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I enjoy physics but dislike the labs

  1. Sep 8, 2014 #1
    I was just wondering what anyone has to say about doing graduate school for physics, but not wanting anything to do with the labs.

    Is is possible to go to grad school and do a phd without really getting too involved with lab work?

    I remember being in labs in physics 1 and 2 and I would let my group work on the experiments while I would work on solving the problems in the lab.

    And here is the thing, its not that I hate labs, but I just would like to work alone. Often my team would be so disorganized that I wouldn't want to participate in the labs.

    I just like all of the ideas in physics and the understanding and learning aspect, but not so much the lab stuff.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2014 #2


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    Yes, but that doesn't mean it is a good idea to avoid it.

    Theoretical physics is usually without labs for obvious reasons, and even experimental physics can be completely without touching an actual experiment - writing software, simulating stuff, analyzing data and so on.

    There are also many lab jobs you can do alone ;).
  4. Sep 9, 2014 #3


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    Doing lab work as an undergraduate is VERY different from doing an actual experiment, the former is mainly there to give you an idea of different experimental methods etc.
    I really disliked most of our labs when I was an undergraduate; especially the ones that involved
    electrical measurements .
    Somewhat ironically I am now an experimental physicist specializing in electrical transport measurements:tongue:

    My opinion about experimental physics changed during my final year project when I had a chance to actually spend a few months in a real lab; again, both the actual work and the working environment is very different in a real experiment.
  5. Sep 9, 2014 #4
    Yeah I sorta feel the way you do. I mean i love applied and experimental physics for the life of me.
    However, I wish I could do all the experiments independently. In upper years, the advanced laboratory courses will be more independent which is something I definitely look forward to. I feel like you learn best by doing things individually at first, and after you understand the apparatus/system, you can integrate into a more group environment.
  6. Sep 9, 2014 #5


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    I'm detesting over the fact that I have to take a Practical Physics course too, but it is pretty normal. Try it a little more and see if you like it. If not, you don't have to really do a lot of lab work.
  7. Sep 9, 2014 #6
    Theoretical or computational physics.

    A couple things here...

    In first year you have to take physics with everyone else in science. This means you'll be with people that don't actually care about it, they are just required to take it.

    Also everyone is disorganized in first year. It's part of the learning. Something that a lot of people don't seem to realize is that a large portion of university is learning to work with others. In upper year classes you will be doing yourself a huge, HUGE disservice if you refuse to work with classmates. Working with classmates that you've befriended and are at the same level of 'seriousness' as you is more enjoyable and way less frustrating than trying to do everything yourself. You sit in a room with whiteboards/chalkboards, go at the assignments/problem sets, and when you get stuck you all try and figure it out. When one person figures something out, they teach the rest of the group. Starting to work with a group is what it took for me to start getting A's and A+'s.

    All of that said, if you go to grad school, even theoretical, you WILL be expected to work with or collaborate with others.
  8. Sep 9, 2014 #7
    I was always the exact opposite! I was lousy at math, buy my experiments always worked perfectly. :)

    I'm not sure what to do about the disorganized lab partners, other than to ask for a different group right at the beginning. If you are naturally organized, you can appoint yourself as group leader. :)
  9. Sep 9, 2014 #8
    If you go into theory you can largely or entirely avoid labs in grad school (some schools require you to assist for a couple months on some lab experiment even if you are in theory, probably not all schools though and it's just a couple months out of 4-5 years).
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