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Life after a PhD in physics in Australia / New Zealand?

  1. Dec 7, 2014 #1
    Hi all,

    I have recently finished a PhD in quantum physics. At the moment I am a postdoc in the same group. I really enjoy what I am currently doing. I am moderately successful in a sense that I will probably be able to find a second and maybe a third postdoc, but most likely not successful enough to nail an Australian equivalent of tenure. I also don't feel that I could lead a group now, I get the best results and the most satisfaction when working on my supervisor's ideas.

    I would strongly prefer to stay in Australia or New Zealand in the long term. I don't mind working elsewhere for a couple of years, but preferably not for too long. Those physics postdocs in Australia who I personally know eventually tend to leave the country for good, or stay in Australia and at least temporarily leave skilled labour (become waiters, shop assistants, start a different degree from scratch). There was also a third group who managed to secure various government-related positions, but that avenue now appears closed at least for the next few years.

    What do Physics PhDs do in a country with little-to-no industry aside from agriculture and mining? Do you know anyone in a similar position in Australia or New Zealand? What avenues of employment might be available? Most importantly, are any of these avenues likely to close if I spend a few more years in academia in contrast to trying to get out of academia as quickly as possible?

    Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2014 #2

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

    Don't know if this helps but have you seen this website:

    http://www.careers.govt.nz/jobs/science/physicist/job-opportunities [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Dec 11, 2014 #3
    Thanks, that's good to know. I also feel that medical physicists might be the only ones (aside from those who manage to become professors) who have a future in countries like New Zealand or Australia. I'll try to explore my options to transition there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  5. Dec 11, 2014 #4

    Astronuc

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    Staff: Mentor

    Has one looked at CSIRO or affiliated universities?

    https://www.physics.unsw.edu.au/res...-underpinnings-new-optical-atomic-clock-csiro
    http://www.rmit.edu.au/appliedsciences/chemical-quantum-physics [Broken]
    http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Divisions/Earth-Science--Resource-Engineering/geophysics/Superconducting-quantum-interference-devices.aspx [Broken]
    http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Divisions/CMSE.aspx [Broken]
    http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Careers.aspx
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. Dec 12, 2014 #5
    Thanks for the links, but I don't think that this is a viable way forward. I heard a lot about CSIRO, but mostly that their funding was getting cut very significantly, so that in the next 5+ years they would be laying off hundreds of stuff members and closing facilities. They are unlikely to be hiring any time soon (aside from very occasional PhD and postdoc scholarships and some administrative positions). After these several years, who knows whether CSIRO's will still exist. CSIRO's sister organisation NICTA is getting completely shut down in the next 2 years. I think the main reason for this is exactly because CSIRO was sometimes hiring scientists on a more long-term basis in contrast to universities almost exclusively relying on PhD students and young postdocs. I wouldn't mind hopping between postdocs, but most postdoctoral fellowships now seem to have a rigid requirement of being within 3 years after a PhD.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  7. Dec 12, 2014 #6

    Astronuc

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    That's rather worrisome and unfortunate. I suppose one could look at industry affiliates, or academia. With quantum physics, would one be interested in molecular/atomic dynamics and density functional/field theory (DFT), and possibly computational physics?
     
  8. Dec 12, 2014 #7
    Thanks for your reply! In addition to quantum physics I have some track record (i.e. PRA/PRB/PRL/PRX level) in material science, telecommunications, nonlinear dynamics, nano-fabrication etc., so I can probably find the next postdoc in quite a few places. The question is what to do afterwards. Most postdoctoral fellowships have a requirement of being within 3 (or at most 5) years after a PhD. From what I've heard during career events, only 1 out of more than 100 postdocs (or 1 out of more than 200 PhDs) eventually becomes a professor. So as much as I like academia, staying there in the long run is very unlikely.

    As for industry affiliates, unfortunately neither I nor my immediate network know any. How would you search for industry affiliates?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  9. Dec 12, 2014 #8

    StatGuy2000

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    Education Advisor

    To the OP:

    You stated that Australia & New Zealand has little-to-no industry apart from agriculture and mining, but I know that most Australians & New Zealanders do not work in either field. So this leads me to my next question -- from what you have heard or from what you've found in job postings (either print or online), what STEM positions are most in demand in both countries? More broadly, what quantitative positions (i.e. those positions that tend to be highly mathematical and/or computational) are most in demand in both countries?

    Because you stated that you strongly prefer to stay in Australia & New Zealand, the only possible conclusion I can reach is to leave physics permanently. One way you could do this is to apply for postdoc position outside of physics; I had recently attended a conference for statisticians working in pharma/biotech/health care field, and one of the presenters had completed her PhD in physics before transitioning into biostatistics during her postdoc period. This could be an option open to you. The other option is to do what some of your other physics graduates have done and pursue a second degree in another field.
     
  10. Dec 12, 2014 #9
    Hope this isn't too off topic, but was wondering what you studied, specifically? If someone had asked me, I'd have said you don't get a PhD in quantum physics anymore, but instead a PhD in applying QP in some novel area or some novel way.
     
  11. Dec 12, 2014 #10

    Astronuc

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    Staff: Mentor

    I wouldn't write off CSIRO too quickly.

    CSIRO to go more commercial under new chief, Southern Cross Venture Partners’ Larry Marshall
    http://www.brw.com.au/p/tech-gadgets/csiro_venture_partners_marshall_d0FTIiadQE6MbvRMveE2dL

    http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Partner/Industry.aspx [Broken]

    Some applied physics/materials areas:
    http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Divisions/CMSE.aspx [Broken]
    http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Flagships/Future-Manufacturing-Flagship/Manufacturing-Technologies-Transport-and-Mining/Detectors-and-Sensing-Systems/Locating-the-ore-others-miss.aspx [Broken]

    I was also thinking about AusTrade for identifying industrial organizations.


    What companies do applied physics in materials or instrumentation, or perhaps manufacturing?

    http://www.manmonthly.com.au/home
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  12. Dec 13, 2014 #11
    Thanks for your reply, StatGuy2000. In addition to mining and agriculture Australia and New Zealand have a little bit of manufacturing, but it's mostly in rapid decline. There are also a lot of services, including financial and medical services. Getting there would probably require starting from scratch, including getting another degree. Unfortunately there seems to be nearly no R&D in any industry here. All innovations are imported from overseas. On the other hand that's what appears on the surface, I may be missing something. How would you check what STEM positions are in demand? When searching the job postings, which key words would you use?

    It was relatively broad, mostly quantum computation and communication, but also some material science, quantum and classical optics, some aspects of nanotechnology etc.

    Thank you for the links, I'll keep my eyes open.

    The most important question: am I likely to completely ruin my potential career if I stay in academia for a few years trying to get into some form of R&D or a place like CSIRO, and it fails? Should I just drop everything and start studying programming or try to get another degree?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  13. Dec 13, 2014 #12

    Astronuc

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    Staff: Mentor

    Staying in academia is not necessarily a bad thing, but I would expect one would have to publish several articles that would be relevant to the field. When I was a graduate student (30+ years ago), we often got involved in research related to experiments at national labs, or in practical industry research/problems. Usually, we had a chance to interact with national labs or industry representatives. I'm not sure how it is in Australia or NZ, though, particularly not in modern times.

    While in academia, in addition to research and publishing, it would be good to identify companies at which one might seek employment.
     
  14. Dec 14, 2014 #13

    StatGuy2000

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    Education Advisor

    Here in Canada, where I live, there are a number of job search websites, such as Workopolis, Monster, Indeed, and others where you have the ability to search for positions based on specific sectors (including physical sciences, biological sciences, mathematics, etc.). I'm sure there are similar such sites available in Australia & New Zealand -- doing a quick search can at least give you a quick impression of what types of positions are open and available. Put "physics" or "science" or "quantitative" or "analytical" in the search field and you should come back with a good sense of what positions are in demand.

    If you put "quantitative" or "analytical" you will likely come across many job fields in business which require mathematical or statistical methods (the so-called "data science" positions often talked about), which is an area that, if you spend some time re-tooling yourself and depending on your computing skills (which I assume you have given your quantum computing background), could be an area that you could break into.
     
  15. Dec 14, 2014 #14
    Thanks you once again. Unfortunately, at least in my local circle, academia appears completely decoupled from any industry. However I'll keep looking.

    Thanks. Overall based on the search results, "physics" and "science" appear equivalent to "school teaching" with a few postdoctoral positions sprinkled in, while "quantitative", "analytical" or "data science" openings are either senior roles, or roles requiring very different education, i.e. advanced IT, business, chemistry etc. However after looking though 200+ job openings, I have found one where I fit at least one half of essential requirements :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  16. Dec 15, 2014 #15
    After some more searching: I guess networking will be a key, since there are nearly no job openings where I satisfy essential requirements, no matter how I try to search. The closest thing is getting a teaching degree and transitioning into school teaching. This [https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/non-academic-career-options-for-the-theroetical-physicist.491468/] [Broken] is a nice list of alternatives, some of which may or may not be applicable to Australia and New Zealand. I'll try to explore that as well.

    Thanks to everyone once again! Have a good day!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  17. Dec 16, 2014 #16
    I did a quick search using the "quantitative" keyword on indeed.com for my hometown (Cincinnati) and quickly found a position listing a physics Ph.D as one of its considered categories for an applicant. https://cvg53.ngahrhosting.com/MAIN/CareerPortal/job_profile.cfm?szOrderID=147063&referralid=ind

    By quick, I mean that it took me about a minute. Keep searching, and recognize that most lists of requirements are not satisfied in their entirety by most people who apply to jobs.

    Best of luck.
     
  18. Dec 16, 2014 #17

    StatGuy2000

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    Education Advisor

    I took a quick look on Google and found close to 155 job openings for "data scientist" positions. Nearly all of these positions will require those with experience in SQL, R, and other computing experience (if these are what you refer to as "essential requirements"), but these are skills that can be acquired by re-tooling yourself and educating yourself, either on your own or through online courses (e.g. edX, Coursera). You can do this during your current postdoc or possibly after a second postdoc.

    Another option that you may want to consider is applying for management consulting firms, which have often hired PhD physicists in the past, particularly for technology consulting. I know that McKinsey have offices in Sydney and Melbourne, so that may be something you may want to consider as well.
     
  19. Dec 16, 2014 #18
    Thanks for the advice. I just assumed that by 2 years of experience (for junior/entry level openings) they mean actual 2 years of using SQL, R, Hadoop in the industry, not going through a few edX courses and practicing it for a couple of weeks without pay. I guess getting this initial experience happens either though a graduate program (for which PhDs are not eligible), or through networking and "who you know". Or does applying for positions requiring experience while not having such experience and not knowing anyone there make sense? I am sorry if I sound stupid, I just really have never searched or applied for jobs before.
     
  20. Jun 29, 2015 #19
    Have you considered a job in finance? Apparently it is quite common for physics to get jobs in finance. Other options could be product development companies like Cochlear
     
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