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Math Math Career questions

  1. Aug 19, 2008 #1
    I have been thinking lately about what I'm going to do with a graduate degree in math. Here is the situation. I personally don't think I can get a tenured professorship at a university that has a PhD program. I think I can get into a PhD program, but I don't think I can do the things I need to do (i.e. get the good postdoc and then try like mad to get a tenure track position).

    I'm not completely discarding that option, but I am trying to cover all my bases. My primary interests are differential geometry (I wouldn't mind working in comparison geometry or geometry related to physics, i.e. principle bundles and gauge connections) topology and physics. My main goal is to become a tenured professor in mathematical physics. Something like David Morrison, Sergei Gukov, Paul Aspinwall, or Roger Penrose. That is my ideal situation. I know how difficult this is to accomplish, so I'm being realistic and looking at over options. However I do plan on continuing to pursue mathematical physics in grad school.

    I do have a lot of interests not related to geometry/topology/math physics that could lead to a career outside of academia. I am interested in quantum computing and a few schools I am looking at have some quantum computing professors in the math department. I also do like some discrete math (in my school the discrete math was handled by the applied math department) and I took courses in computational geometry, stochastic analysis, graph theory, etc. and I liked the strong interaction with computer science. I took two probability courses and I did enjoy that as well.

    So I have been poking around for career options for a math phd. I looked on phds.org and a lot of the jobs seem to be related to computational finance/hedge funds. I know the money is great, but the hours are long, and if I'm going to work 70-80 hours a week, I want it to be something I care about.

    I know at Rutgers (who has a strong discrete math department) some of their PhD's ended at some tech companies like Google.

    I look at a lot of the mathematicians who have done meaningful work in physics, and a lot of them came from Harvard, MIT, Princeton, etc. I'm just trying to be realistic... I know academia is a rough and tumble world, I'm even considering applying to hybrid type PhD programs, like UPENN's new one: http://www.amcs.upenn.edu/AMCS/AMCSGrad.html [Broken]

    Any input, any advice, any critiques, anything is much appreciated.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2008 #2
    Well, a degree is often more a sum of the parts, but the parts themselves will often land you jobs. Not the whole degree per se.

    So, how's your programming skills? solving FEM-problems? look that stuff up. How about working with computational mathematics solving technical problems? That expertise is highly valued.
  4. Aug 19, 2008 #3


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    What makes you think that you can't get a tenured position in maths, but can in math physics?
  5. Aug 19, 2008 #4
    No I didn't mean that at all. I said I don't think I can get a tenured position in mathematics, so I'm looking to pursue other career options if I were to get my math phd. I don't believe I ever said I could get a tenured position in math physics. I said my intention is to pursue it in grad school, but I don't think I can get hired as a math-physics professor (or any type of math professor, please let me reiterate this!)
  6. Aug 19, 2008 #5


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    Ok, fair enough, I must just have misinterpreted your thread.
  7. Aug 19, 2008 #6
    I know exactly how you feel.

    I would like to go to graduate school in math and get a position as a tenured professor at a research university. I know how difficult this path is, and I'm not sure I'm willing to deal with the travel and mediocre salaries for who-knows-how-long before possibly landing a decent position.

    So I'm hoping that with a graduate degree, I could land a position in industry, doing applied math type stuff for the government or a tech company.

    My main focus as I enter my senior year, aside from padding up my grad school application, is to build programming schools that would make me more employable.

    I'm sure you've seen http://www.ams.org/careers/archived.html" [Broken] link, with profiles of mathematicians in industry. It's a little dated, but it has a lot of information about what people have done with math PhDs, and some of it sounds like it could be interesting.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Aug 19, 2008 #7
    Yeah I still plan on pursuing mathematical physics in grad school, but I would also like to take some discrete math or quantum computing courses in grad school. I will start learning some programming after this Fall semester and hopefully by the time I get my graduate degree (Masters or PhD) I will have marketable programming skills.

    One far fetched idea I had was to get a graduate degree and work for a baseball team and help their scouting department by mathematically modeling and projecting baseball players statistics. I think this would be a cool way to do applied math, modeling in a sport I am a huge fan of to begin with.

    I am also considering pursuing grad school for a more reasonable sounding industry job, like stochastic analysis, graph theory or PDE's. However, I am not too high on this as I would like to give math-physics a real push, and if that doesn't work, I'll go after an industry gig for sure.
  9. Aug 30, 2008 #8
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
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