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 your thesis topic affect your desired fields of work?

  1. Oct 5, 2008 #1
    I'm going to be choosing the topic of my masters thesis rather soon which will lay a lot of the ground work for my PhD. But I am wondering how general should I make my thesis with respect to other engineering areas. I'm looking to go specifically into energy and heat transfer of multi-phase/mixed flows and will most likely being doing my MS and PhD theses on fuel cell modeling and optimization. But lets say someday I would like to go into the area of solar thermal power or purhaps solar thermolysis. Would doing work only with fuel cells maybe make me sort of non-applicable to other fields such as solar thermal power? I guess a better way of stating the question would be, would doing work on one specific technology make me exempt from working on other types of technology even though they involve similar science? Of course this is all considering the industrial world and not academics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2008 #2
    The only people I know who are still working on something related to their thesis topic are in academia.

    I'm in CS, but I tend to believe the situation is similar in other fields.
  4. Oct 27, 2008 #3
    According to my adviser, none of the PhDs that graduated from my program (that he knows of) went on to work in the same area they did their research in. Most companies that recruit fresh PhDs will hire you because of your skill set, and not your thesis topic.
  5. Oct 29, 2008 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Your advisor and committee will have a lot more say on how specific your thesis topic is than you will. :wink: They will guide you toward whatever they expect for your program.

    I don't think very many people work on their thesis topic. I know I sure don't. It's very peripherally related to what I do now. I know a lot of people, myself included, who look back at their dissertations and wonder "what was I thinking?!" I also wonder how my committee let me write such crap. :uhh: I've come a long way since then!
  6. Oct 31, 2008 #5
    I always thought of the thesis as just a tool getting me to the degree. And I thought the degree would give me the license to do whatever I what to do as long as I found funding (within reason of course... a history department probably wouldn't hire me with a physics phd, even if I managed to secure funding from the NEH!). I tend to think, as is the experience of others here, that nobody really works on the same exact problem all their lives, just improving it.

    In fact: I often think doing a thesis in a related area means you might be creative in an approach to the areas you really want to later pursue. Who knows... I might be wrong there. But I'd certainly hope that some areas you might like to pursue don't even exist yet... and that someone eventually works on those problems! :biggrin:
  7. Nov 1, 2008 #6
    I'm surprised at this. This is not what I found in industry job searches at all; essentially a PhD was hired because they had experience with a typical area of research. In any reasearch are significantly different from what they did their thesis on they were just really expensive masters degrees. I ran into this mostly while looking for industry jobs in Cali, especially with semiconductor, organic electronics and materials type work.

    It could vary. Which industries/companies are you thinking of?
  8. Nov 1, 2008 #7
    Sure they do; look around enough at any university physics department and you'll find a good handful. They're older, they've been doing the same research into the same couple of problems for decades. They give the same (with a bit of tweaking) talks at every seminar. They publish papers that sound essentially the same. They work with grad students who are doing essentially what they did/do.

    I can think of at least half a dozen between two universities off the top of my head.

    But that certainly doesn't mean everyone has to be as dull about it.
  9. Nov 2, 2008 #8
    I would like to work in the aerospace industry so that would include companies like UTC, GE, Rolls-Royce. I'm a Materials Scientist (but I have a specialty in Surface Science) so I know how to use a variety of analytical equipment, which will make me marketable for a lab supervisor type position if I chose to go that route. However, I would much rather be designing new ceramic/metallic alloys. I think what most companies are looking for in new PhDs is the ability to hit the ground running and I have that ability for various reasons. The way I see it, is that if a company doesn't want me because I don't have experience with a specific material that's their loss and not mine because I'm very marketable. Besides, life would get very boring if one were forced to work with the same class of materials for the rest of their life.

  10. Nov 2, 2008 #9
    Okay, so it was essentially supposition, not experience. That's fine, so long as we're all clear about it.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook