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Physics How hot of an area of research is particle physics?

  1. Mar 18, 2009 #1
    How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    Hello friends. I am currently trying to decide which branch of physics I want to go into. I have been interested in working as a theorist in particle physics, but I am afraid that the job market for this is not good. Also, I am afraid that research in the field is slow considering that it takes years to construct particle accelerators with enough energy to perform the experiments required to test theories in particle physics.


    Should I be concerned about the job market for particle physics, is progress being made in this field, and what are some "hot" areas of research in particle physics? TY.
     
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  3. Mar 19, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    Are you a graduate student? If not, it's too early to specialize. If so, you should take a look at PRL and decide for yourself how "hot" the field is. You should be concerned about the job market no matter what your specialization is.
     
  4. Mar 19, 2009 #3
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    In my opinion the job market for particle theory is not very good. At my university they tell incoming graduate students "if you can see yourself doing anything other than particle theory, do that instead." Among grad students, while most experimentalists, as well as theorists in condensed matter, get Research assistantship support, the majority of particle physics students must work as a TA throughout grad school.

    By the way, last year at least 80% of the incoming class listed particle theory as an interest, despite the fact that at most 5% of them will eventually settle on this specialization.

    'Slow' isn't exactly the right word to describe the lack of experimental surprises over the last 30 years, I would say it is 'unhealthy.' In other words there are a large number of particle theory papers being published all the time, and progress is rapid, but the progress is not 'solid' because it is so disconnected from experiment.

    Lattice Gauge Theory
    Ads/CFT duality
    Phenomenology & Cosmology
     
  5. Mar 19, 2009 #4
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    I'm a senior UG, but I'm trying to plan ahead and see what I might be interested in doing. I want to get a head start and know what type of stuff I'll eventually be working on. My ultimate goal would be to make a notable theoretical advancement in particle physics, but I am also interested in turbulence, so condensed matter physics is a possibility (also has much more marketability).
     
  6. Mar 19, 2009 #5
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    Right, but consider that the stagnation of experimental results will result in the stagnation of theoretical results to some extent, and vice versa. For example, if it turns out that we do not detect the Higgs Boson at the the LHC, or perhaps we discover some completely new, weird type of particle that defies the standard model, we cannot begin to work on a new theoretical explanation until we see this data. So I'm asking whether the slow pace of experimental results in PP significantly retards the rate of theoretical advancement.
     
  7. Mar 20, 2009 #6

    jtbell

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    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    Even back when I was in grad school, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, long-term positions in particle physics theory were scarce. The usual pattern for people who did their Ph.D. in that area was to go through a series of short-term (one or two years) post-doc positions in the hope of landing a tenure-track position at some university. You need to be really good, and demonstrate it with publications, in order to have a chance of staying in the field.
     
  8. Mar 20, 2009 #7
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    This is what I thought might be the case. Thank you for informing me. I think I might just do condensed matter (I'm interested in studying turbulence) because there are more job opportunities in that field, and perhaps I'll study particle physics in my free time or something. My dream is to work on a GUT, but since I don't plan on having much of a life outside of physics I supposed I'll have plenty of time outside of work to work on this.
     
  9. Mar 21, 2009 #8
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    since I don't plan on having much of a life outside of physics


    Why?
     
  10. Mar 21, 2009 #9
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    Agree with the above^^

    Don't imagine that you will be a better physicist just because you devote more of your time on it. I've always figured out to solve the hardest assignments when I have been doing something completely different...
     
  11. Mar 21, 2009 #10

    Haelfix

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    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    Particle physics is pretty darn cold these days. Its almost impossible to land a theorist job, phenomonology is still semi ok but flooded with competition, hiring freezes and universities waiting for LHC results before making a bet. The big hiring spree of particle physicists going into cosmology/astrophysics has died down somewhat

    It was bleak two years ago when I was looking, and I consider myself lucky to have gotten a desirable spot. Nowdays, its almost an order of magnitude worse.

    The delay from going postdoc to assistant professor has grown dramatically, assistant professor to full tenure harder than ever, etc etc.

    Worse, if you drop out at any point in the chain, there are fewer spots in private industry than ever before. No more Quant positions and things like that.

    Its pretty crazy to consider that the field that has stereotypically been only for the best and brightest, find their students unable to land jobs.
     
  12. Mar 21, 2009 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    While it's true that there are more jobs in condensed matter theory than HEP theory, it's also true that there are more applicants. It's not clear to me that one path is obviously easier or harder than the other.

    I think you might want to think about how realistic this is. There are typically about 30 faculty positions in HEP theory that open up yearly. If you aren't good enough to get one of those, how likely is that you will be able to make a substantial contribution part time?
     
  13. Mar 21, 2009 #12
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    This is correct when we're talking about spending time on a single problem (it won't help you to rack your brain over just one thing all day), but I'm referring to studying multiple problems. What I mean is that I'll have time to learn about and hopefully attempt to solve some particle physics problems in my free time, since I don't plan on having much of a life. As for why I don't, it's really a personal thing. I'm not a misanthrope or a schizoid or anything like that, I simply enjoy physics more than just about anything, including socializing and other forms of recreation. I don't plan on starting a family until I'm at least 40 if I do.
     
  14. Mar 21, 2009 #13
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    Well it's your life :) As long as you enjoy yourself, it's enough.
     
  15. Mar 21, 2009 #14
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    While you certainly need an adequate amount of time to ponder something as profound as HEP theory, I'm of the belief that sometimes all it takes is the correct approach to solve a problem, not the devotion of your entire life to it. Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity when he was working as a patent clerk, and while I don't claim to even approach his intellect I think that he serves as a good example that it is at least possible to make advancements in physics working "part time" on them. Of course, it would be different for me as I'm not as intelligent as Einstein nor would I be as single-minded as he was (since I would also be thinking about problems that I was actually working on AT WORK). However, Einstein made a lot of his breakthroughs in his 20s, and I can wait. I don't care if it takes me until I'm nearly 40 to make a discovery, I'll still go for it.
     
  16. Mar 21, 2009 #15
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    I admire that fact that you are willing to risk it all. But keep in mind that Einstein worked alot longer on the general theory of relativity. And that was full time. Also, he didn't come up with a unified field theory even though he devoted a large part of his life on it. Just be prepared to "live with yourself" after you've spent 20 years on something, and you haven't come up with anything new. That's not something easy piece to swallow. But I stand by my first sentence. The world needs people who are willing to risk everything.
     
  17. Mar 21, 2009 #16
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    However, isn't both the quality of applicants as well as the ratio of applicants to positions greater in HEP than in condensed matter? I was under the impression that HEP applicants were typically very brilliant, whereas condensed matter applicants were highly intelligent (as are pretty much all physicists), but not like...super brains. I would think that competition would be stiffer for HEP theory, but I don't know. I'm simply asking for clarification here.
     
  18. Mar 21, 2009 #17

    cristo

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    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?

    How is the latter going to happen if you don't plan on socialising?

    I think it's rather foolish to compare oneself with Einstein, even in passing.
     
  19. Mar 21, 2009 #18
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    Thanks for admiring this, but I still don't know if I want to do it. It's not an easy decision to make. I might just end up doing research in an area where I could make smaller, yet notable contributions and that would afford me more time to enjoy a life outside of physics. I just don't know yet. That's why I'm thinking about this stuff now.
     
  20. Mar 21, 2009 #19
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?



    And I think you need to reread what I wrote. I mentioned twice that I am not nearly as intelligent as Einstein, and that it would take me much longer to make a significant contribution, but that it could still be done simply by working on something part time.
     
  21. Mar 21, 2009 #20
    Re: How "hot" of an area of research is particle physics?


    I will begin socializing latter in life, maybe in my 30s.
     
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