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Physics Interested in grad school in Computational Physics, help?

  1. Oct 31, 2017 #1


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    Undergrad with about a year and a half of school left here! The looming spectre of the real world has come with the realization that I do not know anywhere near enough of physics and math to satisfy me. I love math, I want more than anything to understand and do work that involves computers at their most basic level and I love applying my knowledge to solve problems a la physics. I'm also a huge scifi/fantasy buff so I've got a bit of an active imagination that motivates and inspires me to work on futuristic stuff, mostly with regards to advanced materials because I view that as the foundation of the sorts of crazy engineering feats that I dream about humanity being able to do one day.

    I really like the idea of having to use my knowledge of physics and computer hardware to develop and optimize computer simulations related to advanced materials research and from what I've read Computational Physics seems right up my alley. However, I want to make sure that I make a sound decision that will bring me a fulfilling career so I thought I would ask some questions to make sure that I'm not stepping unknowingly into an adders nest.

    My two main fears are that pursuing a Ph.D in Computational Physics would leave me too specialized and thus susceptible to a potentially poor job market in my chosen field and unable to find work in a different one and also that the degree might be too narrow in its focus on the computational side of things and not on the physical and mathematical side of things.
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  3. Nov 1, 2017 #2


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    Hello QFP, :welcome:

    I sympathise ! The real world out there can scare anyone who is smart enough to think about it just a little bit. The best you can do is get a good education in something you like. Life is a lot more comfortable if you are competing with your peers well equipped with a good degree. And once you find a position you'll have to keep learning for the rest of your life anyway, so don't worry too much about susceptibility. Having said that: my personal experience is that learning new things at an advanced age is easier in applied fields than in fundamental areas. So, for myself I am glad I did physics at university and learned (a lot) about computing at work.
  4. Nov 2, 2017 #3
    So the important thing is to be flexible about the topic you're applying the computational skills to. If your only acceptable choice is a job doing computational physics after grad school, then it may be a difficult path.

    However, if you're flexible and willing to apply the mathematical and computer science skills you've gained in the process to other problems, you could have a very wide variety of career choices facing you - and most of them pay very well.

    This assumes that you learn a significant amount of computer science in the process, are flexible in what part of the economy you are willing to work in, and meet other requirements such as having a good work ethic and being someone people don't hate to work with.
  5. Nov 2, 2017 #4
    As a side note, I work in an internal consulting group within a very large entertainment company. We do data science, mathematical optimization and industrial engineering (and more).

    We recently hired a physics PhD who studied computational physics of materials in grad school (sound familiar?). They've been awesome.

    Your mileage will vary.
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