1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How Does it Feel to Be a Physicist?

  1. Apr 25, 2009 #1
    I want to ask anyone who already is a physicist about there job, so i hope you can help. I prefer to ask an experimentalist but i guess you can still tell me about theoretical.

    1. How long were you in school?
    2. How long have you been a physicist?
    3. Do you enjoy your job? (you wake up and can't wait wait to go to work)
    4. What do you specialize in?
    5. Where and who do you work for?
    6. Was it hard for you to get a job at the beginning, what about now?
    7. Have you had to move a lot?
    8. If you can go back in time, would you become something else? Maybe, specialize in a different field.
    9. When you get home, do you have to do anything, like have "homework".
    10. What do you do at work?
    11. And if i may ask, how much money do you make?

    Thanks in advance!
    (you don't need to answer the last question, but it'll help)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2009 #2

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Undergrad: 4 years
    Master's: 2 years
    PhD: 5 years

    4 years (defining "physicist" as having completed graduate school and actively doing academic research)

    Some days. I enjoy the research aspects the most. I don't so much enjoy days where I find out at 16:30 that I have to stay until 20:00 or 21:00 to do emergency clinical work.

    Medical Phyiscs

    A cancer hospital, in affiliation with a university.

    I haven't had much trouble getting a job, although I didn't get my first choice of job right after graduating.

    Only to go from a student apartment to a house.

    I don't think so, I'm pretty happy with my current field. I might do a few things differently though.

    I have to study for board exams. Fortunately this is coming to a close very soon. Other "after hours" work includes research (I don't just stop at 17:00 and call it a day), marking, reading, preparing lectures/talks, refereeing papers, etc.

    http://www.aapm.org/medical_physicist/default.asp#scope

    I'm not going to disclose personal financial information on a public forum, however, medical physicists tend to earn significantly more than their academic counterparts because of the clinical component of the work. The higher pay, of course, comes with a higher level of responsibility.
     
  4. Apr 25, 2009 #3
    Thanks Choppy!

    I wasn't expecting a medical physicist but that's fine. By the way, why did you want to become a medical physicist, maybe i'm just different but do you think something like condensed-matter or particle physicist might have been more interesting?

    Again, thanks!
     
  5. Apr 25, 2009 #4

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Everyone has their own areas of interest. Medical physics problems tend to be less 'fundamental' in their nature and more applied. For example by studying how radiation interacts with the human body we improve radiation therapy treatments for cancer. It's not likely that we're going to discover a new form of radiation doing this work, but the work has a very real and immediate impact on peoples' lives, which I find appealing.
     
  6. Apr 27, 2009 #5
    Hi Choppy, I'm interested to know if it's possible to go into medical physics with a theoretical background (a masters in mathematical physics from a good university). I'm studying in the UK. Thanks.
     
  7. Apr 27, 2009 #6

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    In general, what you need is a background in undergraduate physics, then a graduate degree in medical physics and clinical training. I know several people who have crossed over from other fields. In some places it has been possible to jump right into the clinical training phase (a medical physics residency) with a graduate degree in some other area of physics, but because the field is rather competative this is becoming more and more rare. Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.

    My apologies to TOE Dream. I feel like I've hijacked the thread.
     
  8. Apr 27, 2009 #7
    1. How long were you in school?
    BS: 5 years, PhD: 5 years
    2. How long have you been a physicist?
    Just finishing up my first year after grad school.
    3. Do you enjoy your job? (you wake up and can't wait wait to go to work)
    Yes, I usually enjoy my job. But there are aspects of it that irritate me and cause stress.
    4. What do you specialize in?
    Theoretical and Applied Nuclear Physics
    5. Where and who do you work for?
    I have a postdoc through a major university Nuclear Engineering Dept funded by and located at NASA. It is simpler (funding wise) to be employed under a research grant compared to directly through the agency.
    6. Was it hard for you to get a job at the beginning, what about now?
    I have been working with the same group since I was an undergrad. They funded part of my graduate career and also fund my postdoc. So, no the job was not difficult to get. But, long-term funding is a very large variable in my life and is very difficult to forecast more than a few years out.
    7. Have you had to move a lot?
    Kinda. Moved for grad school from midwest to New England area. Then moved again to the mid-atlantic coast for my postdoc.
    8. If you can go back in time, would you become something else? Maybe, specialize in a different field.
    As a physicist, I truly feel I can tackle any problem. What I work on now is very enjoyable, but I am more on the fundamental research side instead of the application engineering side that some of my co-workers deal with. I am not sure how I feel about the possibility of having to do a lot of engineering in the future (which is likely if I stay with my current research group. As for right now, no I would not change a thing.
    9. When you get home, do you have to do anything, like have "homework". Have to? Usually not. There are weeks where I bring 4 hours of work home at night. Sometimes that is due to a deadline, sometimes I cannot just let a problem alone, and sometimes I have family obligations during the day and have to work at night. Most weeks, I bring a paper or book home in the evenings to read over once my wife falls asleep.
    10. What do you do at work?
    Full time research (usually). A lot of coding for our research codes, verification and validation of our research codes, model development and some phenomenology. But I get pulled into a little administrative work: internal review of papers (we have a formal review process for all papers published by the group- they have to be formally reviewed internally before being sent out- this is not standard for most research groups).
    11. And if i may ask, how much money do you make?
    Above average for a postdoc.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009
  9. Apr 28, 2009 #8
    1. How long were you in school?
    Undergrad: 3 years
    Master's: 2 years
    PhD: 6 years
    2. How long have you been a physicist?
    4yrs since finishing my PhD, But my reasearch started in the second yr of my undergrad.
    3. Do you enjoy your job? (you wake up and can't wait wait to go to work)
    Well for me i do love everything i do, somedays can drag on and be a bit disappointing but i still enjoy it.
    4. What do you specialize in?
    Plasma Physics
    5. Where and who do you work for?
    I work for CERN at the LHC
    6. Was it hard for you to get a job at the beginning, what about now?
    Yes, it took me a around 2 years to find a job i wanted to do and around 8000 apps.
    7. Have you had to move a lot?
    yes i now live in Switzerland but am from England.
    8. If you can go back in time, would you become something else? Maybe, specialize in a different field.
    Not a chance, i love what i do.
    9. When you get home, do you have to do anything, like have "homework".
    Well everything is one long bit of homework, as i am always thinking about my work and well i have to progress the work or funding will be cut so the pressure is always there.
    10. What do you do at work?
    I study quark-gluon plasma after proton collisions. It may sound dull but it rather hard to explain in a few lines. I basicly "look for things you can't see" as a friend put it.
    11. And if i may ask, how much money do you make?
    I won't say how much.. But it is just enough to sustain my living with a little extra each year.. but i don't mind as i do what i love.
     
  10. Apr 28, 2009 #9
    1. How long were you in school?
    BS (physics): 4 yrs, M.ED (classroom teaching): 1.5 yrs., MS (engineering): 1.5 yrs PhD (physics - condensed matter): 5.5 yrs
    2. How long have you been a physicist?
    gee -- since I was in undergrad, first doing some research? I've been out of graduate school for about 2 1/2 years now.
    3. Do you enjoy your job? (you wake up and can't wait wait to go to work)
    Usually. But as a lecturer I can tend to feel a bit under-appreciated by the department (but even more so by the university... our department is pretty decent to lecturers, we can serve on departmental academic committees do some education research with a bit of departmental monetary support, etc.).
    Physics Education
    5. Where and who do you work for?
    I work at a state flagship university as a lecturer in the department of Physics and Astronomy.
    6. Was it hard for you to get a job at the beginning, what about now?
    Yes -- largely because of family-related concerns (dual-academic family, with my spouse in administration). I also wanted to switch specializations (from condensed matter to education)... so that's been a bit tricky.
    7. Have you had to move a lot?
    Not particularly. More of the concern is that we have a special needs child who uses a wheel-chair... and finding good accessible housing is difficult.
    8. If you can go back in time, would you become something else? Maybe, specialize in a different field.
    I think if I had to go back, I would have ended with my MS degree in engineering and continued my job at the time, rather than pursuing a Ph.D. in physics.... or I would have pursued a Ph.D. in engineering. I was working for the Air Force Research Labs at the time as a research engineer... and it was a good job with good pay/benefits (that would have improved). As a lecturer, universities tend to restrict you to part-time (so they don't have to pay benefits, and so you are easily disposable when the budget tightens... I've been lucky so far to keep my job with the present economy).
    9. When you get home, do you have to do anything, like have "homework". Yes -- minor grading and prep for classes. It's gotten easier as I repeat some of the courses... but since my research is in physics education, often I'm making changes to the entire course format, so there can be more prep.
    10. What do you do at work?
    Teach (I tend to use an activity-based format when the content allows, which makes class lots of fun). I also do education research, so I have to administer tools that access students attitudes and learning gains, and analyze the statistics of the data looking for trends and changes from class to class. I do some outreach to local public school teachers as well.
    11. And if i may ask, how much money do you make?
    Typical by-the-course rate for a lecturer. No benefits since I'm part-time.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009
  11. Apr 28, 2009 #10

    why can't you go back to something like that?
     
  12. Apr 28, 2009 #11

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award


    1. How long were you in school?
    BS- 4 years
    MS/PhD - 6 years

    2. How long have you been a physicist?
    Not sure how to answer this. I've been out of school for 12 years.

    3. Do you enjoy your job? (you wake up and can't wait wait to go to work)
    Yes. Unqualified yes.

    4. What do you specialize in?
    Not sure how to answer this- I have experience in optics, fluids, and physiology/cell biophysics.

    5. Where and who do you work for?
    I have worked for an Air Force contractor, NASA contractor, Medical School, and now am taking a tenure-track faculty position in a Physics Department. I also have a consulting business on the side, more to keep my "antennae out" than as a revenue source.

    6. Was it hard for you to get a job at the beginning, what about now?
    Yes. Always yes. Every job has taken at least 1 year to find.

    7. Have you had to move a lot?
    Not as much as some. I consider myself very lucky in that regard.

    8. If you can go back in time, would you become something else? Maybe, specialize in a different field.
    No.

    9. When you get home, do you have to do anything, like have "homework".
    Do I *have* to? No. Do I enjoy reading and learning new things? Yes.

    10. What do you do at work?
    On a typical day- work in the lab, trying to get an experiment working or taking data and troubleshooting. I'm not sure what my days will be like starting this Fall- I'll probably spend 2-4 hours every day teaching or doing teaching-related activities.

    11. And if i may ask, how much money do you make?

    Thanks in advance!
    (you don't need to answer the last question, but it'll help)
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook