Careers in Physics for Equation-Writing Problem-Solvers

In summary, the speaker is an undergraduate student with a double-major in physics and mathematics. They enjoy physics for its problem-solving and logical thinking, as well as its use of mathematics. They have recently started undergraduate research, but do not enjoy it due to its heavy reliance on computer science. They are looking for career paths that involve writing and solving equations by hand and discussing physics concepts, but are struggling to find options outside of academia. They also mention a preference for classical physics and a potential interest in laboratory or experimental work.
  • #1
eternalphysics
1
0
I am an undergrad physics and mathematics double-major. I really enjoy physics for the problem-solving and logical thinking involved in it, and its use of heavy mathematics. Recently, I've gotten into undergrad research but I am not liking it at all, for it is extremely computer-science based and I am always lost. I have never been a fan of computer science and I barely got an A in my compsci-based physics class.

I really enjoy cranking out equations on a white board or pen&paper (like how students do homework). The only jobs that I can think of that involve this: College Professor (difficult to become), High-school Teacher (low pay). Are there any other career paths that involve my particular interests and work styles?

As a side note, I mainly enjoy classical physics with macroscopic objects more than quantum or small-object physics (although this is more prominent). This is another struggle I have in finding interesting career paths.

The bottom line: I don't like the research I'm involved with because of how computer-science based it is. I would like a job that functions more with writing out and solving equations by hand and discussing physics concepts. Thank you for any help.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
eternalphysics said:
The only jobs that I can think of that involve this: College Professor (difficult to become), High-school Teacher (low pay). Are there any other career paths that involve my particular interests and work styles?
Those are the only ones I can think of either. Any industry that would want to hire you would need you to use computers.
 
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz
  • #3
Greetings,
eternalphysics said:
I really enjoy cranking out equations on a white board or pen&paper (like how students do homework). The only jobs that I can think of that involve this: College Professor (difficult to become), High-school Teacher (low pay). Are there any other career paths that involve my particular interests and work styles?
I find it naive, even romantic, to think that a university or college professor spends most, or even much of their time "cranking out equations" or discussing physics. You lack the experience to realize that much of a professor's efforts are taken up by the pursuit of funding, the dreaded faculty meetings, teaching and assisting or advising students.

I do certainly understand your desire for such a career, I just feel obligated to express my opinion that such a career is extraordinarily rare. I dare say you are almost limiting yourself to a permanent post at the Institute for Advanced Studies or a similar institution.

That said, you have profited from your research experience if only to become aware that you do not want to pursue computer related research. Obviously I have assumed that had you known that before you embarked on that research you would not have done so.

Keep an open mind, talk to your colleagues and your professors about your interests and aspirations. And best of good fortunes in your endeavors.ES
 
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz
  • #4
eternalphysics said:
I would like a job that functions more with writing out and solving equations by hand and discussing physics concepts.
I hate to tell you this, but in this day and age, a job like what you describe simply does not exist outside of academia.

If you state that you do not like computer-based research because you are having difficulty with the courses you have taken, I would suggest you be patient and take more computer science courses -- there are many fundamental ideas in that field that intersects with both mathematics and physics than you may be aware of.
 
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz
  • #5
StatGuy2000 said:
a job like what you describe simply does not exist outside of academia.
Not really inside either.
Especially for classical physics.
 
  • Like
Likes Locrian
  • #6
Vanadium 50 said:
Not really inside either.
Especially for classical physics.
Fair enough. I recognize that much of physics research in academia involve the use of simulations, among other uses of computing.
 
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz
  • #7
Not much call for finding new versions of "the polehode rolls without slipping on the herpolhode lying in the invariable plane."
 
  • Like
Likes hutchphd
  • #8
eternalphysics said:
The bottom line: I don't like the research I'm involved with because of how computer-science based it is. I would like a job that functions more with writing out and solving equations by hand and discussing physics concepts. Thank you for any help.
You haven't mentioned laboratory or experimental work at all. Any interest there? If so, a career option with a BS Physics is that of a research assistant in industry/government/university. If not, then a career option that might be more to your liking is that of a private tutor. Once you've established yourself, you can earn good pay if you live near an area with a lot of dumb rich kids (and, if online sessions remain acceptable post-pandemic, you don't even need to live near the dumb rich kids).
 
  • #9
eternalphysics said:
I am an undergrad physics and mathematics double-major. I really enjoy physics for the problem-solving and logical thinking involved in it, and its use of heavy mathematics. Recently, I've gotten into undergrad research but I am not liking it at all, for it is extremely computer-science based and I am always lost. I have never been a fan of computer science and I barely got an A in my compsci-based physics class.

I really enjoy cranking out equations on a white board or pen&paper (like how students do homework). The only jobs that I can think of that involve this: College Professor (difficult to become), High-school Teacher (low pay). Are there any other career paths that involve my particular interests and work styles?
That is all I have read so far, from this topic and any posts.

Computer Science and computer technology have been finding ways into education, the Sciences, and technology, and much of business for the last thirty or more years. Your earning of less than an A may mean, you may benefit from more Computer Science & Engineering courses. Maybe you could benefit from some computer applications courses. You may find that handling equation steps with pen & paper is part of the process toward computerizing what you find on paper with pen/or pencil.

Something not so clear from the part of your post I quoted is, do your courses require USING APPLICATIONS, or do your courses require using custom programs which a grad student or the professor wrote, or do your courses require you to create or write software programs/code?
 
  • #10
eternalphysics said:
As a side note, I mainly enjoy classical physics with macroscopic objects more than quantum or small-object physics (although this is more prominent). This is another struggle I have in finding interesting career paths.
THAT is understandable!
 
  • #11
eternalphysics said:
The bottom line: I don't like the research I'm involved with because of how computer-science based it is. I would like a job that functions more with writing out and solving equations by hand and discussing physics concepts. Thank you for any help.
...And you may by slim chance, find such a job, and you may find the people you work with and who manage the company are extremely unadvanced, and your pay is low, and maybe you are over-worked.
 
  • #12
Particle physics involves pen and paper calculations. I knew someone who was a PhD student in particle physics whose research was in how quarks are modeled in the nucleon. She was doing pure pen and paper theory. She also managed to find a job after completing her PhD.

So, you will most likely find what you are looking for in theoretical physics. Any kind of experimental physics will involve instrumentation, taking measurements and analyzing data. Theoretical physics may involve computer modeling and simulations, but there are some who do it with pen and paper. You got to be smart to be a pen and paper guy, though.

I also didn't like my research, which was instrumentation, but enjoyed the computer science stuff more. Instrumentation can be more hands on though and involve building hardware components instead of software. I was in a machine shop cutting metal with a milling machine to make instrument parts LOL.

I think we all enjoyed learning physics for physics sake with a pen and paper. I know of one professor at my school who was doing such research. Although, I think MATLAB was used from time to time.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21, eternalphysics and Delta2
  • #13
Any pure theory academic job will involve what you claim to enjoy: pen and pencil work and thinking. However some numerics is always good to learn but not difficult. Ares with heavy math theory research include: signal processing, digital communication theory, machine learning/statistical inference theory, math theory, physics theory (HEP, strings, ...).

One thing I realized, especially in theoretical physics, is that unlike most undergraduate problems/homework, most of theory research is spent looking for the right problem than solving it. 90% of the work is finding the question, 10% is working out the answer. A lot of math whiz in undergrads hated that part of theory research in HEP and quit to do something with faster rewards (software etc...). Some people, including me, enjoy the process of looking for the question and being confused so I enjoyed theory work.

When I was doing theory research, a lot of time was spent collaborating/debating to hash out confusion. The days of solving problems alone are pretty much gone. About 50-100% of the work was pencil & paper, and varied project by project. Most grad students in HEP only use mathematica/matlab and solve simple PDE's/analytical manipulation on them.

The moment your primary job is not theory anymore (which is 90% of the jobs out there), this model of work is no longer true. Even most R&D I know in engineering spend 80%-90% of their time coding or debugging code.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21
  • #14
What about to work at patent office? Or someone that review articles sent to magazines? Maybe someone can talk more about these works, it is interesting to me too.
 
  • Like
Likes hutchphd
  • #15
LCSphysicist said:
What about to work at patent office? Or someone that review articles sent to magazines? Maybe someone can talk more about these works, it is interesting to me too.
There is a substantial difference between (a) solving problems on your own and (b) examining or reviewing how other people solved problems.
 
  • #16
The range of "doing physics" is far larger than solving equations on paper. The ability to think like a physicist is important in almost any endeavor. Like every young physicist I assumed I would ensconce myself firmly in the ivory tower and think new and interesting thoughts to the amusement and amazement of all. Given the opportunity I quickly discovered two things:
  1. I did not, on demand, produce new and interesting thoughts.
  2. I was bored silly by process leading inevitably to (1)
Happily I eventually found my way into various Research and Development positions where having a broad understanding of systems made me a very valuable asset. I love doing creative design. I really love doing design reviews and know enough to spot bad design pretty quickly in a host of specific disciplines. I like solving production engineering problems.

Any computing beyond a spreadsheet was the domain of someone further down the foodchain (always charge enough for your services and this will be true) although I did often design the algorithm. I clearly had no idea where me and my PhD in physics would end up. It is most important to enjoy what you do and learn to do it well.
 
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21, Astronuc and gmax137
  • #17
eternalphysics said:
I really enjoy cranking out equations on a white board...
My job title never stopped me from doing this at any office with a whiteboard. The number of people at work who appreciate this may surprise you.
 
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21, robphy and symbolipoint
  • #18
LCSphysicist said:
What about to work at patent office? Or someone that review articles sent to magazines? Maybe someone can talk more about these works, it is interesting to me too.

Articles are nearly always reviewed by "peers", i.e. other scientists.
Journals do have editors (who may or may not get paid depending on the journal) who act as "gate keepers" and send out the articles they think might be relevant to the reviewers.
Anyway, the point is that the 2nd of those is not an actual (paying) job.
 
  • #19
f95toli said:
Articles are nearly always reviewed by "peers", i.e. other scientists.
Journals do have editors (who may or may not get paid depending on the journal) who act as "gate keepers" and send out the articles they think might be relevant to the reviewers.
Anyway, the point is that the 2nd of those is not an actual (paying) job.
Yes - 'Peer review' is voluntary. I do know some professors who are editors of specific journals in their areas of expertise/practice. I don't know if they receive compensation. I've usually been contacted by journal editors and invited to review journal articles or conference papers, some times through a scientific or technical society, but it was strictly voluntary.

Professionally, I've used whiteboard, usually during discussions with colleagues, or engineering paper to scribble out equations, from which I or someone else would write a program in FORTRAN, or C++, or these days, probably Python, or a combination. We would then write a driver program with the appropriate inputs and outputs, run the code on test cases, and see if it gave us a 'correct' answer consistent with some kind of measurement. Then we'd place the module into a more complex modeling/simulation code.

Computational multiphysics is a major area of effort these days. One does not need to know programming, but certainly programming is an important part of a skill set.
 
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21

Related to Careers in Physics for Equation-Writing Problem-Solvers

1. What kind of careers can I pursue with a background in physics and equation-writing?

There are many career options available for individuals with a strong foundation in physics and equation-writing. Some common career paths include research, engineering, data analysis, teaching, and technical writing. Many industries such as aerospace, energy, healthcare, and technology also require professionals with a physics background.

2. What skills are important for success in a career as a physics equation-writer?

To be successful in a career as a physics equation-writer, it is important to have a strong understanding of mathematical concepts and problem-solving skills. Attention to detail, critical thinking, and analytical skills are also crucial. Additionally, excellent communication skills and the ability to work in a team are important for effectively communicating complex equations and collaborating on projects.

3. What educational background is needed for a career in physics and equation-writing?

Most careers in physics and equation-writing require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in physics or a related field such as engineering or mathematics. Depending on the specific job and industry, a master's or doctoral degree may be preferred. It is also important to have a strong background in mathematics and computer programming.

4. What is the job outlook for careers in physics and equation-writing?

The job outlook for careers in physics and equation-writing is positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physicists and astronomers is projected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. As technology continues to advance, there will be a demand for professionals who can understand and solve complex equations.

5. Are there any resources available for individuals interested in pursuing a career in physics and equation-writing?

Yes, there are many resources available for individuals interested in careers in physics and equation-writing. Some helpful resources include professional organizations like the American Physical Society, online job boards, and networking events. Additionally, many universities and colleges offer career services for students and alumni, which can provide valuable guidance and resources for finding job opportunities in this field.

Similar threads

  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
11
Views
1K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
2
Views
677
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • STEM Career Guidance
2
Replies
62
Views
4K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
10
Views
1K
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
33
Views
2K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
21
Views
1K
Back
Top