Physics Careers in Quantum Physics

  1. Guys, i have planned time after time to go to college for Quantum Physics and i'm in my senior year of high school, so i have to start thinking really hard now. i recently got an invitation to a reception for MIT (the reception is in Atlanta Georgia for me) and i don't know if i'll go or not because it's so far away from me.

    First before i make any type of decision at all i need to know what kind of career quantum physics will allow for me and how much of an income i can get. i've tried internet researches but have come up empty handed. let me describe the kind of work i already do and purely enjoy:

    I love to theorize and to pick through problems. i'm not so interested in Earth or even the basic cosmos, but what i'm more interested in is the universe itself, the basic laws of the universe, how "IT" works and what more is hidden back there. that's the kind of work i'm into right now and wish to continue doing.

    any help?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. does anyone have an answer?
     
  4. Hello? Anyone?
     
  5. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,986
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    Don't you think you are trying to decide WAY too early?

    There is, technically, no such thing as "majoring in quantum physics". This is because quantum physics is a required knowledge for all physicists. It is used in practically all areas of physics.

    In any case, I think you are making a decision WAY too early, before you have all the needed information. Trust me, practically none of us who work in this field end up in an area, or a field, that we "envisioned" when we were that age. Things change, and the job climate changes. If you are already fixated in a particular area before you actually discover other equally, if not MORE facscinating area, then you have already made a decision based on ignorance of what's out there. That is not how you want to start your foot into the high academic world.

    If you have read any part of my essay, you would have realized the most important aspect of trying to be a physicist is flexibility. You jump at an opportunity that is opened, some time in doing something that not quite exactly fits into what you ideally imagined it to be.

    If you have already decided what you want to do at this stage, then you have simply closed off all the other doors that you simply haven't looked into.

    Zz.
     
  6. Your income will be enough to live on. As a grad student you generally get paid a subsistence wage. As a postdoc you can get somewhere between 35-60K US. As a prof in the US you are on around 80-infinity K, USD.

    In the UK pay is a bit lower - go to www.aut.org.uk and look up pay and conditions. Level B academics are postdocs, level C are permanent staff (lecturer level), level D are senior lecturers and level E are professors (in the UK becoming a professor is different and harder to do than in the US...). I am 33, a level C lecturer and get in the mid to high 30's (pounds) per year. That is not a lot of money in London, trust me. And a lot of our students go off to "The City" and start on higher wages than me.

    Personally I dont really care about the money - I took a HUGE paycut to move back to a university after being in the US at Bell Labs. But I am just happy and amazed I get paid to play around with ideas and problems that I love working on. Unless you feel like this its unlikely you'll make it to a permanent position.
     
  7. Well, the reason i have chosen the field i have is because from my massive research, it's the best thing i could choose. i have exactly the skills i need to do it. i'm not interested at all in studying how dirt or planetary anything works, what i care about is how the universe itself works. galaxies and planets, they just, well, they just don't hit me right. evrytime i think of them, they seem obsolete; but when i think of the basic properties of teh universe and problems with it through which it controls planets and galaxies, that gets me going. i theorize very well and write alot on my ideasand do well in finding answers to problems. i enjoy talking with others about my ideas and the ideas of others, but whether or not a planetary rotation is correct, well, taht just doesn't mattr to me, but what would matter would be WHY the planetary rotation isn't correct. is it a gravitational screw-up? is it something to do with the laws of physics? something like that.

    about whether or not i've made my decision too soon, i haven't really made a 'decision' on 'what' i want to do, but have made a decision in the general area. i know it will be somewhere in quantum physics, but what kind of careers can you get with a degree of quantum physics behind your belt?
     
  8. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,986
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    What kind of a "massive research"? Have you looked at the job opening on the AIP webpage? Have you talked to many physicists from diverse backgrounds? Have you looked at all the different divisions under the APS wing and studied what those various disciplines are and what they do?

    But you've already, in the same post, decided in a rather definite way what you want to do and what you don't want to do. I'd say this is already making a decision. On the other hand, saying "it will be somewhere in quantum physics" is vague. You must have not see my post when I said that there really isn't such a thing as a "degree in quantum physics". Every physicist needs quantum physics. This is saying nothing. The application of quantum physics is as diverse as physics itself. You need quantum physics when studying lasers/optics, atomic & molecular physics, condensed matter physics (y'know, the one that produces the electronics that you are using now), to material science and all the way to astrophysics. Quantum physics covers practically ALL of physics.

    I am guessing that you haven't looked at the various disciplines in physics, and even if you do that now, I would hazzard a guess that you will probably not know what exactly is involved in each of those field of studies. This is why I strongly suggested that you do not bother with trying to pick and choose what you "like" and "dislike". At this point, this is a meaningless endeavor. Go to school, get as good of a grade as you can, and along the way, read Physics Today and attend your school's colloquium so that you get as much of an exposure to all the various field of physics that you can.

    Till then, if I were you, I would not consider that I am making a well-informed decision.

    Zz.
     
  9. Okay, i understand all that, but my only question now is, if i get to a university, and have nothing to do, why then would i go to a university and waste my time doing nothing when i can be doing something? at what time should i make this decision? i only have a few months before school is over again and by that time i need to have a good solid decision of what i plan to do, at least a plan to shoot at that has some flexibility, but not too much flexibility that i don't know what i'm going to do and end up wasting good time and money?
     
  10. jtbell

    Staff: Mentor

    When you start at a college or university, you don't cast your academic career in stone at the beginning of freshman year. Plenty of students change their mind about what they want to major in, during the first year or two. Many or most students don't settle on which sub-field of their major they're really interested in, until later in their undergraduate studies, or beginning of graduate school.

    In physics specifically, undergraduate degrees aren't specialized. You don't get a bachelor's degree in "quantum physics" or "relativity" or whatever. It's just a B.S. or B.A in physics. All physics majors have to take the same core courses, which will cover a broader range than just "quantum physics". In your elective courses, you can start to specialize, but you have to take most of the core courses first. While taking the other courses for your major, you may find other cool stuff that you're interested in, and re-evaluate what you really want to do.
     
  11. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,986
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    If you ever get into a university and you find yourself with nothing to do, I want to know which university this is because I would like to report this school to the accredition institutions.

    Zz.
     
  12. Well, i meant that i don't have any specific direction to follow as for my career in college. besides, what i am taking will ultimately define what university i will attend. if i go for computer graphics or Creation Science Evangelism i shure wouldn't be going to MIT for it, but i would be going to a Chrsitian university for Chrsitian studies, or a university that speciallizes in computer graphics. so i'm not even absolutely sure if i'll be taking quantum physics or not. i want to, but money, opportunity, resources, all of that is unknown to me and near out of reach...i'll be lucky if i get into college at all. my grades aren't best in the world, and my family isn't rich, and all of my ideas i come up with are very radical and no scientist in their right mind would listen to me. the only reason i would even attend college is to get to be listened to like a real scientist instead of just pushed out of the way like some little kid who doesn't know what he's talking about when the person pushing me away hasn't even read or even attempted to understand what i'm saying. i mean, the whole idea of science, in the scientific method, is to collect data, observe, and evaluate, not to completely ignore in a closedminded manor.

    not saying that you guys have done that, but it's happened alot, too much for my comfort.
     
  13. hey christiandude, I know exactly how you feel and it is very frustrating, but patience is a virtue. You can be a the next Einstein for all I know but if you dont study the "small stuff" like galaxies and planets, or electron and protons, or socialism and capitalism, then you wont have the tools needed to express your knowledge of the universe. My question to you is, once you understand the universe, how are you going to explain it and prove it to others? Physics? Math? Religion? A theory of everything has to encompass all fields including the ones created by the human mind. So if you are confident in your math, physics, economics and computer science go to the best school you absolutly can, and once your there learn everything you can from whatever interest you the most. There is where you are going to truly shine, at the limit where work meets fun.
     
  14. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,609
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    if you want to study physics, you going to be trained in both classical physics AND quantum physics (and all the ambiguous systems that kind of fit in between and around those two). The first two or three years of your training is going to be the same no matter what branch you choose. You could probably even make it all the way to a Bachelor's degree without having chosen your specialty. Then you'll have a better grasp of the branches of physics, and which ones interest you the most.

    By the time you're a grad student, and you've been watching the physics industry (seeing where the grant money is going, and where the discovery is happening) than you'll have a better idea of the two most important factors for career choosing: money and comfort. You have to enjoy it, and you have to be able to make a living at it. I'd wait a while to make that decision.

    I'm a third year physics major in college. I've kind of decided I want to go into Bose-Einstein Condensates, but I'm still keeping an open ear for what branches are prominent, and will be prominent by the time I graduate.
     
  15. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 29,986
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    I will be very blunt here, so if you don't want to read such things, stop reading now and go on to other messages.

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    We have had PLENTY of people espousing the identical stuff that you've said here. For some odd reason, there is way too much confidence that one is somehow "right" and have something valid to show, while professing one's ignorance of the subject matter. I have never understood this. As a physicist, the MORE I learn about something, the MORE new stuff that I discover that I do not not. It's very humbling. While I do know that I know a lot of stuff, and some of them, I know more than others, I also clearly know the limits of my knowledge and where I will defer to experts in the field. Why? Because I haven't studied it long enough, or deep enough, or extensively enough to (i) know the intricate details and (ii) to know what is already known that such-and-such a field.

    Being an expert in a particular area doesn't just mean knowing what to do. It also means knowing the STATE OF KNOWLEDGE in that very field. This means a lot of reading of various literatures to know who published what when. Somehow, this part of doing physics is totally ignored by those who somehow think they have a valid "idea" of any kind. If you do not have the patience to study the field inside out and to really do research on what has already been published and known, then do not be surprised if someone else also shows no patience in listening to your ideas. The probability of you coming up with something legitimate in a field as complicated as quantum mechanics without spending years of formal studies in it is .... er.... let's say... ZERO. When was the last time this has happened since Quantum Physics was invented? Never! So what are your chances that you have actually done something correct and valid?

    And I do not buy this thing that you have to somehow decide the area of physics now and thus, having to choose a specific school. Practically ALL of the larger universities in the country offer a standard physics major. And that is what you want! You seldom get to specialize in a particular area of physics as an undergraduate! You do a physics major program any accredited school would have. If you're lucky, maybe you'll have some flexibility to choose a particular class in a subject area that you want to go into as a senior. In any case, none of these will force you to decide to go into any particular field of study. It just isn't that necessary in an undergraduate program. It is when you go into graduate school that you choose a particular area of physics. Yes, that means 4 years plus 5-6 years more of doing physics to be a world's expert in a particular area of physics. It isn't a cakewalk!

    Zz.

    P.S. You never did explain to me what kind of "massive research" you've done in my earlier reply.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2006
  16. My massive research consists of alot of interenet and reading searches on new or older discoveries, especially things that are close to my own. i've studied the Holographic universe, The String Theory, Relativity, Quantum Physics, Philadelphia Experiment, Rainbow Project, Montauk Experiment, MOND theory, and other things. none of these things am i an absolute professional at, but i have a rather balanced understanding of them all. alot of them take alot of understanding and just reading to understand in the first place.

    I try to research what i can, things that interest me, things that seem to click with what i'm having difficulty to. My basic mode of thinking is, which seems to go against the very heart of physics, but is something that i absolutely must believe in and cannot give up for anything, is that science is not a finished product, and is far from it. if it were a finished product then we would have the ability to create the universe as perfect as it is by ourselves, and that just hasn't happened. therefore i must assume that, because it is a VERY unfinished product, anything outside of that realm must also be possible and there's no way of really saying it's not. if we try to say now that paranormal powers are not real, then we are really making ourselves look purposefully ignorant to teh universe around us, because, even though we can't test it and find out for sure, we have no way of absolutely saying it's not possible. if there is a possibility to gain the whole information of the universe, then that means thta we can create the universe, how exactly do you assume that will happen? definately not with natural terms, so it must be supernatural terms.

    such a mode of thinking definately gets me in alot of trouble, because, even though i don't believe in something, i still keep it as a possibility. i find it idiotic to just throw away information, no matter how stupid and 'against the laws of physics' it might be, because we don't know enough about these 'laws' to say that it isn't possible, as i said before, if we knew everything we could about these laws and much more, then we could create the universe ourselves, and that hasn't happened yet, so we must assume that anything from this point on is possible.

    makes sense? maybe not, but this is the way i think. i agree with every word you said Zz, and i thank you for it, and i thank everyone else's responses as well, they all help. so, with a basic understanding of physics, and my goal is to reach into the realm of quantum physics, or at least use it mostly as my basis, just what kind of career would match my interests? i would like to at least have a head start and say, well, this is one possible way, and when i get to college, try to head off in the right direction from there.
     
  17. I'm not sure if anyone has asked yet but what mathematics have you studdied in school and in your own time ? Do you enjoy it?
     
  18. leright

    leright 1,224
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    Do you really understand what quantum physics is? Obviously, you will respond by saying you do since you are so certain this is the physics ou want to study, and how can someone who doesn't know what the field is be so certain about this? However, I bet you don't have as clear an understanding of what quantum physics is as you think you have.

    Trust me, there are many facets of physics, and as many others have pointed out, you should learn about all of these facets before deciding on what physics to study.
     
  19. christiandude27,
    You seem like a lost soul, so let me suggest a path for ya.
    1. You get into that MIT school, or whatever colleage you are capable of getting into

    2. As soon as you get to college, meet the physics profs and let them know what you wanna study. Be sure to pick a physics major along the way, please (it should be like picking up a dollar bill on the street for you).

    3. Get into top 10 physics grad school for what you wanna study. There is no other options for this. This is doable (in theory) whatever college you go to.

    4. Study what you wanna study in grad school.

    5. Do a postdoc, if you'd like

    6. Get that tenure-track faculty position at a prestigious school.

    Then you can study the workings of the universe for a living!

    p.s. if you are not sure you can do exactly as above, please think of a plan B.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  20. chroot

    chroot 10,426
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    christian_dude_27,

    I'm also going to be extremely blunt with you, mostly because you keep repeating the basic tenets of your original post, even in the face of many objectors. You may even find what I have to say deeply insulting, so I'll use ZapperZ's tactic of leaving some dots so you can decide for yourself if you want to read my response.
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    To be blunt, you have a bubble that's in desperate need of bursting. The plain, honest truth is that you don't know jack. Reading about string theory on the internet means nothing. Period. String theory requires a deep understanding of subjects on the very forefront of mathematical knowledge -- a deep understanding of the kind of math that professionals have discovered literally sometimes days or months ago. It takes decades to achieve this kind of proficiency.

    These days, there are a great many coffee-table and paperback science popularizations -- it's almost become fashionable for esteemed researchers to write some kind of accessible layman's book every few years. This has had the extremely unforunate side-effect of inspiring legions of "arm-chair" physicists -- people who have no idea how quantum mechanics actually works mathemetically, nor have ever set foot in a laboratory -- yet are comfortable describing themselves as experts on physics at cocktail parties.

    It has gone so far, in fact, that many people seem to think a reading of Hawking's A Brief History of Time is the equivalent of a crash-course in physics. I have communicated with many people who actually believe that studying physics in a university setting basically means sitting around fantasizing with other people about what happens when a spaceship goes through a wormhole! I suspect that you are simply another victim of this kind of delusion.

    You honestly do not know anything about quantum mechanics or string theory yet. In fact, the sort of questions you're asking are only further evidence that you are ignorant. You have only read about quantum mechanics and string theory. In the same fashion, reading about how a violin is played does not make one a virtuoso.

    I know you'd like to fancy yourself as some precocious whiz kid who's going to turn the entire scientific world on its ear, but, honestly, you don't have the foggiest idea of what you're talking about yet. If you succeed in getting into a university to study physics, you will quickly discover two things: 1) you don't even know 1% of what you thought you knew and 2) you will not be turning science on its ear anytime soon.

    I'm sorry, but them's the shakes. People much, much smarter than either you or I have been doing this physics stuff for hundreds of years. You need to learn to accept the limitations of your own knowledge, and ability. Desire alone is not enough to accomplish anything in this world.

    Of course it's not finished! If it were, why would we be building machines to do experiments? Why would scientists have jobs?

    There are an infinite number of such "might be true" theories. I can make up a dozen of them in a minute. The Earth is pushed around the Sun by angels... quarks are composed of tiny pink elephants dancing... etc. If a theory cannot be disproven, then it is of no use to science.

    It has been said a dozen times now, yet you continue to ignore it: you aren't in a position to choose a career path yet. It'd be like choosing to study the violin or the piano, without ever having seen nor touched nor heard either -- a pointless waste of time, at best.

    Get into a university. Study physics. See where it takes you.

    - Warren
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
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