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I am interested string theory

  1. Jan 15, 2009 #1
    I am currently searching for what I am interested in as far as future job possibility and what to major in. I have always been intrigued with science and learning about new discoveries. Physics is one of my favorite thing to read about because it constantly gives us new outlooks on the world around us, that is why I ,personally, am interested in string theory and quantum mechanics. So my question is this, what kind of job opportunities are there for some one with this interest and how does one go about becoming one.

    P.S. If anyone hasn't read "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene I highly recommend it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2009 #2
    If you want to do work in string theory, you're are pretty much restricted to doing research at a university. If you want to do this, you'll need a BS and PhD in Physics.

    Another thing you should know is that high energy theory is by far the most competitive field to get into in physics. If you want to do string theory, you'll need to be the best of the best. There are very few positions for string theorists around the world, and boatloads of people who want to be in those positions.

    This sounds very grim, but you shouldn't despair. Many people are attracted to physics by the crazy stuff like string theory, but then they discover how beautiful everything else is. That's what happened to me, and that's what happened to many other physics majors I know.

    If you are interested in quantum mechanics in general, career prospects are much less grim. About one third of all physicists work in condensed matter, where quantum mechanics plays a very large role. Since condensed matter has many industrial applications, you will find work if you go into condensed matter.
  4. Jan 17, 2009 #3

    Before entering into string theory, you should read this book.
    The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin

    here's the website of the book. http://www.thetroublewithphysics.com/
    The book is scathing criticism of the string theory by someone who has published
    12 papers in the field.

  5. Jan 17, 2009 #4


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    enthusiast101: Where in your academic career are you right now?
  6. Jan 17, 2009 #5


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    That's exactly what I was gonna say.
  7. Jan 17, 2009 #6


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    And those who recommend Smolin's books, what is your background in String Theory?
  8. Jan 17, 2009 #7
    that seems like a must read book before getting too exiting into string theory, and it has good criticism in amazon.
  9. Jan 18, 2009 #8
    Actually, having read that book I can say it is more of a scathing account of the sociology in theoretical physics circles than a direct attack on string theory.

    Although Smolin does criticise string theory for some of its obvious failings, the only proposal he offers as an alternative has been far less successful.

    I'm also not convinced that many of his arguments against string theory are any more than a reflection of our inability to conduct experiments near the relevant energy scales.
  10. Jan 28, 2009 #9
  11. Jan 29, 2009 #10


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  12. Jan 29, 2009 #11


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    Before we get carried away with this and start a 'string' war, note that the OP hasn't came back since this was posted on Jan 15. So consider the possibility that you guys might be giving advice and information to someone who might never read it. Better wait for his/her response before proceeding.

  13. Jan 29, 2009 #12
    I would say

    Mathematics : All of available course on calculus, including complex analysis, linear algebra and especially group theory, tensor calculus

    Quantum Mechanics : Covering from basics to Dirac's notation, perturbation theory and building up to quantum field theory which includes Lagrangian and Hamiltonian approach, Canonical Formalism, Quantum Electrodynamics and Feynman's diagram with understanding of the S-Matrix, tree diagram, loop etc

    Special Relativity and General Relativity, the tensor notation used from General Relativity is very important to understand how the 11 dimensions etc from String theory work

    If you do not understand those topics, then it would be very hard to understand string theory as string theory is a frame work to address problems from those topics
  14. Jan 30, 2009 #13
    By the time you have spent 6 to 10 years at grad school studying string theory you might be ready for a change of scenery.

    I spent 6.5 years at grad school working on cutting edge higher dimensional theories, not specifically string theory but string inspired models (ADD and Randall Sundrum).

    I'm now looking for a position as a quantitative analyst, or 'quant'. Many quants have phds in math and theoretical physics and apply their skills in modelling and mathematics to figuring out ingenious ways to make money on the stock market. Pay is spectacular, starting salary around 90k, can easily reach the hundreds of thousands very quickly (2-3 years).

    If you followed that path you'd have to try and incorporate some programming into your phd and spend a little time taking stats courses and mastering c++ to make your job search muchos easier. You'd probably also end up in New York City, Chicago, Houston or LA if you live in the US, London in the UK or of course Tokyo, Singapore etc. Major cities.

    Just because you get out of it for a bit, doesn't mean you can't still stay involved. By the time you have your PhD you'll be smart enough to read and write your own research papers without too much supervision (at least thats the idea).

    My master-plan is too make bundles of money in a few short years and start my own research organization so I can get back into it again. Oh to have a dream.... :)
  15. Feb 2, 2009 #14
    Sounds like a plan, and you've certainly drawn my interest ;). I actually want to keep such a career path in mind (about to start with my phd), but I have no idea what sort of companies need 'quantitative analysts' or where to look for such job oppertunities. Any recommendations on where to look for them?
  16. Feb 2, 2009 #15
    For what it's worth, I personally don't see the point spending years in physics graduate school with the intention of leaving academia for finance.

    Sure it makes for a good backup plan, but if your intention is to make `bundles of money', wouldn't you be much better off pursuing a PhD in statistics or mathematical finance such as (e.g.) this one

  17. Feb 2, 2009 #16
    Another thing worth mentioning is that you don't actually need to spend years in grad school to learn a lot about physics.

    Everything from classical mechanics right up to quantum field theory and the standard model is taught in the first 4 years of any _good_ physics school.

    If you are interested in research, it's a different story, but you should be aware that every theory for beyond the standard model physics such as string theory, SUSY ADD, RS models etc is currently untested speculation.

    If you are just interested in educating yourself about known physics, I might suggest a double major in physics and mathematical finance. If your ultimate interests are in finance, you should take as many programming courses as possible. These are usually available in physics programs under the title of computational physics.
  18. Feb 12, 2009 #17
    ...ingenious ways to make money on the stock market. Pay is spectacular, starting salary around 90k, can easily reach the hundreds of thousands very quickly...

    I think if there is one thing we have learnt during the last couple months, then that the world needs more string theorists making money on the stock market.
  19. Feb 12, 2009 #18
    You have completely missed the point jdstokes. The point is not to 'make bundles of money' for the sake of making money.

    The point is to study the mysteries of the universe and to master the most fascinating subject (IMO) there is.

    The point is to know that you have options beyond academia when you finish.

    The point is to appreciate that in 2 or 3 years as a quant you could makes as much money as a professor would in a lifetime.

    The point is to understand that once you have that 'nest egg' you would be in a financial position to continue with your studies of the mysteries of the universe while having the financial capabilities to start a family, provide and, if you wanted, to begin your own research organization so that you were not bound by the traditional professorial duties, including teaching, grading and writing papers for the sake of writing papers.
  20. Feb 12, 2009 #19
    Robousy, and you missed another point completely.

    Saying in Februrary 2009

    does not sound anyhow strange to you?
  21. Feb 12, 2009 #20

    I'm not sure where you are going.
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