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CMT vs HEP-PH research

  1. Apr 21, 2015 #1
    I want to do hep-th in grad school (like everyone else!). My school doesn't have anyone working in formal hep-th, so I need to take a roundabout track in research (I've been working in cosmology recently). I have two options:

    work with a well-known prof in CMT (very mathematical)
    work with a less known prof in hep-ph (blending experiment and theory)

    which seems better suited if I'm aiming for hep-th in grad school? The math that I'd get in the CMT research would be nice, but the hep-ph research might be a little more topical. Any thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2015 #2
    What year are you? Can you produce something substantial, like a publication, before you graduate?

    Also why are you interested in a field which has substantially less good data to play with than many other interesting fields, from condensed matter to biophysics to astrophysics? Good physicists seem to be people who like to model quality data, not people who are driven by philosophical positions.
  4. Apr 21, 2015 #3
    I'm finishing my second year. I've written a paper in astrophysics / cosmology type stuff, and getting a paper out with the hep-ph professor seems like a reasonable expectation. Not sure about the CMT guy though.

    I'm interested in hep-th because I really like pure math, and want to be able to apply the algebraic / differential geometry I've been learning to physics. I totally agree that there's more "going on" in other areas of physics (i.e. astro) in terms of experimental progress and science being done. Ideally, I'd be interested in another field. But hey, nothing to be done.
  5. Apr 21, 2015 #4
    Well this thread is specifically about what sort of research will help you most with graduate school, so to stay on topic I will say the following: absolutely work with the experimentalist/phenomenologist in hep-ph, not because it will help you more in getting to do hep theory, but because it will provide you with perspective you really need.

    As a disclaimer I was a huge hep-ph fan, but then became completely disillusioned with the subject after working in an experimental hep lab, discovering that theorists are utterly impotent without good data (and they have no good data in hep th), and working in a biophysics lab and discovering that there is little difference between doing numerical protein simulations and numerical QFT simulations. Working for the experimentalist will probably do more good for you than a first author CMT pub in physical review.
  6. Apr 21, 2015 #5


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    CMT can be just as mathematical and abstract as fields like string theory. Often we use ideas from areas like topology, geometry, group theory, etc. Condensed matter also very heavily used QFT and even CFT in many areas. However, unlike string theory, many of these topics have been experimentally verified. Take the quantum spin Hall effect and 3D topological insulators. Those where predicted theoretically and subsequently verified by experiment. Same as spin liquids which exhibit some very exotic quantum phenomena.

    I personally would work with the CMT professor. CMT is a booming these days as people are starting to realize that it can be both incredibly elegant and experimentally realizable. In fact, a lot of people from HET have switched to CMT or have started doing some research in it.

    I disagree that a first author publication in CMT won't help you that much. That's exactly how I was when I was applying to grad schools and I did very well in admissions. It will also be very helpful when applying for fellowships as well.
  7. Apr 22, 2015 #6
    Thanks for the replies! CMT is booming, especially at my school. I was definitely leaning towards the CMT guy, as it looks like he's doing some cool group theory stuff in frustrated magnetism. However, I've written some papers in astro / cosmology and am worried that a switch to CMT might make it seem like I lack focus. Anyway, thanks for the advice.
  8. Apr 22, 2015 #7
    Sure, a first author paper in CMT published in physical review will probably get you into most of the top ten schools; that wasn't the point of my statement, which was to say that getting perspective on the state of hep-th in an experiment/phenomenology lab would be more beneficial to the OP as an individual.
  9. Apr 22, 2015 #8


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    Well it's always good to have some work in experiment so you appreciate how things work in the real world. I did my first summer in CME.
  10. Apr 24, 2015 #9
    Okay, I'm going with the CMT guy. Going to get my ass kicked doing super hard integrals all summer... psyched! Hopefully it'll be character-building.
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