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Most Accessible Fields of Research

  1. Nov 7, 2006 #1
    What are some important theoretical problems in physics that people are working on that are accessible to physics students at an early stage (say around senior year)? Please be as specific as possible.

    EDIT: BTW, I do not mean "accessible" as in he would be able to contribute significantly to the problem, but merely "accessible" as in he might be able to come to understand the meaning of the problem, why it is important and so on. I hope this is clear.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2006
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  3. Nov 7, 2006 #2


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    Senior year of high school or senior year of college? :wink:
  4. Nov 7, 2006 #3
    Senior year of college. Maybe I should mention that the physics student I have in mind is myself.
  5. Nov 8, 2006 #4


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    Unification of gravity and QM ? :rofl:

    No, seriously, the best thing to do is to look for someone who is doing a PhD (and his/her adviser), or someone else doing some research, who can maybe split off a small piece (a calculation, a data treatment, or something of the kind) for you to handle.
    Another thing to look for is some specific problem of applied physics/engineering: the kind of "text book practical problem" but in a real-world setting.
  6. Nov 8, 2006 #5
    I have already done something like that with a professor. I am not looking for a small piece. I am trying to getting a broader view of what kind of work is going on.

    The problem with unification of gravity and QM is that while I can understand the basic question, I feel like the mathematics and physics is at too high a level to be able to comprehend the work going on now.
  7. Nov 8, 2006 #6


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    Have you tried browsing through some journals in your university library, or through the preprints at arxiv.org?

    Physics Today magazine often has articles on current research topics, which are targeted at physicists in other fields.
  8. Nov 8, 2006 #7
    There are a lot of journals in my library. I wouldn't have a clue where to start. I will check out Physics Today, and see what it has.
    I have tried skimming the arxiv but I never leave feeling like I have a greater understanding of what is going on in physics research. It's tough to tell which ones are important, which are semi-important and which ones are completely irrelevant. Maybe I am expecting this process to be easier than it actually is.
  9. Nov 8, 2006 #8


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    One thing you might want to try is searching CiteBase by author or keyword.

    http://www.citebase.org/ [Broken]

    This is not a really "scientific" approach, but if you find papers that are very heavily cited by others, chances are that there are some interesting and/or useful concepts or results in that paper. When you find a paper that looks very interesting and is being actively cited, look back through the references cited by the author(s) of that paper. This will give you a bit of perspective on how the author views the current state of the field and where the problem(s) addressed in that particular paper might fit in the bigger picture. Good luck.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  10. Nov 8, 2006 #9


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    Reviews of Modern Physics is an excellent journal to flip through if you want to find out about the states of various fields.

    But it's really hard to know very well what's going on without actually working in a field. I'd recommend you work on something suggested by a professor. At some point, you'll probably find what you like best about the subject (or something related), and adapt from there.
  11. Nov 8, 2006 #10


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    Try picking up the American Journal of Physics and European Journal of Physics. Most of the papers in there are "pedagogical" in nature, but also contains physics that are understandable at your level. You could easily pick up a few still-unsolved problems that you could work on using the physics that you should already know at this stage.

  12. Nov 8, 2006 #11
    I really appreciate the suggestions everyone! This will help me a lot.
  13. Nov 8, 2006 #12


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    Ah, sorry, I misunderstood you, I thought you were looking for a research project to handle in a few months time + writeup or something of the kind.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding you again, but now it seems that you are looking for what field to pick for further study as a function of the problems that are open, and to get acquainted with what's going on "at the frontiers of active research", just to see what is 1) actively researched 2) might click with you. Is that it ?
  14. Nov 8, 2006 #13
    That's right.
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