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Just some advice needed

  1. Jun 21, 2010 #1
    Okay, so I really enjoy Physics. I love everything about it. I'm 110% certain I want to go into Physics career-wise. My favourite part of Physics of course is Astrophysics. I'm an English student currently, but bare with me here. (Just clarification here, I mean student based in England, not studying English) (:

    Currently I'm taking 4 A Levels, Physics, Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry. I'm currently sitting on a conditional offer at Oxford university to do a Physics 4 year MPhys course. (From this point on it's all assumptions on if I get in.) Alongside the MPhys I'm going to be doing a 3 year Mathematics in Physics BSc. After University I'm planning on going to America to complete up to a Ph.D in Astrophysics. The main thing I need advice on is what should I be looking at in America for this Ph.D? (I'm not sure about the American Education system) Also, where should I go from getting a Ph.D? Is there anything I should be looking to learn beforehand to help me in the future?

    Just as a side note, I'm very into theoretical Astrophysics and research. I'm not too good at experimental Physics, at least in a career view. I love working with numbers and problems, I find it much more relaxing to solve an equation or puzzle than, say, reading.

    Thanks for reading through this if you did, and thanks for any advice you can give me.

    (I realise that this is about Academic help, but it's mostly for what I do after getting a Ph.D, career-wise. I apologise if this IS in the wrong place, or if a mod feels it belongs elsewhere. Feel free to move it if I have wrongly posted this.)
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2010 #2
    So you want to know what one does after getting a PhD in physics? I'm asking the same question, except that I'll be completing my PhD soon. You may want to check out the following thread where I and some others are asking this question of the more experienced physicists:


    Not trying to dissuade you from your chosen career path, but more information never hurts.
  4. Jun 21, 2010 #3
    Thanks for the reply, I've actually already read through most of the threads in the section already. I'm looking for options as to what I can do really, recently I've been looking at research careers with NASA. (Yeah, yeah, childhood dream or whatever :P I'm actually serious about it though :P)
  5. Jun 21, 2010 #4
    Probably you won't find too many job openings at NASA if Obama guts the budget. Sorry to disappoint.
  6. Jun 23, 2010 #5
    Well, you are still in high school. I wouldn't yet commit yourself to the view that you 'aren't good' at experimental physics since it almost certainly isn't what you think it is. I did something like that when I left high school, because I enjoyed math much more than lab experiments so naturally assumed I'd prefer theory.

    Experimental work, however, (depending on the field) can correspond to almost no work in a lab. In astronomy, for instance, experimental work is just about using real data. A solar astronomy department that I have worked at would consider themselves all experimentalists, they take and analyse solar data and try to explain it. It can be as closely tied in to the proposed data behind the theory as you want.

    On a related note: you want to work for NASA - from the people I know that work there, they are composed almost entirely of experimentalists and engineers. If you want to do work like space shuttle, satellite design etc. then there are a number of companies you can work for in Europe, too. Selex Galileo have a number of bases in Britain, as to EADS Astrium.

    My point is, the distinguishing differences between theory and experiment are not as obvious as they first seem, and you're a long-time off deciding which one you want to do.

    You have done well to get yourself a place at Oxford, for the time being I would just focus on your undergraduate and keep an open mind re: the kind of physics you want to end up in. That way, you're less likely to avoid or dislike courses simply because they're not related to astronomy (if you make a mental commitment, then perhaps you'll find yourself picking courses you don't like because they'll 'give you a head start' or so - doing this in the first year or two of undergraduate isn't a good idea, á mon avis.)

    If you put the work into your undergraduate, you'll find a PhD somewhere if you want to. What you do after that depends on the field you want to work in. If you decide that you do want to continue in astrophysics, particularly theory, you'll probably look for further research positions - a Post Doc. Normally one will take two of these fixed term roles, and if all goes well, attempt to get a full-staff position at a university.
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