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Physics Is Faith required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

  1. Aug 2, 2010 #1
    Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Someone keeps telling me that that to be a physics professor, it is much better to believe that you will be one for sure (100% certainty), than to believe there is some chance that you will not progress through the good schools to become one (hence spending time and energy on transferable skills such as taking economic and compsci courses).

    I agree that one probably have a little better chance of moving through the good school schools by having "faith". I want to be a professor much more than a highschool teacher, but it seems having "faith" could be deluding and cut off back-up opportunies, such as in investing and engineering.

    We have speculated on these two viewpoints for a while, so I would like some real evidence/experience, ideally opinions from current lecturers or professors (on whether one need to have "faith" (100% certainty) to have a much better chance to be a professor than realizing the risk of shortfall and taking account of backup plans).

    (to be more specific, I am considering the audience in question to be above-average physics undergrads in above-average schools)
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
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  3. Aug 2, 2010 #2

    atyy

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  4. Aug 2, 2010 #3

    Choppy

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    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Having a strong committment to a goal is important, but there are other factors at play that you have no control over. I would consider it unwise career planning to assume with 100% certainty that you will end up as a professor.
     
  5. Aug 2, 2010 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Faith is anathema to science. That includes careers in science.
     
  6. Aug 3, 2010 #5
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Somehow I don't think you are going to be that good at discovering the mysteries of the universe if live your daily life denying obvious realities around you. Part of the thing I like about physics is that you get to ask lots of questions and think about things, and if you have to live your life so that you have to stop asking questions and stop thinking, then what's the point?

    Also, you don't need to take courses. I've only taken one computer science course in my life, and I've never taken a single economics and management course. What I do is that if I'm interested in something, I just go to the library or bookstore or surf the web and read stuff. If I end up in a situation that I have to be so committed to getting a job that I can't learn something new, then again what's the point?

    Let me step back. Why do you want to be a professor anyway? What's so wonderful about being a professor?

    The money isn't great. You don't get that much social respect. The hours are long. The only thing that makes it worth it is that you may learn something about the universe, and if you go into major denial, that kills that reason.

    Now you are an adult, and if you think that being a physics professor is so important that you are willing to live in total denial and possibly wreck your live for the job, that's your decision. I would be interested in understanding why.

    It really makes a difference if you are talking to one person or to fifty. The thing about talking to one person is that if they tell them they they destined to be a professor, you might be right or you might be wrong. If you tell fifty people, then you are lying to forty people if you say that. You don't know which forty, but you are lying, and I don't think that's a good thing to do.
     
  7. Aug 4, 2010 #6
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    yes, all of your opinions make sense to me; I will transfer them to the person who from our perspective hold this illogical viewpoint; unfortunately i don't think he will listen, but thanks for the input guys, you're wise
     
  8. Aug 8, 2010 #7
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Why don't you try another country? Some countries in Latin America would offer some positions.
     
  9. Aug 8, 2010 #8
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    @Artus: I live in Latin America and don't quite agree with you. It's a hard competition to be a physics professor in the country I live. If you plan to teach and research, the scenario isn't much better. Latin america's investment in scientific research is growing, but it is far far below than that in the developed world.

    Perhaps it's just the country I live, however...
    Can you give specific examples of universities willing to accept foreign teachers?
     
  10. Aug 9, 2010 #9
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Hi Zheng,

    From my experience, many people I have met in academia (PhD students and postdocs) do not even consider career prospects and don't have a realistic picture of how difficult it is to get a professorship. What's worse, MOST people don't even have a minimum idea of what are their options if they leave the academic track.

    In my opinion, many people who stay long enough in academia are people obsessed with their research and with a narrow spectrum of interests. I am still surprised (and disappointed) to see this, but however it is quite easy to understand. I would continue in academia, but I am sure I will be able to find a job that I also find interesting and that has better conditions.

    I totally agree with twofish when he says "Somehow I don't think you are going to be that good at discovering the mysteries of the universe if live your daily life denying obvious realities around you.". But in my opinion, in academia there are many people like that, and this lowers its quality. This creates sometimes academic "bubbles", since people prefer investing lots of time and work to almost dead models rather than switching to a different research topic (that has a huge cost in academia).
     
  11. Aug 9, 2010 #10
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    Most great scientists are obsessed with their research. Einstein kept daydreaming about physics when he was supposed to get his work done as a patent clerk. Andrew Wiles worked for 7 years in isolation before he proved Fermat's last theorem. Being incredibly focused on their research naturally leaves little time for other interests. So why are you disappointed?

    Of course, there are "scientists" who are in no way obsessed with the mysteries of nature, and work in academia because it's "just another job which is not too bad". These people typically pollute the journals with junk papers.

    Quotes from Andrew Wiles: I had this rare privilege of being able to pursue in my adult life, what had been my childhood dream.
     
  12. Aug 9, 2010 #11
    Re: Is "Faith" required to have the best chance to be a physics professor?

    It's good to become obsessed with a problem you want to solve, and even spend years on it. However, at some point you need to have a wide vision of nature to understand which problems are really interesting to focus on. What disappoints me is that, at least what I have seen, many people tend to be so focused on their field that don't even know or care about what the department on the upper floor are studying.

    I am disappointed because I (naively) expected more people to be "wise men", people who knew about a wide range of things and, of course, were experts on one particular field. I have met many people that would be described by the latter, but few that could be described by the former.

    Of course it is good for science to have someone very focused on one particular topic (like Wiles?), but it is easy to lose perspective, specially when your career depends on choosing the "correct topic". Most people just work on the topic their advisors work on, and (if they are lucky) their advisors work on what is "fashionable". There are very, very few people who can decide this "fashion". And not always what is "fashionable" is interesting.

    Einstein's genius consisted in doing great work in a wide spectrum of things, and was also recognized for his publications and ideas outside science. He read and discussed philosophy also before his "annus mirabilis". Indeed, he was able not to get into the "scientific bubble" of his time by giving a having different way to look into things!
     
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