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Condensed Matter/Quantum Info -OR- High-Energy

  1. Apr 29, 2013 #1
    I will be starting PhD studies in the fall, but first I must decide which school I will attend. I am basing this on what field I want to go into. The choices are Condensed Matter/Quantum Information science or High-Energy Particle physics. I am having a little bit of difficulty deciding. I am very interested in both. I feel like CM/QI is the better choice, because there is more room for making real progress compared to HEP, where the nature of the field makes for slow progress. I definitely find the field to be very interesting. On the other hand, HEP is a little more amazing in certain ways. Although perhaps I shouldn't, I see CM/QI as a little "lesser" than the foundational work going on in HEP. I mean, particle physics seems like the elite field to be in. On the other hand, I think I stand more of a chance for happiness and success in CM/QI because of its higher relative accessibility. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2013 #2
    I would really consider your future employment opportunities when making this decision, above anything else. You'll probably be happy choosing either one if you apply yourself, but you may be stuck without a job after you finish depending on which you choose.
  4. Apr 29, 2013 #3
    Thank you. That's kind of what I was thinking.
  5. Apr 30, 2013 #4
    I don't feel like I have enough experience to answer your question straight-out (I am merely a grad student myself), but just to let you know that there are parts of condensed matter which are similar in spirit to HEP: look up Xiao-Gang Wen's work on string-net liquids.
  6. Apr 30, 2013 #5
    Wow. That is an awesome concept. I am so glad you introduced this to me! Thank you!
  7. Apr 30, 2013 #6
    Welcome, glad you like it! :)
  8. Apr 30, 2013 #7
    In my cohort, neither the quantum information people nor the HEP people were able to continue in science post-phd/postdoc.

    Many of the condensed matter phds were able to find work at Intel and the like.
  9. Apr 30, 2013 #8


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    I think while some areas of condensed matter theory can appear to be a lot more applied, the field itself is very diverse in these terms ranging from areas which directly relate to the properties of real materials to topics which are very exotic and almost as fundamental as string theory. This is actually what attracts me to it, as I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to much of the recent work on topological insulators as an undergraduate.
    The new areas which seem to be really growing based on what several well respected professors have told me are topological phases in interacting/disordered systems and the use of the AdS-CFT correspondence to develop models for strongly correlated systems. I actually went to a talk recently by one of Xiao-Gan Wen's students, Michael Levin, which was about topologically protected edge states in the absence of symmetry. Very exotic work, but incredibly interesting. I think people in high energy are also starting to get interested in these sorts of topics. I have seen a lot of the high energy faculty attending condensed matter colloquia at my institution.
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