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Fields in (Theoritical) high-energy physics

  1. Jun 15, 2007 #1
    Greetings everyone.

    I have just graduated from a physics department, and intend to continue my studies through a post-graduate program.

    I'd like to go very deep in hep -build a career there, actually- and I'm pretty confused about the numerous fields I've encountered so far: Quantum Gravity -Loops, Strings theory, Twistors- , Elementary Particles -Standard Model, GUTs- , Quantum Cosmology etc.

    The same question comes in my mind all the time: "which field should I follow?"

    It's important to note that I -unfortunately- don't prefer a specific field. I do enjoy reading and occupying myself with many different aspects of theoriticall physics. Hence the answer "You should follow what you like more" fails.

    I believe that an important factor for my choice, would be the current research programs all over the world, and the progress being made in each field. Moreover, the opportunities that exist in each field, the "boosts" that come and go, the progress that NEEDS to be done.

    What I'm saying is that I find the current picture of hep a little bit blurry. We don't have a completely new theory to attach on, like Strings Theory, 2-3 decades ago, or we don't make many important discoveries, like those on elementary particles at '50s or '60s.

    What is your opinion about all these stuff? How long will Superstring theory survive, for example? What about the standard model, and the GUTs beyond it? Quantum Loop Gravity? I'd really appreciate your comments!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2007 #2
    Gee, you're way further along than me, but maybe we're about the same age.

    You might want to listen to the likes of Baez or Krantz and do what it takes to get tenure first before you go off on a totally unique path of your own. That's possibly not the answer you want. I wouldn't know what field to advise you into. But I do know competition is fierce, and like Baez says you might want to do what's in fashion so that you can get a job.

    So I say pick one of the "hot hot" fields that a huge amount of people are working in and go with that. As far as supersymmetry goes, well, we'll all have a lot of answers when the LHC comes on line. Not to mention that little rumor that's going around about the tevatron last week.

    On the other hand, if you're content to possibly not go in academia then, heck, study whatever tickles you. I know you said that don't apply.

    EX., if you want a job at "apple" and you refuse to using anything or learn anything but "gentoo", then you're probably not going to get a job at apple.

    Best of luck!

    PS I have no clue what "hep" is.
  4. Jun 15, 2007 #3


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    high energy physics, i believe
  5. Jun 15, 2007 #4
    I am certainly an idiot. :redface:
  6. Jun 16, 2007 #5
    PhysiSmo - Why don't you get yourself into a physics PhD program and see where the best supervisors are? Pick the specific field based upon the expertise of who you'll be working with for five years.
  7. Jun 16, 2007 #6
    PhysiSmo, I maybe one year before having to chose, but I'm in the same situation as you, still searching for what to do...
    Since I like cosmology I might go with something close or related to some extent with the subject
  8. Jun 16, 2007 #7


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    Then I personally would suggest that you try to get in a good graduate program which is versatile. After a year of classes or so and of having attended talks and having met the profs there and the graduate studens and postdocs, you will have a better idea. I think that if you haven't chosen a specific topic (and you should not really do that before entering graduate school an dlearning more about what is going on from the mouth of people actually doing research in the field), you should first choose in function fo a good and active graduate program in theoretical (notice the spelling:wink:) high energy physics. *Then*, after a year or so of classes you will be able to choose a specific field you are more interested in as well as a good adviser. It's very important to choose someone who you will be comfortable with, who you can learn from, who has other grad student and postdocs you can interact with, and so on.

    SO my advice owuld be for now to choose in terms fo a good graduate program and not worry about the specific topic. But that's just my two cents, obviously.
  9. Jun 16, 2007 #8
    I'd like to say I made a mistake reading Physimo's post. I thought he was saying he was in the post doc time. I misread it b/c I was multitasking. Sorry.

    To that then, I think nrqed is right and I wouldn't be too worried about what field. The only advice I could possibly give is for you to try to get into a well round theoriticall department. (Hey, we're all human until Kurzweil is right.:biggrin:)

    But that advise is obvious. So, the best thing might be to continue doing what you're doing, and continue reading various things until it's actually time to pick your advisor.

    I'd still check out Baez's comments though.

    Best of luck.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2007
  10. Jun 17, 2007 #9
    Thank you all guys for your comments! The solution you propose (that of getting into a graduate program in theorytecull physics and decide then) is actually the best I have also think so far. But, some graduate programs do require that the students chooses a field (i.e. Gravitational physics or string theory physics or cosmology) before he gets admitted. So I would really appreciate any further *scientific* informations, especially on the future of the modern theories.

    @math_owen: Who is Baez mate?!? :)
  11. Jun 17, 2007 #10
  12. Jun 17, 2007 #11
    qualgorithm said it. That's Baez's web page. Check it out. It's really good stuff. Baez is definitely totally awesome, and I recommend to any free thinker in the analytical world to hear what he has to say. It goes without saying though, you should form your own opinion afterwards of course.

    They say, or I've heard that there are two types of explorers. (Beware oversimplification ahead) Those two would be mountain climbers and trail blazers aka valley crossers. The former are highly respected and entrenched in academia, unfortunately. B/c really we need both, or we'll be stuck on the same damn mountain forever :rofl:

    Baez, is part mountain climber part trail blazer in my opinion. But he gives good advice as to make sure you don't become unemployed before it begins. My example with gentoo and apple is decent enough.

    The other thing I think you might want to hear, is that these fields you listened are very very intense in mathematics. Actually they border mathematics where we actually learn some of them. So, with going to a broad grad physics program, I would also advise you make sure that the school is apt enough at mathematics as well. B/c you're probably going to want to continue on into some graduate mathematics courses too.

    I am shocked that you "have to" specify what you want before hand. I understand that you don't go to an all applied mathematics program and expect to be a category theorists afterwards (very abstract math).

    Good luck with the theoretical stuff!
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