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A question about Institute for Advanced Study and Yoichiro Nambu

  1. Nov 2, 2009 #1
    I am in my senior years now and I am Canadian, going into a Canadian University. I plan to become a physicist, a researching physicist at a university. I want to research at the point where I am like Yoichiro Nambu.

    This is my question: Does a Canadian potential physicist have any chance at being invited by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton or any well-known facilities? If I do not get a Ph.D from a well-known university, is there any chance of being recognized? Do Canadian universities such as University of British Columbia or Toronto have that type of facility for me to research?

    My other question: What does it take to get recognized and be inviited by well-known universities to study? I know Yoichiro Nambu did not start out like that, but I really want to become one of those people. In fact, I don't even care if it's an Ivy League or not, it can be Berkeley or Oxbridge or even Chicago (I actually want to go there more than universities like Harvard).

    Can you successful physicist shed some light on me?

    I am also aiming for a Ph.D in Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry (does Ph.D in Chemistry even exist??)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2009 #2


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    Your reputation is based on your work, not where you work. If you do very well in undergrad and impress someone at Princeton, you might have a shot at grad school there - but again, you don't need to go to grad school at Princeton to be successful in whatever field you choose. Yes, Toronto is an excellent school for physics. And yes, you can get a PhD in chemistry - but you really don't need three PhDs. Most programs would shy away from admitting you for your second, much less a third.
  4. Nov 2, 2009 #3
    If you want to work at MIT or Harvard, just get an apartment in Cambridge and just attend physics seminars there. The only real difficulty here is to find something that will pay for your living expenses.

    Right now your chances of getting a formal research position at any big name university is pretty near to nil. This is just because there are too few research positions and too many applicants, and what gets funded depends on the vagaries of politics.

    What you really want is to find some position (anywhere doing anything) that will give you the time and facilities to think.
  5. Nov 2, 2009 #4
    Twofish, what is this seminar you speak of..?
  6. Nov 2, 2009 #5
    What do you mean shy away ?
  7. Nov 2, 2009 #6
    If you are in the Boston area, you can subscribe to the Boston Area Physics Calendar, and whenever there is a talk at MIT, Harvard, Tufts, BU, Northeastern, etc. etc. you just show up.

  8. Nov 2, 2009 #7
    As in they often have rules against it. For example, I know UC Berkeley won't admit someone for a second Ph.D. unless the admitting department petitions for approval and argues that it serves a valid scientific purpose.

    (Perhaps these petitions are accepted routinely... but it *is* an additional bureacratic hassle in any event.)
  9. Nov 2, 2009 #8
    I thought Berkeley won't even accept people just to get a Ph.D from them
  10. Nov 2, 2009 #9
    It's probably overkill to get more than one Ph.d. Instead of getting three Ph.D. in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, you probably want to get one in mathematical physical chemistry (and yes that is something you can get a Ph.D. in).

    One other thing is that you can be a decent physicist through hard work, but to make a major breakthrough requires some dumb luck. Nature decides where the breakthroughs are, and it may or may not be where you are looking.
  11. Nov 2, 2009 #10
    But I find it weird that it is always people from well-known universities that have these "major breakthroughs". Like why can't someone from an unknown university have that chance?
  12. Nov 3, 2009 #11


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    It's not the university you're at that determines if you'll have a major breakthrough, it's the fact that top schools tend to hire the people who are doing great work and having them more often. Getting into Princeton won't make you a genius; being a genius will (maybe) get you into Princeton.
  13. Nov 3, 2009 #12


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    Not to mention that these people tend to get a more funding for students, equipment etc than people working at "unknown" universities that haven't been as successful; which can be extremely important (at least in experimental physics) and certainly gives you a competitive edge compared to other people working in the same field.
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