Apply for a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics?

  • #1
I did research on theoretical formulations in general relativity during my MSc studies. I look forward to pursuing PhD and have searched many universities and some research institutes for suitable research themes, but haven't found many research groups undertaking research consistent with my research interest.

I first searched for groups in themes closely related to my MSc research, namely theoretical formulations in general relativity and other closely related classical gravity theories, but I didn't have much harvest. So I tried to broaden the horizon of my knowledge in order to extend the scope of potential themes for my PhD research. In the beginning, the themes I extended to were still confined to the ones in classical gravity theory and I did find some groups in themes interesting me. However, I still didn't find an adequately big number of groups in these themes, and the principal investigators in these groups don't have PhD positions to offer or don't reply me after I contact them. Then I continued extending the scope of potential themes to quantum gravity theory and quantum field theory and have applied for several PhD programs in these fields which called for applications. Nonetheless, I still only find a small number of PhD programs of this kind. I find most research groups with research themes consisting with my research interest seem to have never had open PhD position announcement at least during the period from when I found them to now. One or two groups among them even definitely state in their website that they have not had further open PhD positions since their latest PhD student graduated in 2012. Thus I am worried that I can't further find adequately many research groups in my research interest to apply for PhD positions.

Recently I saw an open PhD position announcement in a group of theoretical condensed matter physics, with the research theme of the position being developing nonperturbative methods for in- and out-of-equilibrium systems in low dimensions, particularly quantum magnetism, cold atoms and nanoscale solid-state systems, with the focus on integrable models. I find this theme seems to interest me for it shares some feature of those interesting themes in gravity theory and quantum field theory in that it has considerable contents of interesting analytical components, some of which may even employ techniques I have learnt from gravity theory and quantum field theory. Therefore I am considering whether to apply for this position and then further apply for other open positions in theoretical condensed matter physics in case I see them. The reason countering my application is that I am still far more interested in gravity theory and quantum field theory than theoretical condensed matter physics and hope to continue to work on them after completing my PhD studies though I may want to digress occasionally to research on interesting topics in theoretical condensed matter physics in case I find them. In addition, I may consider applying for temporary positions in theoretical condensed matter physics in case I can't quickly get a position in gravity theory and quantum field theory. However, I consider PhD fields should be treated as a credential rather than a temporary expedient job, so if I get a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics, I may not be able to be accepted to a position in gravity theory and quantum field theory again. In contrast, the reason prompting my application is that having a position in a field in which I have some real interest is better than either having no position or getting a position in a field not much of my interest but just for earning money; I have not found many research groups in gravity theory and quantum field theory with research themes in my research interest despite much search and am not sure how many further I can find. So what are your opinions as to whether I should apply for this position with upcoming deadline and further apply for other positions in theoretical condensed matter physics?

P.S. The universities and research institutes where I search for suitable research groups are mainly in Europe.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
132
4
I did research on theoretical formulations in general relativity during my MSc studies. I look forward to pursuing PhD and have searched many universities and some research institutes for suitable research themes, but haven't found many research groups undertaking research consistent with my research interest.

I first searched for groups in themes closely related to my MSc research, namely theoretical formulations in general relativity and other closely related classical gravity theories, but I didn't have much harvest. So I tried to broaden the horizon of my knowledge in order to extend the scope of potential themes for my PhD research. In the beginning, the themes I extended to were still confined to the ones in classical gravity theory and I did find some groups in themes interesting me. However, I still didn't find an adequately big number of groups in these themes, and the principal investigators in these groups don't have PhD positions to offer or don't reply me after I contact them. Then I continued extending the scope of potential themes to quantum gravity theory and quantum field theory and have applied for several PhD programs in these fields which called for applications. Nonetheless, I still only find a small number of PhD programs of this kind. I find most research groups with research themes consisting with my research interest seem to have never had open PhD position announcement at least during the period from when I found them to now. One or two groups among them even definitely state in their website that they have not had further open PhD positions since their latest PhD student graduated in 2012. Thus I am worried that I can't further find adequately many research groups in my research interest to apply for PhD positions.

Recently I saw an open PhD position announcement in a group of theoretical condensed matter physics, with the research theme of the position being developing nonperturbative methods for in- and out-of-equilibrium systems in low dimensions, particularly quantum magnetism, cold atoms and nanoscale solid-state systems, with the focus on integrable models. I find this theme seems to interest me for it shares some feature of those interesting themes in gravity theory and quantum field theory in that it has considerable contents of interesting analytical components, some of which may even employ techniques I have learnt from gravity theory and quantum field theory. Therefore I am considering whether to apply for this position and then further apply for other open positions in theoretical condensed matter physics in case I see them. The reason countering my application is that I am still far more interested in gravity theory and quantum field theory than theoretical condensed matter physics and hope to continue to work on them after completing my PhD studies though I may want to digress occasionally to research on interesting topics in theoretical condensed matter physics in case I find them. In addition, I may consider applying for temporary positions in theoretical condensed matter physics in case I can't quickly get a position in gravity theory and quantum field theory. However, I consider PhD fields should be treated as a credential rather than a temporary expedient job, so if I get a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics, I may not be able to be accepted to a position in gravity theory and quantum field theory again. In contrast, the reason prompting my application is that having a position in a field in which I have some real interest is better than either having no position or getting a position in a field not much of my interest but just for earning money; I have not found many research groups in gravity theory and quantum field theory with research themes in my research interest despite much search and am not sure how many further I can find. So what are your opinions as to whether I should apply for this position with upcoming deadline and further apply for other positions in theoretical condensed matter physics?

P.S. The universities and research institutes where I search for suitable research groups are mainly in Europe.
I'm in a similar situation as yours, I'd also like to hear some advice from people in this forum.
 
  • #3
107
35
The most obvious answer is probably that a very small community does research on gravity whereas a very large one researches condensed matter. Condensed matter gets the funding. Even though most of it goes to the experimentalists, theoreticians also get their fair share. I know, gravity is sexy. But it is also relatively useless and there's more competition.
 
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