build parts of a system myself. All of these skills became not only a huge reason why I could explore industries as a job alternative, but it also became valuable in my job as a physicist. It isn't mundane, not in the least bit. It only appears mundane to the uninformed. As.  Quote by Andy Resnick I make my living as a physicist, and I think chill-factor's description is exactly wrong. Once you are out of school, nobody cares how well you can do something that's already been done. That sort of work is more properly called 'training', and is useful and necessary only as part of a scientist's education. I wake up every day excited about doing something new. I get paid to play with toys. I have time to read and ponder, and the freedom to ponder what I choose to. David Stern wrote an opinion column in Physics Today some time ago ("All I really need to know...") that ends on a perfect note: "Being a physicist is a great privilege. Be worthy of it. Most of humanity spends its life doing boring repetitive tasks." Well, I'm still a student, so the loads of problem solving and sludging through difficult problems is what I know. Yes, it is necessary, I agree. But I don't wake up looking forward to doing it. I don't even wake up dreaming to go to the lab. You did, you enjoyed it, so you succeeded and became a professor, right? You're one of the few that made it.  Quote by twofish-quant The worst would be that we get hit by an asteroid. But the purposes of planning out my life, the worst case scenario I can think of is that the US undergoes permanent Japanese style stagnation. The reason I think it's a likely scenario is that I can imagine a situation in which people in the United States just get used to the "new normal" and just accept that "this is as good as it gets." If we get to 50% unemployment, there would be a revolution, but a permanent unemployment rate of 8% could be "normal." What's wrong with that? For some people, nothing. For me, everything. I was raised with the idea of the "frontier." The Old West in which someone with a sense of ambition and adventure could go into the wild unknown and carve off a piece of land for themselves. People talk about the "frontiers of science" and there is Star Trek, which talks about space being the "final frontier." If you drive into West Texas along I-10 and head toward the McDonald Observatory, you can *feel* the spirit of the Old West and of the idea of Manifest Destiny. So what really worries me is not that people in the US will end up eating tree bark. What worries me is that overtime, people will "get used" to diminished expectations, and that there will be damage to the American character. I'm not worried that China will plant a flag in the moon before the US. I'm worried that China will plant a flag on the moon, and by the time that happens, no one in the US will care. Yep the success was based mostly on abundant natural resources per capita, low population density and open land with a good temperate climate, most countries that have this and not too terrible political leadership are reasonably well off.  Quote by ZapperZ I disagree. As someone who was trained as a condensed matter experimentalist, I was responsible for a huge potion of my research. I was one of hundreds of collaborators, and I get to design and explore various systems and experimental techniques. In fact, I've even had to build parts of a system myself. All of these skills became not only a huge reason why I could explore industries as a job alternative, but it also became valuable in my job as a physicist. It isn't mundane, not in the least bit. It only appears mundane to the uninformed. As. OK, I'm in your field. I think it depends on your specific professor. There are people who are well trained like you are with many opportunities, and there are those who really do babysit a cleanroom and an SEM/XRD...  Quote by StatGuy2000 These are characteristics the US will not face (due to immigration and higher birth rates) so there is greater scope for the US to revive, as new workers come into the fore with new skills & ideas. This is what worries me. The US has an advantage over Japan because it has a steady stream of immigration which keeps lots of people in working age. However, if the US economy declines, then that will decrease both immigration and birth rates (i.e. fewer people move to the US, people put off having kids) which makes the problem of paying for an aging population worse. The other thing is that bad economic times makes people hostile to immigrants. If unemployment were 3%, people would be rolling out welcome mats for immigrants, but once it goes to 8%, then people would prefer that you go home. Relating this to physics, and my astrophysics background. One thing that you look for in physics are feedback cycles, since pretty dramatic things can happen once you have positive or negative feedback. Once you've found a cycle, then you can look at time scales. So (more unemployment -> less immigration and birth rates -> more unemployment) is something that I'm worried about.  These are people that, under different circumstances, will likely would have preferred to stay in their home country, so now that opportunities are growing in their countries of origin, I don't see it as a negative that they choose to return. It's a symptom of an underlying problem. The fact that people are moving overseas should cause people in the US to be more worried than they are. This happened to Sweden in the early 20th century. One surprising thing is that while Sweden is thought of as an egalitarian society today, it got that way after a lot of soul search about why so many Swedes were moving to the US. There are some funny selection effects. It's not surprising that people that move overseas to get away from the US, are more pessimistic about the US than people that stay.  I would also point out that the US continues to accept immigrants from all over the world (although at a somewhat reduced rate than the past), and these people, in addition to educated native-born Americans, will become the risk takers and entrepeneurs of the future (i.e. the next Mark Zuckerberg, who I might add is neither Chinese nor Indian). But what I'm telling you is that China today is more friendly to risk takers and entrepreneurs than the US, particularly if you don't have a ton of education. Take Mark Zuckerberg. Suppose he didn't go to Harvard? Suppose he was a high school dropout. What's he supposed to do? In China, he could rent out a stall on Huaqiangbei Lu and sell cell phone parts. There are tons of business opportunities in China, both for people with education and for people without education. These attract the entrepreneurial and risk-takers. There are a lot of internet companies like QQ, Tencent, Sohu, Baidu, etc. etc. The other thing is that there is a time lag. Facebook exists today because of massive government spending in the 1960's and 1970's.  You do raise the point that survivor bias may play a factor, but the point I'm emphasizing is that there are enough differences between the US and other nations in its characteristics that the pessimism that is so frequently expressed in the mass media. Again the more you sweat, the less you bleed. I'm worried that people aren't worried. I think I more or less agree with you about what drives the US economy. The point that I'm making is that the longer the US takes to recover, the more likely it is that the factors that drive US economic growth will disappear. The longer the US economy stays in the doldrums, the more likely it is that it will no longer be a destination for immigration, and the more likely it is that people with entrepreneur spirit will just leave. If the US economy recovers in two years, this won't be a problem. If it takes >5 years for there to be a recovery, then the US will no longer be an destination for either immigration or entrepreneurs, at which point you are hosed. It's not the end of the world. The US will still be a nice comfortable place to life, but the "American Dream" will no longer be in America.  Quote by chill_factor Yep the success was based mostly on abundant natural resources per capita, low population density and open land with a good temperate climate, most countries that have this and not too terrible political leadership are reasonably well off. But luck played a huge factor. Right after the Revolutionary War, the US could have easily fragmented the way that South America did. George Washington could have turned out to have had the personality characteristics of Stalin, or he could have had a son, and that would have changed things. Finally, the South could have won the Civil War, in which case the world would be very different. Connecting this with science. I'm fascinated with the history of the US circa 1860-1890 because those are some of the years in which the US "grew" into a great power, and there are similarities with China today. Something that is important is how the public university system got set up. The Civil War was ultimately a clash between two irreconcilable visions of how to develop the United States. One was based on machines and industry. The second was based on human (i.e. slave) labor and agriculture. The industrial vision won. One of the first things that Congress did once the South seceded was to pass the Homestead Act and the Morrill Land Grant Act. This created land grants which set up things like MIT. One thing about history is that, people matter. You matter. Something that happened in 2007, was that we were damned lucky, because there were about a dozen things that could have made the situation a lot worse. Even the things that didn't make things worse would have made things very different. Am I happy? Hell no. But that's because of personal life events that have doomed me to be miserable for the rest of my life. I can say that getting a Ph.D. makes me *much less miserable* than I otherwise would be.  Yes but finance is still bad choice for many theoretical physicsists (especially those "paper and pen" ones). For you getting PhD is part of your lifestyle and that's fine but you can't say "PhD in theo physics was great for me so it'll be great for you too" because it's not true. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that this worked for me, this is why I think it worked for me. You draw your own conclusions. Honestly, for most people going into college, I think it's a big mistake to go into physics. People are different and there are evolutionary and biological reasons why people are different. You couldn't run an ecosystem in which everyone did function X, so there is some randomness in the system so that not everyone does the same thing.  I find economy very interesting subject but it doesn't change the fact that for many physicists it's boring. For them even being a number crunching code monkey can be boring and the only thing that keeps them doing it is the fun factor - "knowing sth more about particle physics" is a reward for them. Reward that can't be trade-off with money. Much of theoretical physics involves being a number crunching code monkey. Lattice gauge theory, for example. The other thing is that money affects the "fun factor" a lot. I'm flexible, if someone is willing to pay me money to do something, I'll find a way of making it fun. There's also reality. If you are in a situation where you can choose your job based on fun, you are in a pretty good situation. You usually can't. In my case, part of the reason I *had* to get my Ph.D. was "family duty." One reason that it was important that I finish up a Ph.D. was because my father couldn't.  There is but it's not linear and totally different for every person. I don't want to be poor but with decent income I wouldn't trade fun factor for more decent income. Nor would I.... However, the reason making a ton of money is important is so that I can resign and do physics for the rest of my life. I'm definitely going to retire at age 59.5 when my pensions mature. If I'm lucky, then I can quit my job before that so that I can do physics.  You say that US should invest more into science but from what I can see many US scientists aren't productive. That's the thing about science. You don't know what's going to work or not. It's this stupid obsession with "productivity" that's killing the US economy. If you spend$10 billion on a supercollider, it's not going to generate anything useful for a decade and maybe it never generates anything useful. So if you run your economy based on productivity, then you will decide it's a stupid idea to spend money on anything that doesn't make money now. And you make a ton of money, until the inventions run out.

The other thing about science is that you can fail at 99.9% of the projects, but that one project that works will pay for everything else. Someone (I think it might have been Malcolm Gladwell) points out that almost all of the projects at Xerox PARC research went nowhere, but one invention (the fax machine) paid for the total budget of the research center for several decades.

 Quote by ZapperZ Or maybe you weren't prepared or didn't realize that being in HEP involves doing mostly that!
I was replying to the mis-suggestion in the quoted sentence: "Being a physicist is a great privilege. Be worthy of it. Most of humanity spends its life doing boring repetitive tasks." This and many versions of it are frequently thrown about, with the exact consequence of preparing students for romanticized fantasies.

I'm basically fine with HEP being boring as hell, as many other things are boring as hell, but I'm seriously against brainwashing young people with garbage. I'm compelled to tell the contradicting story whenever possible.

 Quote by twofish-quant But what I'm telling you is that China today is more friendly to risk takers and entrepreneurs than the US, particularly if you don't have a ton of education. Take Mark Zuckerberg. Suppose he didn't go to Harvard? Suppose he was a high school dropout. What's he supposed to do? In China, he could rent out a stall on Huaqiangbei Lu and sell cell phone parts. There are tons of business opportunities in China, both for people with education and for people without education. These attract the entrepreneurial and risk-takers. There are a lot of internet companies like QQ, Tencent, Sohu, Baidu, etc. etc. The other thing is that there is a time lag. Facebook exists today because of massive government spending in the 1960's and 1970's. Again the more you sweat, the less you bleed. I'm worried that people aren't worried. I think I more or less agree with you about what drives the US economy. The point that I'm making is that the longer the US takes to recover, the more likely it is that the factors that drive US economic growth will disappear. The longer the US economy stays in the doldrums, the more likely it is that it will no longer be a destination for immigration, and the more likely it is that people with entrepreneur spirit will just leave. If the US economy recovers in two years, this won't be a problem. If it takes >5 years for there to be a recovery, then the US will no longer be an destination for either immigration or entrepreneurs, at which point you are hosed. It's not the end of the world. The US will still be a nice comfortable place to life, but the "American Dream" will no longer be in America.
I don't want to drag this discussion any further off topic, but is it really true that China is more friendly to risk taking and entrepreneurship than the US as of this moment (perhaps the fact that you live in Hong Kong may colour your outlook on this)?

From what I read, and from reports of people I know who travelled to China, much of the economic growth up until recently has been drive by state-owned enterprises (many of whom squeeze out small-scale entrepreneurs) or enterprises which are technically "private" but have significant degree of control and direction from the state or the Communist party (which are more or less synonymous). This includes the many business opportunities you point out that exist in China at the present moment.

Same thing with the Internet companies you highlight such as Baidu. Of course, all of this could change.

Now I do agree that the longer it takes for the US economy to recover, the drivers of economic growth will weaken and this could have a negative impact on both immigration and entrepreneurship.

 Quote by StatGuy2000 I don't want to drag this discussion any further off topic, but is it really true that China is more friendly to risk taking and entrepreneurship than the US as of this moment (perhaps the fact that you live in Hong Kong may colour your outlook on this)?
Of course, being overseas creates a selection effect.

Also Hong Kong does color my outlook a lot, because PRC is learning a lot from Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the real power is held by a very small number of families that live on the Peak, and for that most part the politicians are just there for entertainment. Hong Kong has very strong free speech, but a lot of that is because holding a demonstration just lets people vent anger without really changing the system.

 From what I read, and from reports of people I know who travelled to China, much of the economic growth up until recently has been drive by state-owned enterprises (many of whom squeeze out small-scale entrepreneurs) or enterprises which are technically "private" but have significant degree of control and direction from the state or the Communist party (which are more or less synonymous). This includes the many business opportunities you point out that exist in China at the present moment.
OK. Government pumps massive amounts of money into state-owned enterprises and infrastructure projects, but what happens is that money "trickles down" to small scale private enterprises. For example, government orders that a high speed railway is built, and puts massive amounts of money into that. OK you just have a bunch of construction workers that are hungry. At that point, you have people setting up food carts and cheap restaurants. Once the construction workers go home, you have lots of service industries.

If you want start a high technology business, you *will* have to make some sort of deal with the government. You find some son or daughter of some connected official and put them on your board or give them some job doing whatever. But once you make the deal, then at that point the system is interested in having your business succeed, because if you don't make money, the son or daughter of the connected official doesn't make money.

The other thing is that what ends up happening turns out to be rational. Your business has some connected employees, but every other business does too, so who wins turns out to be because of business reasons. The other thing is that there is a "market" for princelings. You will need a princeling in your company, but it turns out that some princelings actually have good skills, so if it's a choice between hiring an idiot princeling and one with brains, you hire the one with brains. Curiously, US universities play a part in this. If you have a choice between hiring a princeling with a Harvard MBA, and one without. You hire the one with the MBA since it means that Harvard has "certified" that they person isn't an idiot.

And the money is there.

It's very odd. The state-owned enterprises don't squeeze out small-scale entrepreneurs. They squeeze out large-scale entrepreneurs. Ironically, by squeezing out large-scale entrepreneurs, they make life easier for small-scale entrepreneurs.

 Same thing with the Internet companies you highlight such as Baidu. Of course, all of this could change.
In China, the Communist Party runs everything. However, the Communist Party has figured out that without entrepreneurs, they are going to end up like the CPSU. So as long as you don't challenge the party and "pay your taxes" (both official and unofficial), they want your business to succeed. It's actually funny to hear about a "corruption negotiation" because it really is a negotiation. There are lots of corrupt officials in China, but the corruption is "pro-business" because if they demand too much, and your business goes under, they get nothing.

Also, I think that the system is pretty stable. I can imagine a situation in which the Communist Party gets "overthrown" but what will eventually happen is that people just change their name cards from "Communist Party" to "New Democratic Communists-are-evil Party" and things will go on as before.

This matters for science and high technology, because the system is moving past dim-sum carts and into solar panels. What depresses me is stuff like the Solyndra situation. The DOE had a grant program for renewable energy, but it got killed because of allegations of corruption. In China, you have payoffs and "corruption" that is 1000x times worse than anything in the US, but in the end solar panel factories get built, and China is starting to corner the market there. Same for high speed railroads. Yes it might be a bad thing that large amounts of construction funds go into official pockets, but in the end the railroad got built.
 My lame token contribution to this thread. The graduate student I work with on research is Chinese, and he plans on going back to China as soon as the Phd/postdoc is done. From what I've HEARD and observed, this desire is a recent phenomenon(20 years ago, graduate students wished to stay in America). Take it as you will.
 What I really want to ask is this. I'm a current undergrad who has just finished up his freshman year. I'm seriously considering switching to physics from EE. This is more due to personal happiness(I've been depressed a lot lately, and having some thoughts I'd rather not have, so this is important) and fit reasons than academic reasons, though there are some of those too. I find the physics department friendlier, and a more pleasant place. Is that stupid? I'm not going to lie, parental expectations and the economy play a role in this(though I guess BS physics + MSEE is an option). One worry of mine is that I'm "jumping the ship at the end of the storm". If I were to stay in EE, I could focus myself more on my core(quantum electronics/nanotech/solid state) in the upcoming semesters. The worst is over-the weeders and the digital/computing courses that I'm being forced to take(YUCK)-and there are some cool courses coming up(I'd like to still take them even I go physics, might not get to, but that's a separate rant). I don't want to commit myself to a Phd in physics(or materials science, or whatever) just yet,so I want to make sure there are options(non fast food ones) with a BS in physics. Maybe I could teach abroad, I dunno..... Another weird thing is that I'm interested in a Phd in physics(this is assuming I could even get into a good grad school, which is a stretch at the moment), but not in academia in the least. Is that normal? My own personal guess to this question of happiness is that happiness and fulfillment are different things, I dunno.....

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