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Graduate Student: Career Advice, I hate experimental physics

  1. Jul 12, 2010 #1
    I am currently a graduate student, have a MS in physics, and have passed my comprehensive exams. Most of my credits are done -- I only have my dissertation credits to do. So far all my work has been in experimental physics, in the region of plasma physics.

    I have recently realized that I hate experimental physics. Plasma physics is great, but I hate the experimental aspect.

    I hate not having time to think. I hate having to work crazy hours because I have only a few weeks to perform the experiment. I absolutely loath it.

    I would like to try my hand in computational physics, or theoretical physics, since I will have a chance to think (unlike experimental physics when everything better be done in a hurry), and hopefully not be required to work absolutely ridiculous hours. Plus I get to do physics, as opposed to working in a laboratory trying to get equipment to work. My question are a follows:

    1) I am so close to graduating, how can I do this so that I don't waste 5 years of my life?

    2) Suppose I just tough it out and graduate (and hate life in the process)-- with my limited experience in computational/theoretical plasma physics is there a place that would actually hire me as a postdoc to work in the computational/theoretical aspect?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2010 #2


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    There are many aspects of this that you've left out. What has been your interaction with your Advisor, who literally controls your future? You have given no indication if you receive a RA that supported your work up to now. This angle and this info should factor in into your decision to switch and HOW to switch so that you don't offend someone in particular. It is never a good idea to burn your bridges this early in your journey.

    Furthermore, you simply can't jump into any old field of study that you like when you're already in a graduate program at a particular school. There has to be a faculty member who is willing to take you on and approve your like of research. You have no given any indication that (i) such a person exists and (ii) he/she is willing to be your Advisor. Does this person has a financial means to support your work, or do you have to support yourself as a TA while doing your dessertation research?

    There are so many things to consider here that are beyond simply the "physics" issues.

  4. Jul 13, 2010 #3
    I am currently a GRA. My Advisor and I get along fine, and I have asked him before about switching. Unfortunately, most of the theoretical support has left over the years, so a person for me to work under simply doesn't exist.
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