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I am a Doctor, Can I be a theoretical Physicist?

  1. Apr 25, 2013 #1
    I graduated from Medical school. Then wanted to pursue my career in research. I chose Immunology and I was doing PhD. But my skills were not good and I was fired during my studies. My supervisor said that I am smart and clever but I don't have skills.

    I always wanted to be a scientist and I feel that I am not good with experimental approach. I am thinking of choosing mathematics from a Bachelor's level and then to continue with theoretical physics or theoretical biology, whichever I feel comfortable with later. Can you please guide me if I will be able to do some good? Or Should I lose my hope of becoming a scientist and go back to medicine?

    It is a very big decision for me as I am 30 years old. Please advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2013 #2
    I hope you’re looking at something that leverages your medical degree as well – biophysics or bioengineering, though I’m not sure why those would work out better than immunology. If you’re thinking of cosmology or HEP theory or something like that, it would be a tragically stupid decision for someone out of medical school to make. You’ll be applying for entry level jobs in your early 40’s, and most people in those areas don’t get them.

    If you’re in the US, just be a doctor and rake in the cash. If you’re somewhere else, then just become a school teacher now, rather than going to school 15 years first.
  4. Apr 25, 2013 #3
    Are you in debt? You may want to take that into consideration. A bachelor's will give you more debt and I think you'll find it hard to convince a graduate program to accept you considering you have a medical degree.
  5. Apr 25, 2013 #4
    Thank you for your inputs/opinions.

    I think I should explain more about myself. I am an Indian citizen and I am currently residing in Czech republic, where recently I discontinued my PhD in Immunology. Since childhood I was always interested in becoming a scientist and all the famous mathematicians and physicists inspired me a lot. I used to derive equations in the school and show it to my maths teacher and he used to ask me "what is the purpose of this equation?", I was never able to answer that. But later due to some circumstances and family pressure I had to study medicine(in Russia). After that I didn't like to practice medicine and thought, getting a PhD would be the best and hence I started working on it. I was hoping that in research I would be thinking about the problems and try to solve it. But while I was doing my Phd I realized that it is all physical work and there was not so much thinking involved to the extent I thought research would be. Just work, work, work for 24 hours and expect results.
    I am personally dissatisfied with the work. And I was unable to keep up to my supervisor's expectations (in being a robot to produce experimental results) and they kicked me out.
    Near the end I had started reading some physics and was revising my school maths. It kinda gives me a great satisfaction that I am able to think a lot. I want some deep thinking to be involved and I wondered if theoretical physics would be my option. For that I need to work a lot at least for a minimum of 5 years to even be able to say that I am a physicist. I understand that I will be 40 years old when I will be able to contribute something. But I am feeling that it would give me a great satisfaction of living my life to the way I dreamed about when I was a kid.
    I don't know if I am thinking the right way or not. I understand that I will not be earning a great living. But I don't care about money as long as I am able to survive. I am even thinking of teaching myself(while working somewhere) with some help from students and not go to the college to do a Bachelor's and Master's. I mean if I can prove myself that I know physics and try and get some position in research in the future.
    And I also understand that I may not even succeed, but if I don't succeed I could at least guide. It is a great risk I will take, but is it worth it all?
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  6. Apr 25, 2013 #5
    you should ask yourself if its worth it all instead of others. If you think its worth it then i say go for it. you will never know unless you try. i think it is worth it for ME because this is what i want to do with my life and i believe that in life you have to give yourself the oppurtunity to succeed in something you enjoy. otherwise you will live the rest of your life wondering what if....
  7. Apr 28, 2013 #6
    Very often, you may have an idea that a career is going to be a certain way, but after taking it up, you may find it to be completely different from what you expected. At the time that I wanted to be a scientist, I thought I could pursue my own curiosity. When I went to grad school however, I found that I could not pursue the problems I was personally interested in. Rather, I had to work on what my prof was interested in. Also I was constrained by the research interests of the research group I was in. Also, as a grad student, there is a great pressure to work in so-called 'hot' areas so that it becomes easier to get a job later on. However, the area which you are interested in may not qualify as a 'hot' area. The same story continues as a post-doc. Throughout this period, the emphasis is on publishing papers in 'hot' topics so as to increase your chances of getting a permanent job. If you are lucky enough to get a tenured professor job, by the time you do this, you are probably already 45. Fine, now you have a permanent appointment and nobody can fire you. So you can finally work on the areas which you are interested in. But, you've already spent 15 years of your life working on stuff which didn't interest you.
    Rather, I would suggest, take up something which you like doing as your profession, but not something you are overly passionate about or interested in. In your case, you can continue working as a doctor(as long as you don't hate it), and work on theoretical physics in your spare time, or on weekends, as a hobby. There is a lot of application of physics in areas of medicine as well, various things like finding the distribution of weights in various bones of the human body in case of weightlifters to find out which would be a safe limit or posture, simulating the flow of blood in the heart, propagation of electrical signals in the nerves, etc.
  8. Apr 28, 2013 #7
    I don't know what it's like in Europe but there's not a chance that a university would accept you to a bachelor's program as an MD in the US. It's hard enough to get into a new bachelor's program even if you only have a previous bachelor's. If you have a doctorate... I seriously doubt it.
    If I were in my 30ies I would honestly just put that idea on the shelf. Go work as a doctor and satisfy your curiosity on your spare time.
    I always wanted to become a combat pilot. I didn't have 20-20 vision and I'm 24 now so it's never gonna happen. Life very rarely turns out exactly the way you want. You have one of the most prestigious and sought after doctorates in the world. Maybe you could go to India and do some charity work, help the hundreds of millions of poor people there and fulfill yourself in that way instead?
  9. Apr 29, 2013 #8
    I don't agree. The university would admit based on past academic record, SAT scores, etc., and ability to pay the fees. I don't think they would be so close minded as to rule out somebody. I've taught in a university for a few years and I've had students who are more than 30 years old. There are even people who are beyond 50 who enroll in grad school.
    But it should be easy enough to join an undergraduate program in India, or even a correspondence distance learning program.
  10. Apr 30, 2013 #9
    This sentence doesn't make any sense... medical science is a science.

    What about taking an MSc epidemiology?

    http://www1.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/teaching/postgraduate/modernepidemiology/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  11. Apr 30, 2013 #10
    You're free to look it up. I have a guy in my physics class who already has a Bachelor's in math but wants to do engineering. He wasn't able to apply for a lot of universities because they refused to give him another bachelor's.
  12. May 6, 2013 #11


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    Have you considered mathematical biology? You half half the skills (biology) and people are pretty helpful for the maths part.
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