How to become an amateur physicist

  • #1
Hi, I'm a recently graduated software engineer. During my time at university I had initially planned to double major in both physics and computer science but eventually dropped physics since I didn't expect that I would pursue a PhD for monetary reasons. I really enjoyed physics during my time at university though and before dropping I had completed Classical Dynamics, Statistical Mechanics, and reasonably self-studied up through QM2.

While my mathematical skills aren't quite as honed as they were, I'm reasonably comfortable with vector calculus, ODEs, calculus of variations, and some abstract algebra and topology. Now that I've settled into life outside of university into software engineering, I'd like to jump back into physics, but I'm not sure what the best way of making a useful or valuable contribution to the literature or infrastructure.

I believe that I have the discipline to continue my education into upper-undergraduate and graduate level physics/math topics, so long as I have some kind of purpose to keep developing it(I.e. a directed research project).

All in all, I'd like to get involved in research in the physics community and I'm willing to invest time and effort into doing so, but I don't have the time to commit to a full PhD. What are the best options for me to make a meaningful contribution to ongoing physics research?

If its of any use, my primary research interests as of now are split between astrophysics and astrophysical phenomenology, and condensed matter physics.
 
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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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I don't have the time to commit to a full PhD
What are the best options for me to make a meaningful contribution to ongoing physics research?

This is going to be hard. That's essentially what a PhD is.
 
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Likes russ_watters and symbolipoint
  • #3
This is going to be hard. That's essentially what a PhD is.
Yeah, it’s less that I’m opposed to doing a PhD, and more that between my job, life, and a very committed hobby, a full PhD would be a big strain on everything else. As of now, I would say I’m capable of consistently committing somewhere between 6-10 hours per week on physics. I expect that later on in life I may be more free to commit to a full PhD, but until then I’d like to at least do something to build and maintain my skills in physics while also contributing to something valuable.
 
  • #4
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6-10 hours per week is 10% of what a grad student spends. It takes a grad student 6 years on average to finish a PhD. You do the math. :smile:
 
  • #5
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If you want to study physics for the fun of it and you are willing to put 6-10 hours weekly I'd say you could reach a level of a "master" degree with consistent work in a reasonable amount of time.

All in all, I'd like to get involved in research in the physics community and I'm willing to invest time and effort into doing so, but I don't have the time to commit to a full PhD. What are the best options for me to make a meaningful contribution to ongoing physics research?

If its of any use, my primary research interests as of now are split between astrophysics and astrophysical phenomenology, and condensed matter physics.


Now, about this, I'd say your best bet is to try to use your knowledge as a software engineer and try to apply it to physics. It is far from my expertise so I can't say anything concrete, but try too look what is hot in computational physics and compare it with your current knowledge.
 

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