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High school research: am I lame?

  1. Oct 7, 2006 #1

    After reading Careers in Quantum Physics, I started to be afraid that same situation applies to me.

    Let me describe situation. I'm currently a 15-year old sophomore in HS at US (though I only came to US 2.5 years ago). I have good skills at self-studying: I self-studied programming in C++ from Straustrup to Alexandresku and thank God, am in process of landing part-time C++ job. Six monthes ago, as well as five years ago (when I started programming), I was all set to go for computer science major and work as a soft.dev.

    Yet I assured myself this April that I don't want to develop for life but rather like doing science. Please, acknowledg e that I DO understand my choice might change and re-change times more but heck, it is interesting and what can I do?.
    Still, anyway, I, firstly interested in string theory through Green's video, got my hands quickly on first non-mathematical tutorial in quantum mechanics. Later in summer, on rather much mathematical textbook (Introduction to QM - Wileys). Right now I'm reading P&S - Intro. to QFT.
    Not to be a hypocrite, I was looking at school science fairs such as ISEF and would be pleased to go there.

    I'm afraid to say that and not be thrown tomatoes unto, but I'm trying to research. I confess that I'm trying to model molecular entanglement of sample and cantilever in magnetic resonance force microscopy; which is right now basically at the stage of solving Schroedinger equations for interacting systems and finding ways to prevent thermal decoherence from collapsing WF. After programming exp., linear algebra doesn't seem to be that hard to grasp in concepts.

    However, after reading thread mentioned early, my enthusiasm all vanished. I'm afraid my knowledge in other areas of physics is not as strong as it probably should be -- doesn't go further than first volume of Feynman. Should I just drop everything and start learning all physics and quit researching (if I am even allowed to use this word) to refraing from being restrained in one particular area? Still, I understand that I'll have to study every other area of physics in college in details and am open for that; well, I'm open for almost any sort of study, even history :)

    However, the idea that I'm just doing it wrong and too early is chasing me.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2006 #2
    If you are a 15 year old sophomore in HS interested in getting into a career in physics and want to self study you are wasting your time reading about string theory, QM, and QFT. Learn the BASICS first (string theory, QM and QFT ARE NOT THE BASICS). To me, it seems like you're skipping way too many steps, and thus you probably don't really understand the things you're researching, and that isn't research. If you're telling us all the details, it seems like the first REAL physics textbooks (not popsci books) you're ever picked up are QM books and QFT books, and there's a lot wrong with this.....

    There's nothing wrong with doing your own research but before you can really do research you need to properly understand the current theory and the experimental and theoretical framework it's built upon. At this stage in the game your primary goal is to learn everything you can. A good way to determine whether or not you're ready for research is to go and read some publications of research in your area of interest. If you are able to understand all of them, then MAYBE you can work on your own research.

    Remember, the order in which you learn this stuff is just as important as the amount you learn.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  4. Oct 7, 2006 #3
    You're 15. You have plenty of time and don't have to rush anything.

    But, you DO have to know the math behind it all. That's like saying you know English, but can't read or write it. You will only go so far that way. So it's good you picked up something with some math in it.

    The way it works in college:

    You get a taste of everything in undergrad (first 4 or 5 years, depending on how long it takes you), and in grad school you decide what area you want to go into. And even then you have some time before you really have to decide.

    I'm in my 3rd year of college and I've only taken basic physics classes. I'm doing thermal physics now, math physics, and a class that teaches you about how to write good lab reports and such. Granted, my 2nd year I didn't take any physics (community college didn't offer any more), but basically you take it easy and take it in steps. I do however have all of the math I'd need for undergrad behind me (but I'll still need to take more), and let me tell you, you REALLY need to understand it. Math is tedious and boring, but there is also a sort of beauty to it which makes everything work. Once you understand the math, the physics will be so much easier to understand and you'll appreciate it more.

    In conclusion: do whatever you want. If you get stuck, take a few steps back. You'll be taught everything you need to know in college. Whatever you do on your own will help you, no matter what it is.
  5. Oct 7, 2006 #4
    Indeed, first thing I did was going to arXiv.org and searching, then reading everything I could found on topics that interested me. It pretty much shaped after reading dozen papers and going over yet more.
    I'm browsing arXiv each day in search for new articles and it's pretty fun should I say, to see physics moving in front of your eyes.

    The only things I read on real physics that were non-popsci were Feynman's books (only first volume :) ) and some sort of encyclopedias in elem. school.

    Thanks :) I don't even know yet what I will study in college. I'm not trying to build my career right now or set my life into that or this path (I'm even thinking about major in medieval studies or journalism). My primary goal is to have fun and physics allows me to have that.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  6. Oct 19, 2011 #5
    i understand how you feel, but are you sure that physics is all you're interested in? i mean, i'm nearly 15 and like almost anything i can understand. keep your mind open about other things because, like you said earlier, your mind could change.
  7. Oct 19, 2011 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    This thread is 5 years old. The OP should be out of high school by now.
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