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Programs Experimental physics, applied math, or both?

Hey all,

So I'm about to be a senior at a US school, and likely want to do grad school. I'm posting here because my interests are really sorta disparate and don't really share a theme. I like dynamics, stat mech, doing stuff on computers, and doing stuff with my hands....

Anyway, here's a quick expected-situation-at-graduation summary.
Stats/resume:
  • 3.7 gpa, all over the place grades (mostly A's, smattering of B's)
  • Grad classes: Stat mech, dynamical systems, stochastic processes, maybe 1-2 more. I did get a B in stat mech despite loving it to death, but this was largely due to mental health issues at the time. Roughly same proportion of A's and B's as undergrad classes.
  • Dual degree in Physics, (CS+Math) (the latter is one major for whatever reason)
  • Strongish math background (standard "pure math" honors track)
  • Reasonably good subject GRE (haven't taken yet, but expect upper 20%) for either math or physics
  • Tech internships at fairly large/well-known places during most summers; I think all of my bosses liked me and are willing to give recs.
  • Research doing molecular dynamics stuff on campus for like a year and half. I really hated this, and it turned me off from MD in general. I mostly was just doubtful that the "computational experiments" we were running had any serious predictive value. That said, I did work hard and have a rec from this.
  • Research with a professor on using discrete exterior calc to solve some PDE's. I really enjoy this and think it's super cool, mostly cause I like the techniques we use. I haven't been doing it for long, but aim to keep doing it till I graduate.
Preferences/restrictions/interests wise:
  • Want to go for a PhD, but am open to getting a masters first. I almost definitely want to take a "break" for a year or two before going for the PhD. At the moment, I'm planning to just work for a year or two between undergrad and grad.
  • I really enjoy pureish math with applications; I like dynamics and that sorta thing. I would also be interested in doing discrete exterior calc kinda stuff more.
  • This might be naive, but I'm interested in "discovering truths about the world" or whatever. The caveat here is I don't really care much about high-energy/particle physics, or even EM, and mostly care about understanding the world as I see it day-to-day.
  • I'm most interested in turning microscopic observations into macroscopic ones. My absolute favorite thing in physics so far was non-equilibrium stat mech. In general biophysics looks really cool, but I honestly know very little about it. I may try to take a class on it spring semester, but that's a while away.
  • In an ideal world, I'd also get a chance to work with my hands. I really like pen and pencil math kinda work, but I think I'd be a whole lot happier if I got to build stuff/mess with zebra fish/grow plants or somehting.
  • I'm not at all married to academia. I'd be perfectly happy doing the same work for a company and not teaching as compared to doing it for a university and teaching. There's something to be said for not having to move around till the ripe age of 35.
I guess I'm looking for any sort of advice. I'm incredibly indecisive, and am having lots of trouble deciding what to do with my life. I'd appreciate grad school recommendations, choice-of-field recommendations, or even course recommendations! I'd be more than happy to hear recommendations for groups/professors to harass.

I'll be talking with my professor in a week or two, but he doesn't know much about physics-land, which is why I'm posting here.
 
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Idk why nobody has responded to this post of yours.
Physics faculty and physicists in general seem to brag about wanting everyone to join physics and want to improve the way we teach physics but when it comes to these conversations they don't want to have them.

It makes no sense. These are the conversations that drove the first and most fundamental discoveries in physics and other sciences. Maybe as we grow older we'll see the wisdom in everyone else's approach, or maybe we'll drink the koolaid and just mellow out, or maybe we hold on to the fire and keep pushing til the end and produce something that wouldn't have been produced without the persistence.

To be honest, I've been in NASA, IBM, Livermore, and more. I've seen these people at work, and outside of work at conferences or events. I always felt like everyone doing research there was just messing around majority of the time. No drive, no passion. Just doing. Doing amazing things of course. But just doing nonetheless. Nothing agile about their approach, no deadlines to live by, no desire to improve the rate at which they are making progress, if at all. Stagnant government employees across the board even at IBM and other private firms. There's nothing driving them, and management can't really have many effective metrics, if any, to ensure productivity. Idk why science produces these kinds of people. But here's an interesting article exploring the issue:



You probably won't find anyone that's passionate enough here. I just realized that. Everyone here wants to give pessimistic career advice and repeat the same shpeal that's available in every other listified blog post on how to pick a graduate topic or school or whatever.

My recommendation is to go to researchgate, or some science journals, and look at what different things are being done or talked about recently. Find something that catches your attention, doesn't have to be in physics. If we're going to find truths we need to combine top notch physics research with other disciplines to deliver understandings at a more fundamental level. Physical chemistry has arguably contributed to chemistry more than all of chemistry contributed to chemistry. The same can be said for materials science, computation, and more. The top manufacturing firms in silicon valley are hiring physicists right now because they know the next step won't happen without a physicist, be it silicon wafers, sub 7nm stuff, or lcd panels, sensors, and beyond. After finding a few things you like, do your research on the school and profs. See their work, their pace, the outcomes they seem to be aiming for, and by the end of it you'll have a list of probably half a dozen places or topics you're interested in going for.

That should be a good starting point at least.

Not sure if this is helpful but that's what I did to find some topics myself. Think outside the box. Forget the darn box. Forget the way anyone tells you it should be done. Approach everything from a fundamental standpoint, fundamentally what is a relevant application of physics, or a gap in the understanding of physics, or a general assumption that's made, or an industry that should be doing better if only they understood what they were doing from a more accurate mathematical sense. I mean the entire plasma industry was built on random experimentation. Some of the stories that made the industry what it is are ridiculous. There was no methodology for the discoveries. Majority were lab errors that yielded interesting results. There was no fundamental approach. Beyond the few general equations that estimated what happened on a larger scale, and some minor fundamentals on the atomic scale. The two models didn't connect. Just as we have in chemical engineering. What we use to describe mass transport and thermodynamics is not derived from the atomic or molecular scale, so it is riddled with inaccuracies. We still don't understand how molecular interactions produce macro physical properties for compounds or how some catalysts even work. We have no way of estimating how an unmeasured molecule will act in a cluster or interact with another cluster of molecules. We estimate based on empirical data of similar compounds and call them surrogates but the estimates are so far off it's practically pointless. We just have indexes and indexes of data points from measurement to use. That's it. Some methodologies attempt to predict properties for carbon chains but they're also usually off by more than 50% on average.

So there's a lot in physics to be done. All the sciences can be summed up under physics, and all science issues can probably be solved with a better physics model. We just haven't figured out enough in physics to do so.
 

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