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5 Quick questions for a physicist

  1. Jun 29, 2009 #1
    I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, but I need a few career related interview questions answered by any type of physicist.

    What things do you do in a typical day or typical week?
    What do you think this career will be like in 10 years?
    What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in school?
    What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you while working in this career?
    If you had it to do all over again, would you choose this career? Why or why not?

    Also any advice on key courses that you would recommend for college (especially those that might be helpful but aren't required physics or mathematics courses) would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2009 #2

    Choppy

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    I'm a medical physicist.

    I have clinical research, and teaching responsibilities. Clinically I work in the field of radiation oncology so my duties typically involve aspects of treatment planning, quality assurance, calibration and commissioning of linear accelerators and related equipment, as well as developing new treatment procedures and protocols in a constantly evolving environment. I have a broad range of research interests that I pursue when the clinical workload allows. These can involve anything from running Monte Carlo simulations of treatments to irradiating cell cultures, to investigating new dosimetric devices. I also mentor a few graduate students in their research.

    The demand for accredited medical physicists is expected to grow. The level of technology used in radiation therapy has increased dramatically over the past decade as we've moved towards adaptive image-guided treatment techniques. The number of people with cancer is expected to grow as the baby boomers age and the number of cancer treatment facilites will grow to respond. There will be an increased demand for board certification and those who have it will see their salaries increase.

    If I had it to do over again I think I would have tried to spend more time understanding ' big picture' concepts rather than hammering away at the details before understanding them in context.

    This is difficult to answer. One of the research projects I'm currently involved with has the potential to dramatically improve cancer treatments and outcomes - possibly one of the most dramatic changes likely to occur in the next 20-30 years.

    Medical physics has been a good fit for me. I found the board exams and long hours of my residency somewhat stressful, but I think overall I've found a balance where I can do work that is important to me, pays well, and allows me to excerise elements of creativity and curiosity through research.

    Still, I will always be curious as to whether or not my career as a lingerie model would have taken off.

    My advice would be to make sure you don't specialize too much, too early. Explore everything that interests you as much as you can and try to keep doors open because your interests and strengths are likely to change as you mature.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2009
  4. Jul 1, 2009 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Is this for your personal edification, or (for example) for a journalism project?

    I'm not sure there is a 'typical' day. I try and spend at least 1 hour every day in the lab, but sometimes it a lot more. Sometimes I spend 1 hour writing something (paper, grant application), sometimes a lot more. Also attend seminars, teach, help colleagues (and get help), reading scientific literature...

    Where will I be in 10 years? Hopefully still employed- everything else is negotiable. :) In 10 years I should be tenured, running a reasonable lab operation and have established myself as a teacher.

    That 80% of what I had to memorize in school was useless, so focus on the bigger picture. And take a writing composition class (see below).

    How about the top two- 1) Flying on the vomit comet a few times, and 2) culturing human airway epithelial cells.

    I would. I get to do what I want and get paid for it. How many people get to say that?

    I would take a writing composition class- learn how to write a scientific paper or grant application. I would also take a few engineering/chemistry/biology intro classes to broaden your knowledge base. Pick classes that seem interesting, not that will be 'helpful'.
     
  5. Jul 1, 2009 #4
    I'm a grad student in computational physics so I don't know if you're looking for a grad students perspective... anywho:

    *What things do you do in a typical day or typical week?

    Some combination of teaching, working on my own research (which is either theory or lots and lots of programming), going to colloquia and conferences and depending on the term I like to sit in on one or two classes.

    *What do you think this career will be like in 10 years?
    Well I'm in a somewhat rarer subfield of physics (computational) which tends to have stronger industry applications then some other sub fields. However, I imagine academia will still be around in 10 years as will the industry applications of computer simulation and modeling.

    *What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were in school?

    For me? math. Don't skimp on the math side of things. If you're a theorist it'll bite you in the *** later.

    *What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you while working in this career?

    Nothing that should be shared. ;)

    * If you had it to do all over again, would you choose this career? Why or why not?

    Absolutely. Although, as I've said, I'm just a grad student so there's still a little glimmer of hope in my eyes...

    * Also any advice on key courses that you would recommend for college (especially those that might be helpful but aren't required physics or mathematics courses) would be greatly appreciated.

    You're looking for non-math or physics course but I'd honestly think the most important is math. If you want to go into theoretical I'd recommend taking the applied math version of all your math courses (and many as your physics courses). In general, I'd say a mathematical physics degree is probably the strongest way into success in theory. However, if I must pick some non-math/phys course I'd say have fun. I'd strongly recommend taking a few courses that have no relevance to physics but simply pique your curiousity. I for one took courses in philosophy, religious studies, biology, earth sciences, psychology and economics and I think I really enjoyed some of those courses (and also gained appreciation for the fact that in physics we do things very differently then in the other sciences).

    Anywho, I hope this is of some small bit of help.

    -cheers
     
  6. Jul 1, 2009 #5
    Thanks guys, the help is much appreciated.

    Both actually.
     
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