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How fun is particle physics research? (re:computation work)

  1. Feb 24, 2008 #1

    so im currently an ug, and ive been offered positions to do particle physics research. The thing that is turning me off is that it's mostly computational work in C++. I don't know how much i'll enjoy working at the computer all day, but the idea of studying what makes up matter is interesting in of itself. So theres a bit of a dillema where it can be boring on one end but exciting on the other.

    Ive also been told that graduate students do alot of computational work in particle physics too. (i havent been able to find hardware related work, so computation is my only option.)

    So im wondering if anyones done this sort of computation research? Did you find it really interesting and intellectuality stimulating? Was it worthwhile? What was it that you liked most about it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2008 #2


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    Nearly every grad student and higher does a lot of computer work nowdays. Its part and parcel of the job.

    Depending on what your specialty is, you might have more than others, but be sure you will spend a large amount of your time in front of your workstation coding/debugging or simply using software others have already created.
  4. Feb 26, 2008 #3
    I think any occupation you do in your life, no matter, there are some boring parts. I personnaly know several professional musicians for instance, I used to play with them when we were young, and I can tell you that even being a rock star is not always that fun. The thing is to know whether you have passion deep inside or not, and if you do you will wake up every morning with an urge to go to the lab. If physics were a passion for you, I think you would not even ask such a question. I have passion inside, I have colleagues sharing the same, we never wondered whether it would be boring. Even if some tasks are awfully technical, systematic, difficult, require lots of concentration for a very long time without rest, it does not matter. Because in the end, you might be the first person to contemplate a rainbow, or to know how a star works, and this feeling is priceless.
  5. Feb 29, 2008 #4
    Real science is always slow and tedious work, that's WORK. There is no such thing as running around yelling Eureka! all day. That's Hollywood.
  6. Feb 29, 2008 #5
    Rasslin - as an undergrad I did computational research in particle physics for over a year. First of all, you learn a lot of very useful skills that theorists normally use. And second, while doing the computational research you will doubtlessly learn a good deal about the physics itself. Phenomenology work will probably provide a nice transition to more theoretical work eventually.
  7. Mar 1, 2008 #6


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    Also, take into account that "mostly computational work in C++" need not be a boring job.

    Particle physics is one of the subjects in which you can put to good use most of the advanced multivariate analysis techniques that have been created (neural networks, boosted decision trees, ad-hoc modeling of oddly shaped distributions,...), plus all the math machinery that you probably know... 3D geometry, differential and integral calculus, statistical methods, linear algebra, ... when trying to extract a very rare signature from billions of collision data, all those come in handy as tools to fight possible backgrounds.
  8. Mar 1, 2008 #7
    thanks guys for all your diff. perspectives. im now giving the particle physics position a bit more consideration. (im torn between this now and a condensed matter research position)
  9. Mar 1, 2008 #8
    I have no knowledge of how C++ works, will that be taught in the course?
  10. Mar 3, 2008 #9
    You will find that most graduate research involves some computational work.

    I think that you should see it as a positive point, not only in your research, but also from the point of view that computational experience could also land you jobs outside physics if you want to explore more options in the future.
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