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I love HEP Theory, but doubts about future.

  1. Dec 30, 2013 #1
    Hello! This is my first time starting my own thread and I have spent a lot of time reading other threads and posts about Physics grad admission. My post is not really about "WILL I GET ACCEPTED?" per say, but I just need a place to write about how I feel and for some reason I feel like doing it here... My family members are not the most supportive regards to my desire to pursue a physics PhD.

    Feel free to share your opinions, if you like. ***ALSO You don't have to read after this point, unless if you are bored and would like to know about how I developed an interest in HEP theory and what my goals are etc.***

    **IF you continued reading...remember, feel free to share your journey or anything as well. OR skip to the bottom**

    So as the title says, my interest are in HEP theory. I am 100% aware that this is a competitive field and grad school admissions are extremely small.

    My journey to HEP-theory is just rather funny because I NEVER wanted to in the first place. My SOP does not have any of this... I only talked about my research experience and interests and faculty etc. I guess other than sharing this with my AWESOME advisor and friends through out my undergrad life, I just need to blurt it out somewhere else.

    I go to a LAC and planned to transfer (to pursue Chem E) after frosh year, but stayed to major in physics and because I liked the department overall. When I declared the major I asked my major advisor "Is it okay if I major in physics, I am not good at it but I am interested in learning it". He said it was completely fine and that there are many things you can do with a physics degree. I told him about my interests in engineering and he suggested working with some of the profs in experimental physics to get some hands on experience and he hoped maybe I would enjoy it and pursue it for grad. I LOVED intro lab and modern lab soo much and was happy with how I performed in them, so experimental physics research experience sounded good to me. However professor X, the prof I was interested in working with said that I was not good enough for experimental physics. I was too slow in lab ( this prof. instructed my electronics lab) and maybe I should consider something else.

    I did not give up (yet) because after having gone to a Women in Physics Conference I was strongly encouraged to apply to REUs. I got rejected from all REUs for HEP exp and CM exp ;/. I thought maybe my prof. X was right and I was not cut out for physics. However, I was taking Adv. Experimental Physics at the time and the prof of that course discussed with us individually about our summer plans. I told him I applied to REUs but the results are not positive. He told me that I could work with a prof at my institution and I simply said that I did not know who I wanted to work with. I did not want to tell him about Professor X's comments and never did. Anyways a rather interesting conversation with him led him to tell me to talk to Prof Y the theorist.

    I HAD NO INTEREST in theoretical physics. WHY? All i knew were that there were people like Einstein and Feynman and they were all geniuses. Prof Y is a string theorist and I had no idea what that really was other than w/e Briane Greene discussed in the NOVA "Elegant Universe" ( no I did not read the book). Also I am not that great at math and felt that I was incapable to have the imagination for thought experiments. However Prof Y approached me once he heard that I might have an interest in theory ( which he heard because the other prof said so... i never said this explicitly).

    I don't want to make this any longer ...but basically HERE's what happened. Prof Y took me as a student and took the time to teach me BEAUTIFUL PHYSICS! he never thought i was slow or stupid or anything and was BEYOND encouraging. He is my AWESOME advisor and really changed my view entirely about physics. My summer research project continued the following academic year and became honors thesis which I had to finish my junior year because he is on a sabbatical my senior year.

    Professor Z at a HUGE GREAT state school took me as a summer student this past summer after I emailed and said I would get my own funding. I said I wanted to get more experience in HEP Theory etc. Professor Z is also AWESOME and I treat this prof like my second advisor and I learned MORE BEAUTIFUL physics and did some great calculations and felt good that I was able contribute to this prof's research as well. We'll see whether a publication happens or not.

    **SUmmary** my research experience is why I love HEP theory! It was what I was exposed to and enjoyed it soo much! I wasn't succesful when i tried to broaden my research experience. MORE REU rejections and the two profs who accepted me as a research student both happened to be HEP theorists ( different tho). WIth one I did Quantum fields in Curved Spacetime/GR ... the other I did QCD/Gauge theories and amplitude calculations. I learned a lot of physics along the way, strengthened my problem solving skills, became more independent and just fell in love with physics.

    Yet I am having doubts because I fell in love with an extremely competitive field and I wish I didn't. Sometimes I can't help but wonder how things would have been different if I wasn't too slow in that electronics lab or transferred like I planned and pursue Chem E. Although both the profs I did research with think I am talented and very capable of HEP THEORY, it doesn't mean I will get the chance. Grad school admissions are difficult and especially tough for this field. I truly am love with this field and would be happy to work anyone/anywhere...but the best I can do is keep my mind OPEN and keep my fingers crossed.

    END OF rambling.

    If you read this up till now... thank you for taking the time to do so. It felt good for me to get this out...
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2013 #2
    HEP Theory is a hard road to take in more ways than one. But at the end of the day you have to ask yourself "Can I see myself doing anything else?" If the answer is no, then you know what you need to do, just make sure to have a backup (several optimally) and pick up some marketable skills along the way (programming and such). If the answer is yes, then you have a decision to make. Good Luck!
  4. Dec 30, 2013 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Congratulations on getting this far - it doesn't sound like an easy road.

    I'm glad you understand it's a challenge, but it's good to be aware that this challenge won't stop once you get accepted into a graduate school. Not every grad student finds an advisor who can take them in particle theory. Not every student that graduates with a PhD in particle theory gets a postdoc. Not everyone who gets a postdoc gets a tenure track job. And so on.

    There are roughly 12 tenure-track slots filled every year. So that's your target.
  5. Dec 30, 2013 #4
    Thank you so much for the positive replies @Sentin3l and @Vanadium 50!

    After my second research experience, I was convinced that it is hard to imagine trying to do anything else other than HEP theory. I will certainly need to improve my programming skills, though.

    My path was definitely far from linear and I am sure it will only continue to be that way, but I am extremely determined and motivated. The next step is Grad admissions, and rejections do suck... but if I do get rejected from all schools then I will just have to try again. I will work on my fixing my blemishes and hopefully strengthen my app for the next season.

    If I don't get a rejection then that would be AWESOME and I will certainly think about the future ( job etc.) but will be way too happy and live in the moment during grad school/work my butt off like everyone else. =)
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