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Combining a career in physics and being a missionary?

  1. Jan 14, 2015 #1
    Greetings, fellow PFers.

    I'm only a 3rd-year undergrad in physics, and after undergrad I am going on to get a Ph.D. (not only is this my choice, but I have a scholarship which requires at least 4 years of graduate study). For various religious reasons, I'm also considering being a missionary, but would like to also have a career in physics to be able to support myself financially, and because I love it. I'd particularly like to settle in the Middle East as I'm also a Hebrew scholar, but that's neither here nor there.

    Anyway, I'm definitely considering the possibility of teaching in a university, however if possible I would like to stay out of academia and do more humanitarian work. Really, I'm just looking for options. Please let me know of any advice/experiences you may know of.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    Many young people I know looking to do humanitarian work abroad have served in the Peace Corps. There is also a very strong Peace Corps alumni network that can help with making connections for later employment. My parents met in the Peace Corps, and their experience in Africa was an important formative one for them both.
  4. Jan 15, 2015 #3
    Interesting, that's an option I hadn't considered. Would there be an opportunity there to do something physics-related?
  5. Jan 15, 2015 #4

    Quantum Defect

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    I had a classmate from undergraduate school (chemistry) who went to Tanzania with the Peace Corps. He taught high school chemistry. It was a challenging job, in that he had to figure out ways of doing things that we normally don't think about -- i.e. building a still to provide pure water. This guy is now working in the chemical industry for one of the big personal care companies. I suspect that his work with the Peace Corps was attractive to his employer.

    With a physics background, I suspect that you could teach science/physics or participate in engineering work overseas. I don't think that you would be doing physics research, but you would definitely be able to use your physics background and training.
  6. Jan 15, 2015 #5


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    Some medical physicist friends of mine have done a lot of work to bring radiotherapy equipment into developing countries.

    The basic idea is that when a certain piece of technology (linear accelerator, Cobalt irradiator, brachytherapy remote afterloader etc.) becomes outdated in first world countries it is often still usable. Some institutions will opt to donate it to a developing country that otherwise cannot afford it. The issue then is one of installation, commissioning, and training the existing staff in its proper use. In such cases medical physicists can travel overseas and volunteer their time to address these issues (set up the machines, train staff, etc.) This can bring all the benefits of the various radiotherapy treatment modalities (both curative and palliative) to huge populations for whom such treatments are otherwise inaccessible.

    See for example:

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