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Programs AI or theoretical physics

I am a 12th grader and I am having trouble choosing what I want to major in. My biggest interest is string theory/ quantum field theory/ theory of everything/ particle physics (math intensive theoretical physics). But the problems with getting a physics degree are 1) getting a phd takes a long time and 2) it would be really hard to find a job as a researcher in something particle theory related and 3) any job I would be able to get wouldn't pay very much. Machine learning is also pretty interesting (but not nearly as much as the other option) and I think I could be able to make a lot of money from it. Also, I wouldn't need a 10 - 14 year degree if I went into Ai. Which should I major in, which should I minor in and should I pursue further degrees in either
 
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My suggestion to students is to always have a backup plan so while you like physics and comp sci then you plan things to do both. In that way, you'll have the skills to go into computer work if you decide against pursuing a PhD.

But I need to say that its hard to predict where Machine Learning is going. It could well be a fad right now and that the lucrative jobs will dry up once more folks have similar skills. And that's why you need to have a backup plan.

Perhaps you'll be able to apply ML to the physics that you'll pursue and thus straddle the fence in skillsets.
 
My suggestion to students is to always have a backup plan so while you like physics and comp sci then you plan things to do both. In that way, you'll have the skills to go into computer work if you decide against pursuing a PhD.

But I need to say that its hard to predict where Machine Learning is going. It could well be a fad right now and that the lucrative jobs will dry up once more folks have similar skills. And that's why you need to have a backup plan.

Perhaps you'll be able to apply ML to the physics that you'll pursue and thus straddle the fence in skillsets.
So which one should be my major, which should be my minor, and should I pursue education further than a bachelors in either one.
 
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You should talk with your school counselors and the college folks too to get some idea of what is best for your situation. We can't answer that here.
 

MarneMath

Education Advisor
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I tend to encourage people to spend 1 summer doing an REU and 1 summer doing an internship. I find that this really helps define if you actually like "research" or the "idea of doing search". I've had a few undergraduates who had full intention of becoming researcher in something, but during the course of the internship done at my firm, discovered they really like solving problems -- regardless of the problem, as long as it involved math. I've had others who despite doing well in the internship, really only got excited about physics/math/chemistry. It's hard to tell what you would be until you give both a try.

As for your question, we can't tell you what to major or minor in. If possible double major, if not, then stick with physics since if your goal is to go to grad school for it, it's better to adsorb yourself into it. Either way, cs/physics would both require advance degrees if you plan to work on "interesting" problems (ie not being a QA coder or software developer but rather a person implementing low latency code or highly complicated models).

Lastly, currently in my firm, we have about 10 former PhD who did research in particle physics. Their pay is somewhere between 250k-500k + bonuses which can be around 100k - 1m depending on performance of their strategy.* We also get about a few thousand applicants for our few job openings per year. I mention this to say that even if you did theoretical physics and failed to get a job doing so, you can still do well if you're willing to reinvent yourself.
*They also tend to work from 8am to 10pm so mileage varies on how long we're able to keep them.
 

A.T.

Science Advisor
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LOL, I clicked on the thread title, thinking it is a poll on what will destroy humanity first.
 
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LOL, I clicked on the thread title, thinking it is a poll on what will destroy humanity first.
It is but we're too late to the party.

Do not attempt to adjust your browser. We control the vertical. We control the horizontal. We let you see only what we want you to see.

You have now entered... The Outer Limits
 

Choppy

Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
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One thing I might add is that it sounds like you're getting too specific too early.

One option you might want to consider is signing up for a physics program that allows for enough electives in computer science that you can switch majors after you have your first year under your belt and if you decide then that you'd rather be going in the other direction. There is a lot of overlap in the foundations of these fields. There's no point in closing any doors before you have to.
 
I tend to encourage people to spend 1 summer doing an REU and 1 summer doing an internship. I find that this really helps define if you actually like "research" or the "idea of doing search". I've had a few undergraduates who had full intention of becoming researcher in something, but during the course of the internship done at my firm, discovered they really like solving problems -- regardless of the problem, as long as it involved math. I've had others who despite doing well in the internship, really only got excited about physics/math/chemistry. It's hard to tell what you would be until you give both a try.

As for your question, we can't tell you what to major or minor in. If possible double major, if not, then stick with physics since if your goal is to go to grad school for it, it's better to adsorb yourself into it. Either way, cs/physics would both require advance degrees if you plan to work on "interesting" problems (ie not being a QA coder or software developer but rather a person implementing low latency code or highly complicated models).

Lastly, currently in my firm, we have about 10 former PhD who did research in particle physics. Their pay is somewhere between 250k-500k + bonuses which can be around 100k - 1m depending on performance of their strategy.* We also get about a few thousand applicants for our few job openings per year. I mention this to say that even if you did theoretical physics and failed to get a job doing so, you can still do well if you're willing to reinvent yourself.
*They also tend to work from 8am to 10pm so mileage varies on how long we're able to keep them.
Thanks that was really helpful. But what do the research particle physicists actually do and work on. Also, is a postdoctoral required to work in research or does it just help. And one more thing, would it be possible for me to be a full time researcher and also privately make money in ai or does physics require all my time
 
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Doing physics full-time means just that. You might even have to work overtime based on the demands of the work.

If you're in a private company or university setting then you might have disclose any outside interests and might even have to cease doing them.

They are worried that you might mix the two concerns.
 
Doing physics full-time means just that. You might even have to work overtime based on the demands of the work.

If you're in a private company or university setting then you might have disclose any outside interests and might even have to cease doing them.

They are worried that you might mix the two concerns.
So, as I said before, what do research particle physicists actually do at their jobs. Are you just solving equations all day, are you developing theories, are you trying to solve theories. What is it. Sorry I don't speak English very well.
 
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Checkout the CERN LHC videos and you'll see that depending on the job:
- calibrating your equipment ie taking measurements and verifying that the things are within spec
- analyzing track data
- analyzing software in case you find something that doesn't look right

https://www.sokanu.com/careers/particle-physicist/

One famous example was the recent issue of faster than light neutrinos.

They had to work back through their setup to find the problem or rewrite Relativity (not).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light_neutrino_anomaly
 
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Thanks that was really helpful. But what do the research particle physicists actually do and work on. Also, is a postdoctoral required to work in research or does it just help.
BSc -> (MSc in Europe ->) PhD -> Postdoc(s) -> something on the way to a permanent position -> permanent position is the path.

Theoretical particle physics can mean a lot of different things. Some people use pen and paper to derive new mathematics, some work on new tools to calculate things with computers, some predict what experiments should see if model X is true, some work on interpreting experimental results to help the theories, ...
In most cases you program stuff. If that means "I create code others will use for years afterwards" or "I hack together something now because I'm interested in the result" depends on the position.
Checkout the CERN LHC videos and you'll see that depending on the job:
- calibrating your equipment ie taking measurements and verifying that the things are within spec
- analyzing track data
- analyzing software in case you find something that doesn't look right
This is experimental particle physics.
 

Vanadium 50

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Education Advisor
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If that means "I create code others will use for years afterwards" or "I hack together something now because I'm interested in the result" depends on the position.
Sometimes it means ""I hack together something now never intending it to be used later, but it ends up being something others use for years afterwards"
 
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StatGuy2000

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I tend to encourage people to spend 1 summer doing an REU and 1 summer doing an internship. I find that this really helps define if you actually like "research" or the "idea of doing search". I've had a few undergraduates who had full intention of becoming researcher in something, but during the course of the internship done at my firm, discovered they really like solving problems -- regardless of the problem, as long as it involved math. I've had others who despite doing well in the internship, really only got excited about physics/math/chemistry. It's hard to tell what you would be until you give both a try.

As for your question, we can't tell you what to major or minor in. If possible double major, if not, then stick with physics since if your goal is to go to grad school for it, it's better to adsorb yourself into it. Either way, cs/physics would both require advance degrees if you plan to work on "interesting" problems (ie not being a QA coder or software developer but rather a person implementing low latency code or highly complicated models).

Lastly, currently in my firm, we have about 10 former PhD who did research in particle physics. Their pay is somewhere between 250k-500k + bonuses which can be around 100k - 1m depending on performance of their strategy.* We also get about a few thousand applicants for our few job openings per year. I mention this to say that even if you did theoretical physics and failed to get a job doing so, you can still do well if you're willing to reinvent yourself.
*They also tend to work from 8am to 10pm so mileage varies on how long we're able to keep them.
@MarneMath , you mention that in your firm you have former PhDs in physics (and I presume other cognate fields like math, applied math, statistics, operations research, etc.) who earn between 250k-500k + bonuses while working 8AM-10PM.

Are those the typical working hours for those with PhD-level expertise in general, or do these only represent the extreme end earning the 250k-500k? I'm asking because I presume that there may be a wider circle of employees with the same level of expertise who earn a more modest but still high income (say, around 100-150k per year) who work far more reasonable hours (say, from 8AM-5PM) so that they can actually get to enjoy their earnings or who can maintain more of a work-life balance.
 

MarneMath

Education Advisor
546
197
@MarneMath , you mention that in your firm you have former PhDs in physics (and I presume other cognate fields like math, applied math, statistics, operations research, etc.) who earn between 250k-500k + bonuses while working 8AM-10PM.

Are those the typical working hours for those with PhD-level expertise in general, or do these only represent the extreme end earning the 250k-500k? I'm asking because I presume that there may be a wider circle of employees with the same level of expertise who earn a more modest but still high income (say, around 100-150k per year) who work far more reasonable hours (say, from 8AM-5PM) so that they can actually get to enjoy their earnings or who can maintain more of a work-life balance.
I've worked most of my career in financial services to some degree or another, so I can't speak for many sectors. I did for a few years worked as a Senior Data Scientist for a large telecom. Hours there were generally more traditional and the pay range was from 100k-180k + pus 10%-20% bonus depending on experience and performance. I have no doubt that there exist myriad of well paying jobs for talented individuals that offer incredible work life balance.

I'll also state that long work hours for initial PhD is common, not because the work requires it, but because there is a huge learning curve. Coupled with the fact that most things are time sensitive, and that your payout (aka lifestyle) depends mostly on your bonus, there's a huge incentive to work and hit the deadlines. After you've been doing this as long as I have, the hours become reasonable. I don't check into the office until 7:30 and leave at 5:30 (also my commute is 5 minutes :)). Getting there though took years of brutal hours and creating pitch books.

I'll also say that I find that a lot of PhD's enjoy the work -- at least if they are on the FTO side. It's tangible, requires a lot of research, independent thought but also collaborative in nature. The people I find who hate their job are the ones who are smart but end up doing model back testing, critiques, or documentations. Aspects of the job that are important but also can be soul-sucking (it's how I started my career).
 

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