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Life of a Theoretical Physicist?

  1. Mar 21, 2010 #1
    I am a junior in high school in AP Physics. Although not in the curriculum, I have been reading about theoretical quantum mechanics, string theory, et cetera for the past few months and I am extremely intrigued. If I do end up furthering my "physics career," where might it take me? There seems to be so much red tape in secondary education, and teaching at a college or university is obviously an option, but are there any other paths pursed by those interested in theoretical physics?

    What does the day of a physics professor consist of?

    Thank you ahead of time. :)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2010 #2
    Even I am interested in knowing it. Someone please provide information...
     
  4. Mar 22, 2010 #3
    The place to ask this is the Academic/career guidance forum. Hopefully a charitable admin might relocate it...
     
  5. Mar 22, 2010 #4
    Physics can take you a lot of places. It can be difficult to find a job with a degree in theoretical physics, but most theoretical physicists don't go into it for the money. On the practical side of physics, there is always engineering, applied mathematics, teaching, computer programming, etc. I have a masters degree in theoretical physics, but couldn't find a job so now I'm working on a second masters in education. A day in my life consists of washing dishes/cooking food at my part time job, doing homework for my education classes, and working on physics problems independently in my free time. There certainly is a lot of need for quality high school science teachers, so its definitely a good option to consider.
     
  6. Mar 23, 2010 #5

    Dr Transport

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    I am a theoretical physicist, condensed matter to be more specific. I work in industry and spend a large part of my time working with the lab guys and gals in interpreting their measurements and performing uncertainty assessments on the labs measurement devices. Now given that, I spend about 25% of my time developing new materials and devices for my company to invest time and money in to further our product lines.
     
  7. Mar 25, 2010 #6
    Thank you! That was really informative. However, what do your "product lines" consist of?
     
  8. Mar 25, 2010 #7

    Dr Transport

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    I work in aerospace......
     
  9. Mar 28, 2010 #8
    One thing that should be emphasised here: physics is a BIG subject. In your OP you referred to string theory; I think it's safe to say that Dr Transport doesn't use this in his commercial work :wink:

    The important thing is that "theoretical" really means adopting a particular approach to physics, rather than referring to some specific subject matter. I'd be extremely sceptical about the existence of a job outside of academia that required you to know anything about fundamental physics (e.g. the standard model, string theory (puportedly :tongue:), etc.) or topics like cosmology. You can, however, take a theoretical approach to practical problems; condensed matter is the natural home for this. Insofar as I know it's perfectly possible to do this using subject matter not far removed from the undergraduate core curriculum (quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical physics) albeit at a more advanced level. For example, every single physics graduate of anything entitled to call itself a university in any country will have learnt quite a bit about quantum mechanics, but most of them probably won't have developed certain more advanced/specialised computational techniques such as density functional theory.
     
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