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Becoming A Professor

  1. Sep 25, 2009 #1
    Ok, im currently in school in Queesnland, Australia and I want to become a Professor in the field of Cosmology/Quantum Gravity (theoretical not experimental physics). Now what I want to know is would I have to do my undergraduate/postgraduate studies overseas in the states or Europe to be sucessful in the field. I'm just wondering this because I've never heard of any major research in physics being done in Australia, all of the breakthroughs or famous physicts are from Europe or USA.

    And if i do have to move overseas, how hard is it as an international student to get accepted and what sort of costs would i be looking at for the degrees.

    I'd always wanted to eventually move to an overseas university to work because of the respectability gained in top notch universities, but I don't know if coming from a University in Australia would cause me to be seen as not as good as people trained in Universities in the country I want a job in.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2009 #2

    Gib Z

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    I want a similar career path and from what I've gathered, its fine to go to the local university for undergraduate, and perform extremely well there and you should be able to get a scholarship or at least get into a decent American or European University for postgrad. Its not "required" but "the fashion" as I've been told to have at least the postgrad in a good american or european university if you are going into academia. Out of 200 applicants for Maths at Harvard only 12 are accepted in postgrad (according to their website), so expect a similar difficultly for the other prestigious universities. Those 200 applicants aren't the normal people you are used to competing against, they're the best of their undergrad universities.

    You probably have to take into account for me my local university is Sydney University, which is internationally ranked decently, which I'm not sure about your local ones.

    I can't remember which, but either undergrad or postgrad at Harvard is about 50K american dollars a year, although many many scholarships are given to students with proven financial difficulties. On top of that, some of the fee's are paid back by teaching at the uni, so with some parental support the costs should be feasible.
  4. Sep 25, 2009 #3
    My local University would be the University of Queensland, which is where i would go if I did stay in Australia.

    If i did go overseas Id like to go to Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, The new York Uni with Michael Kaku or Brian Greene, or any Uni that has a good physics program.
  5. Sep 25, 2009 #4


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    If I were you, unless you're incredibly wealthy, I'd stay in Australia, at least for your undergrad.
  6. Sep 25, 2009 #5

    Gib Z

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    cristo, do you have more accurate details about how much Postgraduate courses at those universities cost?
  7. Sep 25, 2009 #6


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    I can tell you a bit about the UK. In general, tuition fees for non-EU students are around £10-12k a year; including college fees in Oxford and Cambridge this is probably about £15-17k. This doesn't include accommodation or living costs.

    The main source of funding for home (i.e. EU) students are the research councils but, unfortunately, international students are not eligible for these, and so only qualify for the (fewer in number) university/college grants, which I don't know too much about and, besides, differ vastly between universities. In the UK there is no such thing as a TA position that waives your tuition fees: all postgrad teaching is done either on top of studentship support, or else is done to obtain some kind of income for those without studentships.

    By the way, tuition fees in the UK are the same for undergrad as postgrad, hence my comment that it would be a lot less expensive for the OP to stay in Australia.
  8. Sep 25, 2009 #7
    I wish I was actually in physics, rather than mathematics, so I could answer your questions with specific names of Australian physicists who did both their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Australia. Unfortunately I am not, but I could think of one off the top of my head - that is Murray Batchelor - but I'm sure there are many. There are also good physicists who have moved here from overseas. (Again, I could start naming names, but again - I'm not really a physicist so it would based on the few I just happen to have encountered.) I thought UQ had a very good mathematical physics department at least? So surely their physics can't be so bad? And if you feel the need for extra challenge, I think a lot of universities have an advanced stream, or you could do a vacation scholarship (usually not until third year). I've heard that ANU has a special research-focussed bachelors program, but I don't know much about it.

    If you work hard at your undergraduate degree and get a very good first class honours and good references, then you should be able to make a solid application for funding at an overseas university, although for the universities you have in mind this is of course extremely competitive.

    But I think you can still forge out a good career with an Australian PhD. I think you have to work hard to do this no matter where you did your PhD, and the Australian PhD does have some enviable aspects - e.g., you can get a good scholarship and have lots of free time for concentrating on your research because teaching is usually an optional thing for which _you get paid extra_. It's always nice to go overseas at some time though, so you can be close to where most people are.

    It's interesting that both of the physicists you mention are well-known popularizers of physics. This suggests that there are perhaps many first-rate physicists that you don't know about yet.
  9. Sep 25, 2009 #8
    Tiger you bring up good points and yer there are all the benefits of the excellent HECS and scholarship options in australia. I had a look at a list of Physicists and found a few Australian physicists other than the one you mentioned.
    Main one I found was William Lawrence Bragg-Nobel Prize laureate in Physics
    the rest of them are here

    This gives me a hope of being able to stay in Australia but still pursue a career in the area I love.
  10. Sep 25, 2009 #9
    germany would be a good option. http://www.aei.mpg.de/english/imprs/imprsI1/ [Broken]

    i think the cost per month is around 800-1000 euro depending on your lifestyle. that includes accommodation.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Sep 25, 2009 #10
    You should try to apply to Technische Universität München (TUM; http://portal.mytum.de/fakultaeten/index_html_en). Its Physics Dept. is ranked no. 1 in Germany; I believe that tells you something considering the history of physics there.

    I just graduated from TUM, and from my experience I can tell you that you will learn a lot! Basically, everything will be up to you - so your responsibility would be to get in touch with profs. and researchers in the field you are interested in...The tuition fees - or contribution - is currently around 550 euros per semester. Check this out for scholarships: www.daad.de
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Sep 25, 2009 #11
    That would be an excellent option as well. They were recently awarded cluster of excellence "origins and structure of universe".
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