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Do I stand a chance as a physicist?

  1. May 28, 2013 #1

    vtl

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    Hi there. I'm new here and this is my first post. So yeah, hi.

    So, I'm a 19-year old high school drop-out with a quite profound interest in physics. Here's some background: I've always gotten good grades in school, especially in math and English (2nd language), but I did it without really having to do much. Because getting good grades was so easy, my work moral gradually became less and less and was pretty much non-existing (in school work) by the time I got to high school. I was also pretty hooked on the idea of living off of being an artist, so I dropped out after about 6 months. Now, a bit more than a year later I've learned to do stuff like this: http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2013/134/c/4/bette_davis_by_silverghostdk-d658zd4.png (reference used, no tracing). In other words; I've learned the value of hard work. But doing art also gets pretty boring without also having some kind of intellectual stimulation (and I'd like to contribute to society with more than pretty pictures).

    About half a year ago I got Carl Sagan's Cosmos for my birthday and I really enjoyed it. It pretty much triggered my interest in physics which has grown exponentially since then. In the mean time I've read various biographies, books by Newton and Einstein, some popular science books and been doing math exercises on my own. And I really enjoy it all (even though I'm aware there's a good chance that I haven't understood everything right) and I'd really like to study physics at uni. Which is a pretty big deal to me, since I don't come from an academic family at all. So I'm starting this 2-year, kind of intense, high school course in august of this year where I'm doing A-levels in math and physics.

    So, considering that I'm a tad late to the uni-party (I'll be 21 when I go to uni) and I've had my IQ tested to be 125 (because I've been pretty insecure about my intelligence, being a drop-out and all) which is above average but not super great, would I be able to do a Ph.D. and possibly work as a researcher? I mean, I wont base my career choice on what someone says on the internet, but some kind of assurance would be nice.


    Excuse the English. I hope it all makes sense.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2013 #2
    21 is hardly too late to go to university and start on an academic career. I don't think your ultimate chance of success is any lower than someone who went to university at 18.

    However, there is a big difference between reading pop sci physics and actually doing physics: enjoying one is by no means a guarantee of enjoying the other. So, you should at least be prepared for the possibility that it's not going to be what you expected.
     
  4. May 28, 2013 #3

    George Jones

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    Starting university at 21 means that, if things go okay, you will start grad school at something like 25. I started grad school at 27.

    I agree with LastOneStanding. Also the majority of people who get a Ph.D. and want to be physicists do not end up as physicists. But this doesn't mean that people shouldn't try to become physicists.

     
  5. May 28, 2013 #4

    Intrastellar

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    to go to university in the UK, you need at least 3 A-level subjects, preferably 3 A-levels and an As subject (more is better of course)
     
  6. May 28, 2013 #5

    vtl

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    That's a very valid point, and is something I've considered. Not all I read is popular science though. For example I'm currently working my way through Courant's 'What is Mathematics?'.

    Why is that? If that isn't too generalized a question. Just thought there might be some common trigger or trait?

    Reply to the rest of your post: I'm not trying to predict what my future career will be. I just do what I think makes the most sense to me for now. My concern was mostly if I'd be capable (which I'm glad to have gotten positive responses about).

    I'm doing 4 A-levels. In Denmark Danish and History are required A-levels. And besides, I'm planning to do at least my bachelor in Denmark.
     
  7. May 28, 2013 #6

    Intrastellar

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    ok good, I was just making sure :)
     
  8. May 28, 2013 #7

    George Jones

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    Suppose physics professor A retires. Assuming that A's physics department is not down-sized, A will be replaced by one person, but A probably had several Ph.D. students graduate during his/her career. Vanadium 50 often makes this point.

    Okay. I was trying to offer some guarded encouragement. If you are passionate about this, give it a go! But go in with both eyes open.

    Good luck!
     
  9. May 28, 2013 #8

    jtbell

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    In the US at least, I think about half of all college/university level academic positions in physics are at schools that offer only bachelor's degrees. Even though many of those professors do research, they don't teach graduate students, but they need to be replaced, too. So one might say that each professor at a PhD-granting school is "resposible" for training students to fill about two academic positions.

    This doesn't improve the odds a whole lot, but it's something.
     
  10. Nov 15, 2014 #9
    Good afternoon from Greece!
    First of all, I want to congratulate you on following your passion in life. It is not an easy decision to drop out from school for pursuing your dream, and once you realise it didn't fulfill your expectations , start all over.
    If you have such a drive for science go for it! It is N E V E R too late. Ok, at CERN you might find fellows who are 27 and already have a postdoc. However, I have also seen 30+ year olds (in Greece) who haven't yet managed to finish their degree. A friend of mine was a gymnast and at his mid twenties decided to study physics. Now he is a post-doc in DESY. I'm telling you all these because I strongly believe that once you find what you love, it's never too late to pursue it.
    Now, not everyone who starts studying physics ends up as a researcher. Many become high school teachers, private tutors and so on. This depends on what they truly want and how they can get a job with that.
    So, go for it and from the options that you will see in the future you can see what's best for you!
     
  11. Nov 15, 2014 #10
    Community colleges often ask for a masters as the minimum but how often do community college positions get filled with PhD holders?

    Also, how much room for research does a CC teaching position give you?
     
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