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High energy physics?

  1. Mar 24, 2009 #1
    I originally wanted to go into graduate school for exp. HEP. I now have several options for graduate studies and I'm now confused as to what to do.

    I want to work on particle physics specifically on the LHC experiments. However, I was told by my undergrad. advisor that after taking my required grad. classes, I would most likely have to live at CERN for the rest of my doctorate degree. Honestly, I do not want to live in Geneva for 4+ years of my life. I want to live in the states specifically because I was planning to start a family sometime in graduate school with my girlfriend. Also, thinking about postdoc and professorship, this means throughout my life I would have to dedicate myself to being at CERN and I'm not sure if that's a healthy option for bring up a family.

    I have always wanted to work on LHC, and did so in my ugrad. years. Now that graduate school is right around the corner, I'm not sure what to do. Should I switch to another field? Is there any option to work on the LHC experiment and not have to live at CERN as a graduate student?
     
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  3. Mar 25, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    If you want to work at the LHC at CERN, but don't want to work at CERN, I think you have a problem.

    HEP involves sharing a small number of unique instruments in various locations around the world. If this lifestyle doesn't appeal to you, you should think about whether this is the right career choice.
     
  4. Mar 25, 2009 #3
    I want to work ON lhc but not AT cern... for example, USCMS is located at fermilab so that is an alternative that I am willing to accept. However, if the project was ATLAS, there is no centralized location at the US so cern would be the only option. I assume that your opinion is that if I do not want to be placed at cern, then I should change career choices. Thanks for your perspective. I am open to what others think if anyone else would like to comment. Thank you.
     
  5. Mar 25, 2009 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    I understand that. But your prospective advisor is right - watching someone else do an experiment from 5000 miles away is not the same as doing an experiment yourself. Even if you do have access to the data to analyze. While it might be possible to scrap a PhD together doing this, it certainly does not position you well for a good postdoc.

    (It may be worth pointing out that people have been raising families in Geneva since Roman times, but I certainly can understand having a preference)
     
  6. Mar 25, 2009 #5

    ZapperZ

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    There are many places in which the data coming from ATLAS, CMS, etc. will be "piped" in. So technically, you can do data analysis anywhere in the world. However, being an "experimental high energy physicist" involves more than just sitting around and sifting data (although, from my conversation with them, that appears to be a predominant part of it). Even theorists do that. Not only do you go on shifts during the run, but there's also a certain aspect of design, calibration, detector analysis/studies, etc. involved with your work, which would be very difficult to do without being there.

    Zz.
     
  7. Mar 25, 2009 #6
    The institution i'm doing my undergrad at houses a few groups that work on LHC, ATLAS is one of those. However, even though the doctors are aren't 'based' at CERN, they do spent much of their time travelling and staying there, simply because that's the base for the LHC experiment. I know a few people doing particle physics PhDs specifically with groups that use data from the LHC and I can say that generally it's the case that one year or so is spent at the home institution then the rest of the PhD is spent living in CERN. An important part of a graduate programme is integrating with your chosen field, and to do that you have to actually meet the people working on it.
     
  8. Mar 25, 2009 #7
    do you think exp. condensed matter would be any different?
     
  9. Mar 25, 2009 #8

    ZapperZ

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    Vastly different. For one, you'd be doing less programming, and more physics! :)

    Besides the fact that you won't have hundreds of authors on a paper you co-publish, if you are the lead author of an experimental condensed matter physics paper, chances are, you did practically ALL of the experiment yourself, or with a collaborator. So you know almost every square inch of the work. This also means that you are there, on site, to get things done. However, unlike experimental HEP where places to actually perform the experiment are very few, CMP experiments aren't huge (if you discount, for example, doing it at a synchrotron light source or neutron source), and even the smallest physics dept. can afford some kind of a CMP experiment (i.e. tunneling equipment, x-ray diffraction, material fabrication, optical conductivity, etc.) So they can be found significantly more than HEP sites and you have more chances to be situated where such a thing can be found.

    Zz.
     
  10. Mar 25, 2009 #9
    Waa Waa i dont want to live in Geneve and work on the greatest project ever created by mankind with the smartest people on the planet.
     
  11. Mar 25, 2009 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    ZapperZ, while I agree with the general tone of your message, I might have raised the visibility of some of the unique instruments in CMP. How many intense neutron sources are there in the world? Four? ORNL's SAS, ANL's IPNS, RAL's ISIS, and I think PSI has one. How many places have a working microkelvin fridge?

    CMP is a big field - and while it certainly has more "local" experiments than HEP, certain subfields still require one to go where the action is.
     
  12. Mar 25, 2009 #11

    ZapperZ

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    That certainly is true, but a lot of places have smaller experiments that one can conduct easily. The optical conductivity experiments that I have seen (i.e. FTIR, Raman, etc) can be conducted in a room the size of a bedroom. NMR experiments also can be done in such a size. These do not require the existence of such large facilities such as synchrotron light sources. I used to do tunneling spectroscopy experiments (including cryogenic cryostats) in a room the size of a closet!

    I'm not saying they are cheap, or easy to built. But compare to particle collider facilities, they are minuscule, both in terms of size and cost. Therefore, they tend to be more abundant than the less-than-handful HEP facilities.

    Zz.
     
  13. Mar 25, 2009 #12
    Is there really that little programming in CMP? Also in theoretical CMP?
     
  14. Mar 25, 2009 #13

    ZapperZ

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    I didn't say that. But people in CMP involved in such level are usually theorists, calculating things like band structure, QMC in many-body interactions, etc. Experimentalist, really, have to either build stuff, assemble equipment, set up experiments, and then, make measurements, followed by data analysis, etc. Then make more measurements under different conditions... some time even use different techniques, etc.

    Zz.
     
  15. Mar 25, 2009 #14
    So you raise a lot of good points for going into CM. I was just wondering what your opinions were as to why people enter high energy?
     
  16. Mar 28, 2009 #15

    ZapperZ

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    Many got seduced into the "sexiness" of the field, and the impression that that is the ONLY field that studies the "fundamental" aspect of our universe.

    Hey, I once was that green and almost got seduced by the "dark side of the force". :) I had the luck of actually trying it out as an intern and realized that I didn't really want to go into it before it was too late.

    Zz.
     
  17. Mar 28, 2009 #16
    You hit the spot regarding why I went into HEP. The worse thing is, I tried it out and wanted to continue in the field. Now that I've come to understand much more of what the field involves, I'm having second guesses and it's really a bad time to have second guesses since graduate school is right across the corner. Any thoughts about experimental cosmology?
     
  18. Mar 28, 2009 #17
    I will be starting HEP-th PhD in a few months, without doubt the attraction is the fundamental nature of the subject, it is true however that there is an element of seduction from pop science books glamourising the subject (nearly every pop sci book is about string theory/QG these days). Personally I think it is the highest level of abstraction that you can go to in Physics without venturing into Pure mathematics, which means that the field addresses alot of "big questions" (which is the reason I became interested in Physics in the first place), it's not just applying already established knowledge in a novel way, it's about creating truly new theories, new building blocks. Also alot of people dream that they will be involved in the next big revolution, that they will play a part in merging QM and GR in some way (wether they admit it or not, and wether they actually have a hope of doing so or not)

    Of course it's not going to be so glamorous in your day to day research, you will most likely be working on a very narrow thing, which is not very close to a big philosophical question at all. But I will just be glad to be learning the subject and being able to think about the bigger picture in my own time.

    I think aswell there seem to be two groups of Physicists those that are "techy", they like electronics/computers/gadgets, and then those that like Maths/Puzzles etc....

    In brief I def wouldn't recommend doing a PhD in HEP if you plan to get a non academic job afterward, it's not going to add much value. Maybe I am "green", but I have to do the PhD in something I truly am interested in and not for it's market value, or I just couldn't imagine being able to get through the 5/6 years of pain. I'd prob jsut get a job now.
     
  19. Mar 28, 2009 #18
    What other field would be best? I'm thinking about experimental cosmology. What are your thoughts on this field and marketability in industry? There is a lot of hands on electronics plus analysis.
     
  20. Mar 28, 2009 #19
    I don't know about the prospects from that field specifically.

    My take is basically that there are some fields of Physics like CM, Medical Physics, even Nuclear, that will give you direct skills for a career, were in that career you will require a PhD level knowledge of the field you did your PhD in in your day to day work. Then most subjects like HEP/Cosmo/Astro you are not going to be using that knowledge directly outside of academia, they will just want indirect things like analytic thinking/programming etc

    Unless you have a specific career in mind, then I would just do what you love, a PhD is a huge thing and if you don't enjoy it then it's going to be really hard going.
     
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