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Experimental Physics: My Life, Career, Education?

  1. Nov 5, 2014 #1

    Mark Edawrds

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    Gold Member

    Hello Everyone. I'm pretty much a newb on the forum so please go easy :). My name is Mark, I'm from England, I'm in the late stages of my 15th age and I'm Home Educated. Now.. Where to start? I guess Primary School would be sufficient. Well, I started it as every other child does, however over the years and even through the early stages the educational aspect of it became very undemanding and I often found myself bored finishing classes too early since I was already fine-tuned with most of the curriculum before they were even introduced. This was of course thanks to my father whose experience as a private tutor assured more knowledge than needed and satisfactory grades. Now, fast forwarding to after finishing primary, I decided that I'd like to become Home Educated as I felt that school was boring and wasn't necessarily challenging my intellectual potential. My father agreed and I went on from there.

    For the first 2 years everything went on fairly smoothly, I was progressing in my education.. at least partially. I finished my Maths IGCSE by the time I was 13, which was fairly easy considering that I learnt pretty much all of it in year 5 (4th grade). My father specialises in Mathematic tuition which had been the focal point of most of my education and pretty much most of what I know to my dismay.. Now this is a problem seeing as my dream job is to become an Experimental Physicist and I've not made nearly enough progress in Physics, I'm pretty scared that it's too late. I would absolutely hate to not reach my desired job or to now change my choice of career. I guess the moneys decent but I'm not after the "big bucks" or to become a millionaire. My dream is to become an intellectual individual, to possibly be an intellectual benefit during my life, and the greatest gift would be to be able to teach my kids the fruits of my labour, what I've learnt and the knowledge I've acquired and to also pass it on to others, to assist in their wisdom would be my greatest achievement of all.

    I guess I'm fairly good at football(soccer) and I could probably make it as a semi-pro, I love it as a sport and hobby but deep down I know that wouldn't make me happy. I feel so ashamed knowing that my whole house is practically a library, but I'm not really one for being able to teach himself. The thought of all this makes me extremely uncomfortable and I find myself retreating to a Maths book where my knowledge is actually recognized, but it has no benefit seeing as I'm Maths secure academically and I feel that every minute wasted on it is time that would be better spent tackling my actual complications. I’m fully aware that Theoretical Physics is heavily mathematically-orientated as well as being more or less connected with the Experimental aspect seeing as both share some sort of superposition and obviously there is a great deal of overlap, but my main interest leans towards how the physical world of Physics is rather than the abstract world of Theory.

    To be perfectly honest I'm scared that I may not be clever enough, I'm scared that I'm not bright enough anymore. I've always been the "geeky" and "bright" guy in my group of social friends and that is where a part of my confidence resides and for that paradigm to potentially shift is in itself personally discomforting. Or is it me? Am I lazy and am I the problem? Have I become pretentious? I mean, look at the amount of intellectual figures that have undoubtedly succeeded through their lone wolf labours, that are self-made and self-taught. Look at what Einstein was able to do only by scribbling in a jail, why shouldn't I? Unfortunately these questions are my Fundamentals instead of the origins of the Universe.

    The only way I can possibly escape this is my daydreaming utopia. To be taught by a highly knowledgeable person in Physics, to receive a PhD before the age of 25, to go to a prestigious University, to revel in becoming a great mind, to experiment on revolutionary theories and maybe even win the Nobel Prize? Someone's got to win it right? So why can't it be ME? I honestly don't know, but there is something in me which truly believes that I will do something great in the field of Experimentalists. These are all things which I greatly admire, but unfortunately they're starting to feel like poignant remnants of a desired future. Whenever I succumb to this vain daydreaming I repeat some of Rudyard Kipling's great words "If you can dream and not make dreams your master, If you can think and not make thoughts your aim" but that's exactly what I'm doing, which I hate. I'm ashamed to admit that I'm lost. I feel like I can't think straight, I feel like I'm in the centre of a messy limbo, lacking the ability to reach anything that's required to help.

    Anyways, sorry to have dumped what seems to be a melodramatic rambling on everyone reading. As always, any advice would be greatly appreciated. I know that this post is long so thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. I'd be really interested to see if any fellow Experimental (Physicists) or studying to be could help me by clarifying anything I don't understand or tell me exactly what it takes? Thank you very much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2014 #2
    15 is too young to be writing yourself off as not capable enough, very, very few 15 year olds are capable of physics or mathematics at a sufficiently high level so as to contribute. The first thing to do would be to get to University, you'll be required to do lab work each year as part of obtaining your degree and many UK universities offer funded summer research programmes for 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates, with both experimental and theoretical topics being available.
    To be honest it sounds like what you are missing is the structure that state education actually provides, have you considered enrolling at a Sixth Form to study A-levels or equivalent? By that point most students are actually interested in their subjects and so the classes may be more challenging for you.
  4. Nov 5, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    I don't know the usual pattern in the UK, but in the US, most physics students do not begin to study physics formally as a separate subject in school until age 17 (the last year of "high school" before university) or maybe age 16.
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