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Is it possible to get a PhD in Physics in 2 years in the US?

  1. Oct 11, 2016 #1
    I have a ton of things I want to do in my life before I'm young. The problem is that I won't be so young for long! Ideally, if I get my PhD in about 2 years I will be on track with the things I want to do. Has this been done before? Why exactly is the average time needed 4 years? Why that number?
     
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  3. Oct 11, 2016 #2

    phyzguy

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    I've never heard of anyone doing it in two years. Even four years is unusual, I doubt that is the average; 5-6 years is more typical. Typically the first year is spent on course work - it is possible to save some of this time if you can test out of all of the required courses. Then you have to identify a thesis advisor, find a thesis topic, and do quality research that merits a PhD. It just takes time. What is your background? Have you taken graduate level courses in Mechanics, E-M, QM, and Statistical Physics?
     
  4. Oct 11, 2016 #3
    You can get a PhD in less than that if you can prove that you know everything there is to know about physics by passing the exams and stuff. Also, have your thesis ready. I can't remember who it was that did this, but the dude just walked inside a university from off the streets, asked to take the exams, passed them all and handed his thesis. It turned out he taught himself physics, and all the university required of him was to do about a year's time with an adviser just to satisfy minimum assistance. True story.
     
  5. Oct 11, 2016 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Then you should have no trouble posting a reference.

    Me neither.
     
  6. Oct 11, 2016 #5
  7. Oct 11, 2016 #6
    I read it in a book about string theory a few years ago. Don't remember the tittle, but it was in one of the chapters that discussed the string revolution. I vividly remember that the thesis was so revolutionary, that they did his defense in a cafeteria in Aspen in one of the string conferences. The guy knew more than the professors, so they all joked that it was a mere formality. They just pulled two tables together and he passed his defense right there and then.:))
     
  8. Oct 11, 2016 #7

    jtbell

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    Where (in the US) can you test out of graduate courses?
     
  9. Oct 11, 2016 #8
    In the physics department at Cornell, there is only one required course, an experimental lab class. As long as your can pass the preliminary exam showing adequate knowledge of undergrad courses and your research advisor doesn't deem others necessary, you can get by with just the one.
     
  10. Oct 11, 2016 #9
    Let's say that I can get a phd in 2 years. Would you recommend it? Is there anything to be gained from spending more time on it (even if the extra time is unnecessary)?
     
  11. Oct 11, 2016 #10

    George Jones

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    Gordon Drake did it 50 years ago and went on to a distinguished career in theoretical atomic physics (and to become an editor at Phys. Rev. A), but he did an M.Sc. before his Ph.D. (3 years of grad study), though at a different university. I believe he did his B.Sc. in three years (but don't have a reference), so B.Sc, M.Sc., and Ph.D. in a total of six years.

    Look at years in which degrees were awarded at

    http://www1.uwindsor.ca/physics/dr-gordon-drake-1

    An outlier.
     
  12. Oct 11, 2016 #11

    phyzguy

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    What is your reason for wanting a PhD? Personal satisfaction? Do you want a faculty or research position somewhere? Do you just want to learn some things? Answering these will help answer your question.
     
  13. Oct 11, 2016 #12
    I am completely lost in what I think I should be doing with my life and career. I never had someone to give me advice growing up so I've kept it all stifled until now, but now I need serious advice on my life.

    I like technology, psychology, philosophy, business/economics. I have ideas in a huge number of fields that will result in massive improvements for all humanity that will combine biomedical engineering, computer science, and business.

    I'm working on completing my bachelor's in physics right now, but the question of whether or not I should get my PhD is coming up. I'm 24 years old, but I'll finish my bachelor's at 25 and then begin my PhD at 27 due to family constraints.

    Is it even worth it? I figure that the best use of a PhD will be to get me a steady job. I can't really imagine myself doing research and working at a university all my life. I have too many ideas in too many different fields. I'd feel suffocated.

    My current plan is to get my PhD done at age 31, and THEN begin to work on the things that really give me enjoyment in life. Yes, I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I've received so much resounding advice from older people saying to just get the PhD because it is invaluable in your later years.

    Please feel free to be as brutally honest as possible. I need someone to lay it straight, regardless of my feelings.
     
  14. Oct 11, 2016 #13
    Personal satisfaction and to be able to work almost anywhere. But my curiosity is also a factor here. I do want to learn about the universe. But then the question is this: can't I just learn endlessly from my house? Why do I need the degree in that case? It seems meaningless in that scenario.

    Please help.
     
  15. Oct 11, 2016 #14

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't believe this. In practically every university - if not every university - the thesis defense is public. You don't just decide to do this in Aspen (where they don't have a cafeteria, just a kitchen).
     
  16. Oct 11, 2016 #15
    I will search google books to see if I can find it. I've read so many books that I forgotten which one it was.
     
  17. Oct 11, 2016 #16
    Why can you only start at 27? is it financial issues? Also where would you be willing to live? Are you willing to relocate? If not can be done about getting a PhD earlier, what would you do in those two years?

    Interesting that you'd find university research suffocating. By the way, if you are thinking of going to interdisciplinary research (as it seems to be the case) look at institutes that offer this.

    I agree with the advice of getting a PhD. I can't speak from myself, since I will be applying (younger than you) for next year, but that is what I hear: both academia and industry values a PhD.

    Now this is my opinion, but I think you should focus on one thing, at least for now, even though you like going off in many different directions. A PhD would be great for that too.
     
  18. Oct 11, 2016 #17
    Perhaps it is Neil Turok?

    From http://media.radiosai.org/journals/Vol_06/01JAN08/04-musings.htm
     
  19. Oct 11, 2016 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    Turok took three years at Imperial, but normally in the UK system one already has completed one's classwork and received a masters before starting a PhD.
     
  20. Oct 11, 2016 #19

    TeethWhitener

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    Why can't you work on those things now? Trust me, if getting a Ph.D. is not something that will give you enjoyment, you very well may not succeed. And you almost certainly won't succeed in 4 years.
     
  21. Oct 11, 2016 #20

    ZapperZ

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    What do you think is involved in a PhD program? Just "reading books"?

    There are several issues here:

    1,. There is a difference between learning physics and being a physicist. The former you MIGHT get by "reading books" and papers. The latter is an OCCUPATION that requires MORE than just learning a specific material. Read my "So You Want To Be A Physicist" essay and figure out for yourself if everything I wrote in there you can simply acquire from books. Do you still think it is a "meaningless" endeavor?

    2. What makes you think you can teach yourself, even by just reading books, the necessary material? What makes you think you have the capability to comprehend what you read? How would you know the difference between something that is "important" versus something that is just "interesting"?

    3. How will you be able to judge that you have mastered the knowledge? Just because you've read an entire book does not mean you've learned and understood the material. Many of my students can claim the same thing, yet, many of them still crashed in exams that tested them on that material. How will you know that you're not one of them?

    It is extremely annoying that many people seem to think that the process of learning physics involves nothing more than just "reading books". I would never go to doctor whose training involves only "reading books" (ignoring the fact that a medical degree will not be granted to someone without medical internships). Not only is this a rather wrong and naive view of what is involved in a physics program, but it ignores a whole HUGE part of physics, which is experimental work.

    Zz.
     
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