1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Another Late in Life Physics thread

  1. Apr 19, 2010 #1
    Another "Late in Life Physics" thread

    I should really say "Really really late-in-life"

    I'm 56. About 20 years ago, I flushed myself out of grad school (physics) largely over just being fed-up. Lately I've been reading again because of the huge number of very good books immediately available (I've posted a few questions in this forum, too) and I'm feeling like I very much want to go back into grad school (same school, WPI). My reason is that although I am reading some heavy-duty work (QFT and gravitation now), my reading is without real structure and I need some discourse and advice (as from an adviser) to get to a state where what I know is relevant and I'll have the ability to read and write in some field of interest.

    My goals aren't monetary but more to be able to contribute (by teaching and writing) when I'm no longer employable by industry.

    Is this a reasonable thing to do or am I absolutely delusional? Does anybody get a PhD when they're in their 60's (of course I know it's possible - has anybody done this or witnessed this?)

    What I'm ultimately looking for is opinions, advice, if there are alternative plans or viewpoints to help me flesh out mine

    thanks - Mark
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2010 #2
    Re: Another "Late in Life Physics" thread

    Mark -

    hang in there, bud. I'm 57 and doing the same thing. My degree was in biology, and for the past year, I've been going back to a local CC in their physics program. I can retire in another 3 years, and am hoping to be at a point where I can do PhD work in Physics and/or math full time then. Like you, its not for the money; I would be perfectly happy to teach and research. Mainly, its because I think the study is fascinating, and still believe that even in my dotage, I still have something to contribute. Follow your dreams . . . John
  4. Apr 20, 2010 #3
    Re: Another "Late in Life Physics" thread

    Hi John - Thanks for the reply. This is the second time I've done this so maybe I can tell yho something about how I did it the first time and maybe it can help you out.

    When I went the first time (and the same thing I'll do now), I was able to work and do the coursework part-time. I took the GREs (which will be a requirement, I think) and then started the coursework. It took 3 years to do about 30 hours, but other than being spread-out (which doesn't help studying for the comps) it got it out of the way and I was working on starting my dissertation. The point of this is that I didn't have to think about going full-time if I was willing to spread it out.

    This is what I'll try to do this time, too. I still have a family at home so leaving my job isn't an option right now.

    again, thanks for the reply - Mark
  5. Nov 18, 2010 #4
    Re: Another "Late in Life Physics" thread

    Pardon the "thread archeology." We forum newcomers often must engage in this sort of thing. Though this thread isn't that old yet. I didn't realize that this was a common topic here until I saw the word "another." Hope you don't mind me sharing my experience a little.

    I'm 34 and pursuing my first degree, in mathematics, to supplement my physics "hobby" and to potentially pursue grad work in either physics or mathematics. I don't feel "old" per se, but I do feel "late." I started a blog (http://latebloomersingularity.blogspot.com/ [Broken]) about this. I'm usually not a fan of blogs and never intended to write one, but I kind of wanted to put the "experiment" out there. I'm trying to not make it too biographical or diary-like.

    I have previous college credits towards my music technology degree, which I never finished, and I'm on my third university. (Community college first, small private college, now the University of South Florida). So it's a little bit of a mess I'm trying to clean up. I chose mathematics because I'm interested in pretty much everything. One day the realization dawned on me that the study of mathematics is the study of everything - so there you go. That includes physics of course.

    I'm intent on not wasting time with this degree and hope to have it done in a couple of years. Right now I'm privately working on pre-calculus before I start officially in January.

    I have felt a *little* old visiting the campus. I met with my academic advisor last month and I think he was younger than me. USF is also quite large comparable to my other colleges. I look about 10 years younger, so I can play the part and perhaps I will appear to be some sort of whiz kid who is ahead of his time. This time I know what I want with this degree and I have a passion for math and physics, and a kind of solidity and determination I didn't have the first time around. I also have a supportive wife now who is working and allowing me to study full time, which is really, really amazing.

    Can anybody comment on how common the math undergraduate/physics graduate path is? I have numerous reasons for wanting to concentrate on mathematics at the moment, though not to the total exclusion of physics studies.

    BTW, my career background is in computers, mainly networking and tech support, with some programming knowledge (I used to program more as a hobby, and can pick it back up quite easily as I am very intuitive with technology.) I'm hoping to leverage this experience into my math and physics interests - perhaps computational physics. Any insight on that would be appreciated.

    -Dave KA
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Nov 18, 2010 #5
    Re: Another "Late in Life Physics" thread


    I have finished bachelors degrees in math [physics track] and physics. I'm afraid you'd have trouble going from a math [math track] degree into physics graduate work. Granted, I have not gone to graduate school. Your differential equations class would go a long way for physics classes, you won't have all the tools you'll need I'd imagine.
  7. Nov 22, 2010 #6
    Re: Another "Late in Life Physics" thread

    My understanding is that it's not so much about the degree as the courses, together with one's understanding of the topic, research experience, GRE, etc. So Though I'm primarily focusing on mathematics, I will also be taking physics courses along the way and getting involved in research as soon as possible.

    I'm not avoiding physics so much as trying to focus my energies in a particular direction at the present time, as I tend to get scattered when I do too much at once. I may even stay with mathematics - but we'll see how that goes. However I'd still like to hear some other opinions on this track. If it's really a bad idea I'll consider double majoring. One thing I'm concerned about is whether the research opportunities, internships, etc. will be more difficult to get if I do not specifically declare a physics major.

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook