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Physics Advice for choosing field of physics/nuclear engineering

  1. May 6, 2017 #1
    I am an undergraduate about to enter my third year of university. I am interested in all of the following fields: plasma physics/fusion research, accelerator physics, fission reactor R&D, and low-energy nuclear physics. I plan to obtain a PhD in one of these and am mainly considering options at US government labs and private companies, though I would also consider a career in an English-speaking European country. I am generally interested in helping produce experiments/machines capable of performing advanced physics and/or power generation.

    Here are a few specific questions:
    1. If ITER does not go smoothly is it likely that plasma physics R&D will become obsolete/not supported by the government?
    2. I have heard that specialists in all of these fields (barring low-energy nuclear physics) are in high demand... is that likely to still be the case in 10-20 years?
    3. Not that pay is my primary concern, but it seems to me that fission reactor engineers are the highest-paid in this set of fields. Is that correct?
    4. Does anyone have information/metrics about how competitive it is to succeed in these fields? My intuition is that far less people are going into these fields than, say, condensed matter... I

    Next I have a few questions about what work is specifically involved in these fields. All of them involve building such complex and expensive equipment that they must be tested by simulations. Excluding designing things in CAD, do simulations account for the majority of work in designing a nuclear reactor/tokamak/accelerator (etc.)? Are the people who do simulations the ones who end up making the final say on the design of such experiments?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2017 #2
    With regards to fusion research in the US near term I refer you to the white paper by the University Fusion Association (link below) which identifies several areas of concern for fusion research in the US including decreased funding, small growth in research activity, poor prospects for faculty hiring, among other concerns.


    I hope this is of value. Good Luck.
  4. May 8, 2017 #3
    This document is rather alarming. For example: "One striking fact that emerged was that no one at the Round Table could identify a single university that has allocated a faculty line to pursue ITER research." You would think that the US would be interested in ITER since we are pouring so much money into it. Maybe it's because the expected completion date is so far away.
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