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Nobel prize in physics

  1. Dec 3, 2009 #1
    Hey guys,
    I did my bachelor in electronics and telecommunication engineering. I am planning to do MS and phd probably in electrical field. I have just one quick question..can somebody doing electrical engineering can win nobel prize in physics. I am sure they might consider it as applied physics.But my question is what subject we should concentrate instead I guess its more on semiconductor,solid state physics, laser etc? Lately this question has really knock my head. Or should i instead go for MS and phd in physics itself now thought its very late?
    Please give honest reply as this things been keep hiting my head for a long time and I am bit serious of it.Thanks..
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2009 #2


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    Here's a recipient who had and undergrad degree in Mechanical Engineering, so I don't see why you couldn't do it with an EE.


    EDIT: I think it has to do with your contribution to society as opposed to your educational background.

  4. Dec 3, 2009 #3
    So basically even though he did his bachelor in mechanical engineering , he ended up doing phd in physics. I know of Paul Dirac who did is bachelor in electrical engineering but finally did his phd in physics. So, does this means person who does phd in his field and he don't get nobel prize?Just my query.
  5. Dec 3, 2009 #4
    Bardeen and friends invented the transistor and got a Nobel Prize for it. Was he an engineer or physicist? But then he got another Nobel Prize for developing superconductivity theory with other friends.
    Bob S
  6. Dec 3, 2009 #5


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  7. Dec 3, 2009 #6


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    It doesn't matter. There are several examples of physicists that have won the prize in chemistry, chemists that have won the prize in medicine etc.
    Remember that the prize is awarded for a discovery, the background of the person(s) who made that discovery doesn't matter.
  8. Dec 3, 2009 #7
    Sure I agree with f95toli. I am bit awakward to ask this but may i know from any person what field of electrical engineering can bring nobel prize. I am pretty sure communication/DSP won't get it. I am thinking of may be semiconductor physics,solid state physics may bring it...but i doubt if there is any discovery or new thing left on this field. Just wandering what particular subject/branch one should concentrate in EE?
  9. Dec 3, 2009 #8


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    It doesn't work like that. There are several examples of physics prizes that have been awarded for inventions, ranging from the "obvious" (meaing there is a clear connection to physics) such as the bubble chamber to the less obvious such as the integrated circuit.
    Hence. there is no way to predict which field is most "likely" to get you a Nobel prize.
    That said, if your goal in life is to win a Nobel prize you should probably focus on "novel" research, as opposed to e.g. developing new mobile phones.
  10. Dec 3, 2009 #9
    I think that if Joe Snuffy high school drop-out discovered some world changing scientific principle in his garage that was proven factual through repeated experiments by reputable scientists, and this discovery went on to improve the current state of knowledge. This individual would qualify for a Nobel Prize in the field that he contributed to despite his lack of educational background. The likelihood of this happening is really non-existent, but if it did happen I don't think they would discriminate. I doubt credentials matter as much as your actual contribution.

    (Look at Obama, he hasn't actually achieved anything yet, and he got one. Sorry, just had to mention that one.)
  11. Dec 3, 2009 #10
    hmm I think you are rite but can you elaborate more when you say novel/nobel research?
  12. Dec 3, 2009 #11


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    Novel means some new idea or discovery that has not be thought of or discovered before.

  13. Dec 3, 2009 #12
    Start with room temperature superconductivity. That would save mega-mega-watts of energy.
    Bob S
  14. Dec 3, 2009 #13


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    To be fair though, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in a different manner than the others.
  15. Dec 4, 2009 #14
    Definetly, the other awards have maintained their credibility. I was just making a current event reference. :biggrin:
  16. Dec 5, 2009 #15
    Hi Bob
    Could you shed more light on your topic ie. room temperature superconductivity?Thx..
  17. Dec 5, 2009 #16
    Start by replacing all the 50 Hz and 60 Hz copper power lines all over the world with zero resistance superconductors. Then fix all transformer windings in all power transformers. Then fix all the power generators in all the power plants. Then all the electric motors. etc. etc.

    Bob S
  18. Dec 5, 2009 #17
    On one hand, yes, most Nobel Prizes in physics are awarded to tenured professors of physics.

    On the other hand, I can assure you that, even if you switch to physics right now, your chances of getting a Nobel Prize are very low.

    Consider the following simple calculation.

    - In any given year, Nobel Prize in Physics is given, on average, to two and a half people.
    - Suppose that half of those are given to U.S. scientists.
    - Suppose that 2/3 of those are given to tenured professors (or people who were tenured professors before retiring - since it's not uncommon for the prize to be awarded to a 85-year-old recipient.)

    That's 5/6'th of a prize per year.

    How many candidates are there?

    There are around 6000 tenured professors of physics or astronomy in the country.

    Assume the turnover rate of 40 years (30 to 70). That's 150 professors per year, competing for 5/6'th of a prize - 1:180 chance of winning.

    We could tighten the odds a little by considering only the highest-ranked universities (since Nobel prize winners somewhat disproportionately come from Ivies, MIT, Chicago, etc.), but even that would mean extremely long odds.
  19. Dec 7, 2009 #18
    Does it really matter where you are when you make a great discovery. I doubt that if you made a significant contribution to your scientific field that the Nobel committee would deny you a prize because your resume was not impressive enough. If your driving goal is to receive this prize, then I think that is as good a motivation as any to succeed. Regardless of how "very low" the chances of someone making a discovery may be.
  20. Dec 7, 2009 #19
    just innovate dude, look at concepts and read between the lines. it's hard to do this by going on wiki and just glancing thru eqn's and formulas, as an inventor myself, the best advice i can give you is to look in places you may not expect to find merit and begin to see new concepts.

    Also, realise that you should not obsess over problems which the modern scientific community cannot answer, for example high temperature superconductors, but also be willing to think far far far outside the box.

    This somewhat leads to one of my biggest personal problems with modern day scientist's, is that they work within the boundaries of what has been proven to work, and limit themselves from seeing things in a COMPLETELY new way. Yes it is true that if a law works it may be used, but a key concept should always be that something working may only be a special situation of a far more wide reaching concept. Consider the current understanding of the importance of electricity and magnetism on an atomic scale. Only recently with the onset of quantum do we begin to see how essential this 'novel' force is to our life.
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