Do Physicists Have To Work From Big Cities?

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[SOLVED] Do Physicists Have To Work From Big Cities?

Let us say you are fresh out of college with a PHD in physics, do you have to work in a city? When I get older I would have rather lived in a small town, but am I allowed to have a job from a small town and still make a good living? Or do you have to live in a bigger city to actually get a job in the physics feild?
 

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  • #2
omagdon7
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Just commute
 
  • #3
leright
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how many physics jobs do you think there are in the "small towns"? None.

Most likely you'll have to commute.
 
  • #4
Pengwuino
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What about Livermoore? I drove by there and it didnt seem like there were more then 100,000 people living there! But then again it was just a drive through to get to Oakland...
 
  • #5
leright said:
how many physics jobs do you think there are in the "small towns"? None.

Most likely you'll have to commute.

I doubt that. I live 'near' Oak Ridge and the UT space institute, and I practically live on a farm. I believe most major national labs are not inside major cities. And what about all the colleges that are rurally located, they don't count?
 
  • #6
sniffer
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some particle accelerators are located in remote areas. astronomical observatory too.
 
  • #7
juvenal
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Wasn't the OP some dude who wanted to go into politics, possibly on the national level?
 
  • #8
robphy
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You could be a professor in a college or university, many of which are not in big cities. (What are your definitions of a "big" city and "small" town?)

Here's a remote location (far from cities) http://icecube.wisc.edu/what_is_icecube/overview/index.shtml [Broken] :wink:
 
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  • #9
Pengwuino
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robphy said:
Here's a remote location (far from cities) http://icecube.wisc.edu/what_is_icecube/overview/index.shtml [Broken] :wink:

Yah but there may be only 2 or 3 starbucks there :rolleyes:
 
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  • #10
Integral
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There are 2 PhD phyicisits in the group I work with, and there are others on site I do not know, local population ~50K.



What is you idea of a small town?
 
  • #12
cscott
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My city is only ~50k people but we have a university so I'm assuming there's some physics PhDs. I consider it a pretty small city :smile:
 
  • #13
ZapperZ
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I have heard and read many strange questions about physicists (no, all of us do not work in making nuclear bombs), but I'd say this one is way up there in the degree of strangeness - and there's not even a quark involved.

Zz.
 
  • #14
lol, prety small. I grew up in a town which would considered quite small. A population of about 15,000.

There are actually theoretical physist I know in my town, but he has almost no name in the scientific community. I also assume that if there are any phsyics research centers that they won't be payed as much as someone who let's say works at UC Davis or UC Berkeley. Is this true? And if they are no centers or a small center are you allowed do your job by getting the order from the big center?

For example if you work for the UC Davis physics team can you go there once, twice, or three times a week and get your work info or research info and work on it at home or some scientific center?
 
  • #15
matt grime
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A lot of good State US universities are based in small towns, or have large campuses in small towns (the notable exceptions would be California and Washington, though I hear that RIverside is small and they have Jon Baez). PSU for instance is a good State Univeristy for physics that is in a tiny town (State College). Or do you mean non-academic?
 
  • #16
ZapperZ
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Silverbackman said:
lol, prety small. I grew up in a town which would considered quite small. A population of about 15,000.

There are actually theoretical physist I know in my town, but he has almost no name in the scientific community. I also assume that if there are any phsyics research centers that they won't be payed as much as someone who let's say works at UC Davis or UC Berkeley. Is this true? And if they are no centers or a small center are you allowed do your job by getting the order from the big center?

For example if you work for the UC Davis physics team can you go there once, twice, or three times a week and get your work info or research info and work on it at home or some scientific center?

Have you been to Los Alamos? Do you know how isolated that place is? Even if you live in the surrounding area (not in Santa Fe), it is considered a REMOTE area, by any standard.....

Unless, of course, you consider Los Alamos National lab as a "small center" that make insignificant contribution to science/physics.

Want more? How "big" do you think Urbana, IL is? You drive by it and if you blink, you'll miss it. Yet, UIUC is a very renowned university with big-time research and big-time physicists. The same can be said about Cornell. Try getting to Ithaca NY.

Zz.
 
  • #17
Gokul43201
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Silverback, if you want to be in a place with a population below 15,000 (for whatever reason), then you have choices ranging from the smaller university towns (Princeton, State College, etc.) to some of the national labs (LANL, Sandia, etc.). But even at Penn State, during the football season weekends, there will be over a 100,000 people in town. Think you can handle that ? :wink:
 
  • #18
The reason why I like to live in a small town is because I cannot live without nature. Well, I maybe could live without nature, the last few years I have been in a bigger city but once I start my private life after college I would rather live in for example a 100 acre land close to wildlife and nature. I was actually thinking of living close to Lake Tahoe or some place in Placer County and El Dorado County in California, but most town there are really small.

I actually done mind 100,000 people, but it has to be isolated with forests and stuff surounding it. The problem is I don't know many places towns this big with no city right next to it.

Do any of you know a high paying center in North Eastern California or Western Nevada? Especially if anyone knows any places in South Lake Tahoe (a large small town of about 21,000 I think).
 
  • #19
I checked Los Alamos looks interesting, though it is not my favorite climate. But definatley yea that is a very famous research center, didn't know it only had 18,000 though. Know any others in the West US?
 
  • #20
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You could retire to a small town, during the summers I live in my home town which is now made up of 6 smaller towns, the the combined population is 4600, I'd say my town alone is about 1600-2000. Anyways, there is a super genius here that retired from NASA prematurely, he had multiple PHD's in physics, languages, politics, but he got too smart. Now he lives in a tiny house reclusive to the world and boards up all his rooms in the winter to save energy. He currently makes a living off tutoring math and physics, and scrimps together enough change to buy cheap carbon batteries sometimes to listen to his radio. Very interesting fellow to talk to, very very smart. But I don't think you want to revert to that lifestyle.
Pointless story probably.
 
  • #21
matt grime
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AS much as i find it odd to say, it sounds like PSU is the place for you: good university, small (practically dead outside of term), in the mountains, 200 miles from a city, from my balcony i could stare at the forests in three directions (the 4th direction was the campus and you can't see it through the building but beyond the campus are fields, lots of fields uninterrupted for miles, bloody cold when the wind comes in off it in winter), plenty of walks and good climbing. it is busy on game day but you can ignore that (if i, a european with no interest in the damn game of american football, can put up with it so can anyone).
 
  • #22
So there would be no way I can work for a major research for center outside the rsearch center? For example if I work for UC Davis and go there every week or two to get work from them. Do you have to work only in places the research centers are in?
 
  • #23
ZapperZ
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Silverbackman said:
So there would be no way I can work for a major research for center outside the rsearch center? For example if I work for UC Davis and go there every week or two to get work from them. Do you have to work only in places the research centers are in?

Y'know, aren't you putting the cart before the horse here in this thread? I mean, it appears as if that the decision to work there, and not there, etc. only falls on you. Aren't you forgetting another important (and I'd say a MORE important) part, which is what makes you think that THEY would want you in the first place? Is it THAT easy to get an appointment at Los Alamos? Or at Sandia? What about at JILA?

We're talking about places here that get to pick the cream of the crop, and not just people from within the US, but all over the world. I've seen people pull up roots because they get a job offer at some of these places.

Zz.
 
  • #24
ZapperZ said:
Y'know, aren't you putting the cart before the horse here in this thread? I mean, it appears as if that the decision to work there, and not there, etc. only falls on you. Aren't you forgetting another important (and I'd say a MORE important) part, which is what makes you think that THEY would want you in the first place? Is it THAT easy to get an appointment at Los Alamos? Or at Sandia? What about at JILA?

We're talking about places here that get to pick the cream of the crop, and not just people from within the US, but all over the world. I've seen people pull up roots because they get a job offer at some of these places.

Zz.

Never said it was that easy. But I know I can definatley do it if I work at it.

Now that you bring it up what would you need to work in a top research center such as Los Alamos? I am think a PHD from a high ranking university such as Davis, Stanford, or IV League to get a job. What are the main requirments?


But about my original question (which was more of an example) can I work for a resarch center outside the research center by getting work from them and coming once or twice a week?
 
  • #25
ZapperZ
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Silverbackman said:
But about my original question (which was more of an example) can I work for a resarch center outside the research center by getting work from them and coming once or twice a week?

Isn't this more dependent on the NATURE of the job? I'm employed at Argonne to not only do physics, but actually BUILD something. I think it would be impracticle to do my task of building something by just coming in once or twice a week, don't you? Do you think I would have been employed to do just that under that circumstance? I don't think so.

So unless you're willing to be SPECIFIC, I'd say your question cannot be answered.

BTW, getting an employment in anything at any place depends on not just ability, but being at the right place and the right time. You could have all the talent and ability that you want, but if the opportunity isn't there just at the right time, you won't get what you want either. Most of us who went through this (and life) have realized a long time ago that things seldom work out in the ways we planned.

Zz.
 
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  • #26
juvenal
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You'll definitely find more satisfaction in life if you're flexible. Life (including your own whims) is unpredictable.
 
  • #27
ZapperZ said:
Isn't this more dependent on the NATURE of the job? I'm employed at Argonne to not only do physics, but actually BUILD something. I think it would be impracticle to do my task of building something by just coming in once or twice a week, don't you? Do you think I would have been employed to do just that under that circumstance? I don't think so.

So unless you're willing to be SPECIFIC, I'd say your question cannot be answered.

BTW, getting an employment in anything at any place depends on not just ability, but being at the right place and the right time. You could have all the talent and ability that you want, but if the opportunity isn't there just at the right time, you won't get what you want either. Most of us who went through this (and life) have realized a long time ago that things seldom work out in the ways we planned.

Zz.

What I mean is this, for example;

Let us say I am a theoretical physicist working on a project in researching the M-theory. Let us say I am assigned from a research center in Davis and I live in Tahoe. Can I go to the research a couple times a week, spend a lot if the their those couple times, get the work and live in Tahoe? Get the equations I need to work on for the rest of the week in at home or some center in Tahoe for example. Please note this is only an example, I am not saying that I have to live in Tahoe or I have to work for Davis, just an example.

BTW, if you want to work at a top research center such as Los Alamos wouldn't you get a job most likely if you have a PHD from a prestigious university?
 
  • #28
ahrkron
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I have heard of that kind of deal only once, and it was for a very well established theoretician. I don't think you can count on finding an arrengement like that at the beginning of a career.

Also, regardless of the kind of work you find, there is a good reason for a project leader to want people to be in the same building or complex: interaction. The thrust of a good group doesn't come only from the talents of the individual members, but also from the (positive) push that "the group" exerts on all of them, by finding fast the answers to things each person does not know, by bouncing ideas with each other, or by the fact that you need to compete with other groups. There is also politics that enter the game, and the need for visibility in the case of big collaborations.

I think the main reason to work in one particular place should be that you deeply enjoy what you do there. When you are at it, you may not pay attention to the surroundings, and on free time you can go to your own place.

That said, a couple places you may find appealing regarding natural surroindings are Fermilab and CERN. Besides a High Energy physics lab, Fermilab is a reserve for buffalos and Canadian giese. CERN, otoh, is in the border between France and Switzerland, very close to Geneva and lake Geneva (or Lac Leman in French) and to the French countriside.
 
  • #29
ahrkron
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Silverbackman said:
BTW, if you want to work at a top research center such as Los Alamos wouldn't you get a job most likely if you have a PHD from a prestigious university?

That is in general true. There is no rule that it should be that way; people that evaluate applications will naturally tend to pay closer attention to cv's from those, but will anyway keep an eye on honors and awards and publications and projects and GPA and other things.

The most important factor will anyway be the quality (and to some extent the quantity) of your work.
 
  • #30
Ahkron thanks for the extra advice :smile:. Though I think I would rather stay in my country, but I'll keep Genova in mind. But yea you are right I really should find a way to enjoy myself at the workplace as much as I enjoy nature and the outdoors.

I have another question for you all that is somewhat off-topic. It is about the field of physics I am going in. By the looks of it Astrophysics will be the field I will be going in if I become a physicist, probably in cosmology. However why is it that Grand Unification Theory, M-theory, Theory of everything, ect. listed under Particle Physics. How can this be when those theories are under Particle Physics when they fit better under Astrophysics in cosmology since they describe more about the history of the universe and what not.
 
  • #31
ZapperZ
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Silverbackman said:
What I mean is this, for example;

Let us say I am a theoretical physicist working on a project in researching the M-theory. Let us say I am assigned from a research center in Davis and I live in Tahoe. Can I go to the research a couple times a week, spend a lot if the their those couple times, get the work and live in Tahoe? Get the equations I need to work on for the rest of the week in at home or some center in Tahoe for example. Please note this is only an example, I am not saying that I have to live in Tahoe or I have to work for Davis, just an example.

BTW, if you want to work at a top research center such as Los Alamos wouldn't you get a job most likely if you have a PHD from a prestigious university?

During the early 90's, in one of the many economic slowdowns in the US, there were reports of physics Ph.D's from "prestigious universities" driving cabs for a living. When you look at a few anecdotal examples, you see that they were high energy physics theorists or astrophysicists, etc. Yet, at the same time, I know for a fact that freshly minted Ph.D's in Medical Physics were getting job offers even BEFORE they finished their program. Condensed matter physicists who know how to fabricated thin films using laser ablation were getting snapped up by Hewlet Packard and Xerox as if there's no tomorrow.

The example you gave doesn't help your chances of employment. While being a theorist may allow you the ability to not have to be on site physically all the time, you are also cutting down considerably your chances of getting employed in the first place. How many theorists from prestigious universities graduate EACH year? How many job opening for them do you think are available? And how many of these do you think are in String/M-Theory? At Argonne, there are ZERO number of string theorists being employed, even though the high-energy theorists do dabble in it on the peripherial. However, most of them deal with the theory that is related to the experimental effort of the division. This makes a lot more sense, at least to me. US Nat'l lab are reviewed by our "owner", the DOE, every single year. You have to show what you have done, how much of what you have promised last year has been achieved, and what do you promised for the next year. Under such condition, String and M-theory proponents have a very hard time to justify their existence. It is why you won't see such work being done at US Nat'l Labs, only in universities.

There is also another issue here that you have neglected. When one is employed as a physicist, one does not just do physics. One has other administrative reponsibilities. This includes supervising others, especially if there are grad students and postdocs. There are responsibilities in getting external fundings, administrative decisions (one usually has been drafted into one or more committee in one's division), etc. etc. Practically in all such cases, one needs to be on site physically to fulfill such responsibilities. In a series of essay titled "My Physics Journey", I have tried to convey the daily grind that I go through, and this includes both physics and non-physics responsibilities. I believe this situation isn't unique, and that most, if not all, physicists working either in a university or Nat'l Labs go through the same thing.

In any case, unless you are a BIG NAME physicist, you would most likely start your career as a postdoc and work your way up. I have never, ever seen or heard of a physicist working his/her way up being able to do what you would like to do.

Zz.
Zz.
 
  • #32
matt grime
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I think i must raise some point about your wish to work, effectively, in isolation. Some people do this effectively (eg Grothendieck who is a well konwn recluse) but they are the minority, and tend to be outstanding genii, once in a lifetime people. The rest of us benefit from regular contact with their peers.

To some extent it doesn't matter where you do your work (if it is theoretical), and some people do "work from home" but they will not tend to be at the start of their careers when it is vital to make contacts, meet people and publicize your work.

Moreover you sign a contract of work which specifies your duties and this may well require you to be in the University for certain periods. For instance I beleive all lecturers at Cambridge in mathematics are required to be (substantially) in Cambridge during term and have no requirements outside of term.

Personally I would not knowingly employ someone (at the start of their careers) who positively does not wish to be part of the research community of whatever centre you wish to be in. Some times sacrifices have to be made, say until such time as people are asking to work with you rather than you to work with them.
 
  • #33
Gokul43201
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Also, don't forget teaching duties at a university. You will be expected, at least for half the year, to go to school like 3 days a week to teach a bunch of brats how to find the electric field from a uniform ring of charge ! :biggrin:
 
  • #34
marlon
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Gokul43201 said:
Also, don't forget teaching duties at a university. You will be expected, at least for half the year, to go to school like 3 days a week to teach a bunch of brats how to find the electric field from a uniform ring of charge ! :biggrin:
Gokul

at what university are you doing your phd ?
what is your topic ?

marlon
 
  • #35
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Silverbackman said:
Ahkron thanks for the extra advice :smile:. Though I think I would rather stay in my country, but I'll keep Genova in mind. But yea you are right I really should find a way to enjoy myself at the workplace as much as I enjoy nature and the outdoors.

I have another question for you all that is somewhat off-topic. It is about the field of physics I am going in. By the looks of it Astrophysics will be the field I will be going in if I become a physicist, probably in cosmology. However why is it that Grand Unification Theory, M-theory, Theory of everything, ect. listed under Particle Physics. How can this be when those theories are under Particle Physics when they fit better under Astrophysics in cosmology since they describe more about the history of the universe and what not.
String theories, M-theories, LQG, etc are attempts to extend the Standard Model in order to unify all four interactions - weak, strong, electromagnetic and gravitational. These interactions are basicallly forces between particles that can themselves be described in terms of carrier particles. So, it is natural that such work be grouped under High Energy/Particle Physics.
 

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