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How to choose a field for PhD?

  1. Dec 18, 2014 #1
    Hi there..

    I have been away from PF for a long time now. But I need some guidance and I have come back here.
    I am describing all the fields that I believe I have some degree of interest in, and now I need to decide which one to take up for a Phd.
    I am currently doing a Masters in Theoretical Physics. It has a lot of Particle Physics theory related courses like RQFT, Quantum THeory: path intergrals, MQFT, Standard Model.I have taken the first two courses already, I am not sure if I understand them properly or not, but I enjoyed doing calculations for Feynman diagrams. Also, I had a course in particle physics, that was based on experimental aspect. Well, I somehow do not like experimental work and hence didn't appreciate this course at all. It sounded a lot like facts nd less of explanation to all those weird things.

    Other than Particle Theory, I have keen interest in foundation of Quantum Mechanics, but all my professors have said it has no scope, not for a PhD. They have suggested Quantum Optics and Information. I looked at the work going on in these fields and it seems to be inclined towards experimental side. I believe, I have interest in Optics... as in how photon interacts with matter and all the amazing properties of light, but as far as I know there not much in this.Further, I am not so sure about using the Quantum ideas to develop Quantum computers...this doesn't fascinate me much.

    I possibly have a little interest in Materials as well. That is because I worked with Ferroeletric and Piezoelectric material. I am quite interested to study the phase transition in different materials. This leads me to Statistical Physics and its applications. I think I want this as well.

    So, in short, it feels like I want to study everything. Thus choosing one and leaving the rest seems difficult.
    I need you people to tell me if there is a group that works on materials theoretically, applying QED type Feynman Diagrams to study the interaction of Light with it.. what will such a group be called? And what category will it fall under?
    Or if reading my post you think I have interest in something else, I am willing to hear it. Also, I haven't specifically mentioned any sub topic in these field because I don't know much about that.

    I know, just by reading the things i have said no one can clearly tell me how to really decide my PhD field. But I m looking for a different point of view on this.
    Any help is appreciated.
    Thanks for reading so much..
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 18, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I would construct a list of pros and cons for each topic you have an interest in. Score each pro/con with a plus/minus value and then add them up to see which topic prevails.

    If you're not happy with the score then review your pros and cons and see if you want to change the scoring or add something new to score.

    As an example, after scoing you might consider rating yourself for each topic:
    - which one do you know the best?
    - how easy will it be to do the math?
    - how much difficulty will it be to write a thesis in the this area?
    - who will be your adviser? how well do you respect him/her? how well do you work with him/her? what have other students said?

    Remember, if you feel uncomfortable with your decision then maybe subconsciously you know it to be wrong and now you need to understand why you feel that way. Scoring pros and cons can help

    The keypoint for doing a dissertation is to focus 100% of your time to get the work done, the writing done and have it reviewed. You don't want to linger in the program taking your time. Some advisers get bored with a students progress and wont look at your stuff, may be too busy for you... The end result is you spend more years than needed to get your degree.
  4. Dec 18, 2014 #3
    Hi jedishrfu
    Thanks a lot for replying.
    I weighed the pros and cons, and have been able to decide what field is best for me. It is application of Feynman diagrams and perturbation theories to understand the behavior of matter, in any form except Phenomenology of particle collisions. And this isn't very specific yet.
    But I am not sure whether it is in the Particle Theory group or Condensed matter theory group. Can you please tell me what group it will fall under?

    thanks agin
  5. Dec 18, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    That's beyond my expertise, I think you'd need to talk to one of your profs about it. However, from your descripton, it sounds like condensed matter.
  6. Dec 20, 2014 #5
    Are you applying to new schools or staying where you are? If you are applying to new schools, apply to schools with big condensed matter and particle physics groups and try working with some of the people.
  7. Dec 21, 2014 #6
    Hi.. JJminusl
    I am planning to apply in my university as well as outside. Thank you.
  8. Jan 3, 2015 #7
    It is related to the main question:
    Can someone give me a brief idea of fields of work in Particle Theory Physics these days? I would really appreciate if you could explain a little bit about it in the simplest possible ways. I hope this is not too much to ask.
    I mean, I have done a course on RQFT and Path Integral- quantum Theory, so I want to know about fields that have basics in these.
    (I know practically all of research is based on QFT these days, but I would be happy if you could explain what is what..)
    Thank you
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