How do I decide which sub-field of Physics I want to pursue?

In summary: Just keep an open mind and explore your options.In summary, the conversation discusses the topic of choosing a sub-field in Physics and the importance of research experience. The speaker is a freshman at UT Arlington and is considering pursuing Astronomy but is unsure due to the lack of opportunities at their university. They seek clarification on how to make a decision and if it is important which sub-field they do research in when applying to graduate school. The responses suggest taking a variety of courses and seeking research experience to help make a decision, and that research experience is more important than the specific sub-field. They also recommend reading about different fields and attending colloquia to learn more about different research areas. Ultimately, the advice is to keep an open mind and explore all options before
  • #1
351
42
I'm a freshman at UT Arlington and I will get my undergraduate degree in Physics from that university. Now, I am sure that I want to pursue Physics, but not quite sure of the sub-field. I lean towards Astronomy a lot, and I will probably end up doing that. The problem is that my university doesn't have a lot of Astronomy going on (it is relevant, but not exactly great). Though, It has one of the best High Energy Physics (HEP) departments in the country and there's tonnes of research happening there. Based on these facts, there are three clarifications I require and I'd highly appreciate it if you could help me out:

1) How do I decide which sub field I like the most? The reason why I ended up picking Astronomy is because I took an online 1st year course from ANUx and loved it so much.

2) Will it be a good idea to switch from Astronomy to HEP because my university is focused more in that field?

3) Will it matter which sub-field I did my research in when applying to Grad School? Like, if I do some research in HEP during undergrad and then apply for an Astronomy program, will it count?
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
You should end up taking quite a few classes that'll help you decide which sub field is most interesting to you. You could also look into doing research with some of your professors. As you may know, sometimes when you actually see what research is like in a subfield, you may end up loving it or hating it more than you thought.

I've been told that research experience in and of itself (along with corresponding letters of recommendation) are more important than research in a particular sub field.
 
  • Like
Likes Phys12
  • #3
I think that your first year of college is too early to be that set on a sub-field, unless you have to declare it for some reason. Your research interests are likely to change as you learn more physics. My best advice is to take a diverse range of physics courses, and to do as much research experience as you can reasonably do (don't neglect coursework!). Also, don't do all that undergrad research with one group. Move around a bit, see what you like. Knowing you don't want to do something is also valuable.

Having research experience is more important than the sub-field.
 
  • Like
Likes Phys12
  • #4
Try to read about a wide range of fields. For example, the news and feature articles in Physics Today magazine. Even if you don't understand most of the details, you'll get an idea of what physicists actually do besides astrophysics, string theory, etc. which get all the coverage in the popular press.

If UTA has a Society of Physics Students chapter, join it and you'll get Physics Today as part of your membership fee.

Also, if UTA has regular colloquia where faculty and visitors talk about their research, go to them. You probably won't understand much beyond the beginning of the talks, but again you'll see what physicists actually do research in. You'll have the chance to talk to people and sound them out about research opportunities. And there may be refreshments. :biggrin:
 
  • Like
Likes Phys12
  • #5
All the responses were extremely helpful, thank you so much! So I guess I'll go to the university, take a variety of courses and then decide which area I want to pursue. And at the same time, I'll grab any research experience I would get, be it in Astronomy or any other discipline. Is it all right?
 
  • #6
Phys12 said:
All the responses were extremely helpful, thank you so much! So I guess I'll go to the university, take a variety of courses and then decide which area I want to pursue. And at the same time, I'll grab any research experience I would get, be it in Astronomy or any other discipline. Is it all right?

Just go in with an open mind and try to get started with research early. You may end up hating astronomy and loving something like solid state for all you know. Or, you may love astronomy more than you thought.
 
  • Like
Likes Phys12

1. What are the different sub-fields of physics?

The main sub-fields of physics include classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and relativity. Other sub-fields include astrophysics, biophysics, and materials science.

2. How do I figure out which sub-field is right for me?

You can start by exploring the different sub-fields and their applications. Think about your interests and what you hope to achieve in your career. You can also talk to professors and professionals in each sub-field to gain more insight.

3. What are the job opportunities in each sub-field?

Each sub-field of physics offers a wide range of job opportunities, both in academia and in industry. For example, classical mechanics can lead to careers in engineering, while astrophysics can lead to jobs in research institutes and observatories.

4. Do I need to have a specific background to pursue a certain sub-field?

Some sub-fields may require a specific educational background, such as a strong foundation in mathematics for quantum mechanics. However, many sub-fields have overlapping foundations, so it is possible to switch between sub-fields with the proper education and training.

5. How can I gain experience in a sub-field before committing to it?

You can gain experience through internships, research opportunities, and attending conferences and workshops. These experiences can give you a better understanding of the work involved in a specific sub-field and help you make an informed decision.

Suggested for: How do I decide which sub-field of Physics I want to pursue?

Replies
2
Views
459
Replies
2
Views
469
Replies
10
Views
2K
Replies
8
Views
690
Replies
8
Views
1K
Replies
5
Views
927
Replies
8
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
721
Back
Top