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Master Thesis, confused and overwhelmed!

  1. Sep 3, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone and thanks a lot for reading!

    A short introduction: My name is Tomer, 26 years old. I'm an Israeli doing his masters in Germany, Potsdam, with a specialization in astrophysics. I've done my bachelor (in maths and physics) in Israel (the Technion).

    Now, after I finished my bachelor, it wasn't all that clear to me whether I want to continue pursuing a career as a physicist. I got to Berlin hoping the answer would become clearer.
    In a way it did, because I found myself missing studying a lot, missing science. I decided to give it another go and started my masters here a year ago. So far, so good - it's been very productive and much fun.
    However, I have come to the point now where I should decide what my guiding scientific question is, and under whose supervision shall I write my thesis.
    Problem is: it was hard 'nuff for me to finally decide I'm going for astrophysics (thinking of my PhD quite often, trying to weigh my actions this time around!) -- I hardly feel I have enough experience or knowledge for this decision. Aside from the fact that it isn't really clear to me if I'm more drawn to cosmology, or galaxy evolution, or stellar evolution, and so on - there seem to be much politics and other factors at work, which I'll have to consider if I want to make a smart decision. Unfortunately, I do not seem to be able to create much dialogue with my fellow physicists so I decided to give it a shot here, where the community is much wider and rich with experience.

    So I'll try to sum up some of my most burning questions with the hope I can get some guidance here - I'd really appreciate any feedback (but try to keep it constructive! :) )

    -- I do not have to write my thesis in the university. There are quite a few institutes around the university (such as the institute for astrophysics) which allow us that. The vibe is that these institutes give one more contact with other "forces" at work, more overview on different topics - and that they're generally better funded. However, it seems like the supervision in the university is much tighter, and that you generally have a much more "family-like" atmosphere.
    How heavily should I base my final decision on such matters, in your opinion?

    -- How likely/unlikely is it, that I'll be finding myself changing my field in my PhD? In other words, how dramatic is the decision I have to take now?

    -- Feel free to share how each of you guys (n' girls) chose his direction back at the time. Contacts? Fame? Interest? Instincts? Randomness?

    -- I know I'm attracted to rigorous, mathematical physics, and therefore have probably more experience in such fields than others studying with me. I can however enjoy programming, problem solving and "dirty work" as well - but I lack experience there. I never had any experience with simulations. Would you say I ought to focus more on expressing my talents or improving my weaknesses during this year?

    -- I was never in it for the money, nor do I plan or even hope to get rich, but I'd lie if I'd say I wouldn't be happy to know (as much as you can nowadays) that I could earn a decent amount of money and a have stable job during the next years. Do I need to regard such considerations when choosing my topic? For example, the rumor has it that stellar evolution is kinda weakly funded these days and that only seldom do advancements take place, as opposed to cosmology which seems to earn a lot of attention (hence job vacancies, etc).
    Does it make sense to allow such considerations to affect my decision? I keep having this romantic thought that a real scientist would just pick his most favorite topic without considering such things :-)

    -- Last question: I'll soon be starting to work in the astrophysical institution here, having a modest student job. I will definitely however be exposed to many works of many people, which will hopefully inspire me. Will it be smart to keep myself busy at the same time with the initial thesis work at a wholly different field, to gain more insight on as many topics as I can? Or will it only confuse me? Should I try, after doing some reading, to just place my bet and go for it, or should I spend the first months exploring different works and fields?

    Again, thanks a lot for reading -- I realize this post is infinite :-)
    Feel free to write anything at all, I'd greatly appreciate it.

  2. jcsd
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