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Desiring to Enter Physics Research; Seeking advice

  1. Jan 6, 2016 #1
    Good day, ladies and gents.

    I am an Indian student of Electronics and Communications engineering currently studying in India. However, I wish to do research in a field of physics. I'm not sure at the moment of which one since the number of how many interest me is too numerous (however, if you would like to know I will add a list at the bottom). Even more than that, though, I wish to live and earn my income solely for the purpose of researching and learning physics, maybe as much as I can of my field and as much as I can of it overall. Unfortunately, prospects here are limited for further education and research.

    So I wanted to know how would I exactly maximize my chances of getting my preferred job in a region where an actual attempt at research is made?

    Grades are obvious. I plan on giving the GRE after getting done with my engineering and then applying to a (hopefully) reputed institute. That much is obvious.

    One of the things I think would help me more is if I knew exactly what skill sets I should possess and what areas I should have knowledge in. To be more specific what primary (e.g. physics/maths), secondary (e.g. programming), tertiary [e.g. language(s)/philosophy/general knowledge] should I possess that would augment my success at the field itself and when making dealings regarding said field? The reason I am asking is because I've heard it said quite often that while programming is not taught in school as a mandatory subject everywhere, current circumstances have made it almost as basic as mathematics, at least as far as technical fields are concerned. Then on top of that there is the fact that a lot of my education has minor gaps here and there on account of my family having to stay in different countries due to my mother's postings. For example, I didn't even know how to properly apply a limit until recently. Yes I was lazy earlier but since I was starting to see it far too often I realized couldn't do without it. I have also been fairly out of touch with physics proper for a while. So I want to make sure I have the requisite understanding of at least the fundamentals, if not any advanced topics. Don't be shy of suggesting and advanced ones on my account, however. Also if you could tell me a good place to start with (either textbooks or online), I would appreciate it.

    The other thing is what aside from the whole GRE, getting recommendations and applying to an insitute of my choosing (which is doing well in the desired field), should I do, if anything?

    Other suggestions and insights would also be highly appreciated.

    TL;DR - Indian engineering student in India wanting to do physics research for a living. What all should be said and done to ensure this happens?

    List of desired fields:
    1. Particle Physics
    2. Quantum physics in general or something specific such as
    a. Quantum information science (computing, information theory, etc.)
    b. Quantum Field theory/Quantum gravity (I'm not sure if there is anything to actually research)
    3. Nuclear Physics/Engineering/Technology or Solar Physics (I'd love to aid in the research of fully realized fusion reactors)
    4. Photonics
    5. Photovoltaics
    6. Renewable Energy Research in general
    7. Astrophysics
    8. Condensed Matter physics
    9. Physics of computers/information (again not sure if there is anything left to research since a lot of it seems like it could fall into information theory)
    10. I'm lumping these together because I'm not sure if there is any actual research into these or if there is any meaningful contribution to be made and some sound a bit metaphysical instead; topics like wormholes, uniparticle physics, theory of everything,string theory, scale relativity, m-theory, loop quantum gravity, causal sets, quantum mind

    The following are not strictly physics but still sound interesting:
    1. Dynamic systems theory (Control Theory, Chaos Theory, Quantum chaos, etc.)
    2. Nanotech
    3. Materials Science
    4. Metamaterials
    5. Neural Engineering
    6. Study of Complex Systems
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2016 #2
    Have you taken any physics courses? if not, is it an option for you? most graduate programs require you to have taken some core physics classes (classical mechanics, statistical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics and etc.)

    Are their any research opportunities for you to research at your institution?
  4. Jan 9, 2016 #3
    Yes we do have to take them in the first two semesters of the eight.

    To the second question, simple answer, no.

    The full explanation, if you desire it, to that is that I have already mentioned that I wish to research abroad given that there is no proper infrastructure and most research in our country is mostly for military purposes... or you know falling into the trappings of politics and trying to prove ourselves a superpower by making a Mars probe before everybody else or some other such asinine undertaking with less desire to produce actual useful output for humanity.
  5. Jan 9, 2016 #4
    I recommend looking at several universities you may be interested in to see what is required to enter their graduate physics program that way you can take those courses.

    If their is any research in science or engineering at your university i would try to get involved as soon as possible, even if it is not what your primary interest is. Having research experience looks better than no research experience regardless of the graduate program you are applying for.
  6. Jan 10, 2016 #5
    Unfortunately, there is no chance for research unless it's DIY such as submitting a paper to the IEEE. The institute does not provide any help in that regard. As I said, little to no infrastructure for anything other than short term, immediately recognizable, low investment and highly rewarding gains whether it's the government, institute or anyone else.

    Anything I can do to ameliorate this?
  7. Jan 10, 2016 #6
    You should probably try looking into your country's Institutions first! There are so many! TIFR, IISER, IISC, IIT, CBS, NISER, BARC are a few of them. And there are many professors who do actual 'research work'. There are so many research opportunities here in India, you just have to look for them! Just criticizing something without knowing is awful.
  8. Jan 11, 2016 #7
    I'm sorry if I sound rude but that is simply a list of institutes. That doesn't tell me anything and given my experience thus far at my own institute and what I've heard from an IIT pass out along with all the things I see and hear, things seem to point quite towards the contrary. But even before we go on discussing this I'm going to put this bluntly; what is your experience within the Indian environment?
  9. Jan 11, 2016 #8
    (You are not being rude I used to think so too but yeah I changed my mind pretty fast) My experience:
    I am still an undergrad student in my 2nd year, but I have had a few of my seniors working on more than one research project under very good scientists. Infact, even I am doing 2 projects at the same time under two prof.. There are many research internship programs you can apply to, but it is hard to get in, so you can always talk to guest prof. at your institute or attend colloquia organised by prominent organizations, talk to prof., scientists and email them. This way you score many good projects under your bag. This may actually sound a waste of time ( I thought so too) but believe me when I say that you get to learn so much more than just reading textbooks. But yeah, if you are an engineering student you will have to study atleast the following subjects thoroughly!
    Classical Mechanics
    Mathematical Methods
    Quantum Mechanics!
    What I believe now is that India has plenty of research opportunities and amazing research going on but we do not know about it! We just cherish our engineers and doctors!
  10. Jan 11, 2016 #9
    Which institute are you in, if you don't mind me asking?

    As for why I personally cannot opt for it, not many research or internship committees approached our NIT. It doesn't matter, though, even if I was not paying attention. My grades simply aren't convincing and I have my reasons for why I haven't been able to keep them up to it. Should I have looked out for committees on my own? Do we have to approach them and not the other way around?

    In any event, it is also hard to believe that any research outside of military designs and 'Mangalyaan' is done when those are all you ever hear about. Not to mention I haven't heard of us possessing any particle accelerators or other such high profile research facilities which are used for research other than what I have previously mentioned. Then there is the fact that any advances you hear about in other useful fields such as medicine or energy or materials by an Indian person is always a PIO in some other country rather than a genuine Indian individual born and raised in India and doing research at an Indian facility.

    With all that in consideration and the lack of evidence, I simply cannot fathom that any research for the welfare or improvement of quality of life or advancement of all of humanity is done here.

    I don't really mean to discredit you. Perhaps you know better than I but I am just giving my perspective, if you would consider addressing it.
  11. Jan 12, 2016 #10
    I had a question regarding the graduate physics course. Say if my application is falling just a bit short of satisfactory for any reason, would the mathematics GRE scores sway things just enough in my favour? I know that most schools don't give particular importance to the GREs and even when they do give substantial importance, it is only to the general and the physics GREs. So just thought I'd make sure if giving the mathematics GRE would be worth my while.
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