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How to become a Physicist in India?

  1. May 28, 2014 #1
    I live in Noida, U.P. and I am expecting about 90% in my 12th exam. I got 202 in JEE Main and I don't think I will get a good rank in JEE Advanced, so IITs and IISERs are out of option. I have given entrance test of CMI and awaiting its result.

    I want to pursue a career in theoretical physics but I am confused what to do next. I don't think there are any reputed institutes/colleges where I will get admission with these marks in BSc (H) Physics and if there are, then please suggest some.

    On the other hand, can I do a masters and then a PhD in physics if I do my under graduation in engineering (I mean, it won't difficult to switch, would it) ? And if I do this, then which engineering branch will help me to study more of physics and mathematics ?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2014 #2
    Electrical Engineering probably offers more Physics and Maths than other engineering fields would, but a switch from Engineering to Physics is not that easy. You'll have to study subjects like Quantum Mechanics, Nuclear Physics, Atomic Physics and Relativity all by yourself, and those are all quite tough cookies.
  4. May 31, 2014 #3
    If you badly want to do theoretical physics, then there's no point in studying engineering right now, and postponing physics to later. As pointed out above, the pillars of physics -- QM, CM, SM, EM are challenging enough to warrant a dedicated study. As someone who has BS and MS degrees in EE and switched to grad school for Physics, I can say that significant coursework in Physics at the undergrad and MS levels helped me switch. But do the potential schools you want to go to for a BS in engineering allow you the flexibility of taking serious physics courses? I don't think places other than IITs will let you do that in India.

    Finally, which engineering branch you should pick is something that only you can judge for yourself. There is some amount of physics in almost all branches of engineering. I will say that EE is perhaps closest. But if you are interested in quantum computer science or theoretical quantum computing, I have known people from computer science who also dabble in these topics.

    I think another relevant question is: do you have an idea where you will want to go for graduate school?

    If you want to go to grad school in India, at places like TIFR or HRI or IMSc for that matter, you will have to take specialized exams such as the JEST exam, and the TIFR Entrance Exam. These are usually targeted at the level of an advanced undergraduate, and with some dedicated preparation you may be able to clear these exams. However, whether you will be prepared for graduate school is an entirely different matter altogether. Places in India will probably slot you in the Integrated MSc + PhD program with a bachelor's in engineering if you make it through the exams and interviews. In exceptional cases, they can also admit you directly to the PhD program with a B.Tech. degree in engineering, depending on your performance in the interview.

    However if you want to study in the US, you will probably be better off with an undergraduate and a Master's degree in Physics, than with an engineering undergraduate degree. But three things that will matter more here will be (i) your research experience, (ii) recommendations, (iii) Physics GRE score. You will have to distinguish yourself among a crowd of physics majors, and having things on your resume that speak highly of your physics skills will be helpful.

    If you do decide to do engineering now, and physics later, this link might be helpful. You'll have to try and keep your foot in the physics door by doing research projects and working with meaningful people and groups.

    Good luck on your career decision!
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