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On Becoming a Theoretical Physicist

  1. May 8, 2015 #1
    Hello everyone.First of all let me introduce myself.My name is Adrian I'm 20 years old I'm a freshmen in college and I live in Romania.My story is kinda short.After I got my Highschool final exam from Physics I started liking it.Now I study Systems Engineering cause it was my only option due to the fact that I didn't get a very high grade at the exam.My mathematic background is the following : Algebra,Geometry,Trigonometry,Calculus (single variable),
    Calculus (multivariable),Linear Algebra and Partial Differential Equations.In terms of Physics background so far I've learned the following:Classical Mechanics,Electricity and a bit of Electromagnetism.Like 5 months ago I started searching for some physics problems when I randomly found something about Quantum Mechanis ;Double Slit Experiment,Wave Function Equation etc.After that I was hooked to physics and I saw it at something very bad but at the same time something very beautiful.Now my questions is,does a random dude like me have a chance of becoming Theoretical Physicist.Mind you here in Romania we don't have such a thing as Theoretical Physicist "field" in college.So my only choice is to go to the US and study there somehow.If someone can enlight me on the requirements on attending a physics college in US like(math needed etc) I would gladly appreciate it.If you have some questions recarding my studies feel free to ask.

    Thank you,
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2015 #2
    I have nothing to contribute to the entry requirements of US universities, but I can tell you that as a student of Theoretical Physics at the University of Sussex, you dont have to cross the atlantic. While it is true that some universities offer Theoretical Physics at a bachlor level, most only offer it as a post graduate course, so your selection will be a bit limited.
    The question you really have to ask yourself really is do you actually want to become a Theoretical Physicist? I don't want to disscourage you from the field, as it is a wonderfull and detailed field that provides the best description of nature we know, but it is also a course that involes a lot of hard work and conceptual understanding without any hands on. That is a Theoretical Physicist is one who only works with equations, undertaking no experiments themselves. Of course we use results from experiments and incorporate this into our research (if not we would be completely out of touch with the real world), but we dont actually design or conduct any experiments ourselves. (I only ask as with a degree in Engineering I assume you do quite a lot of hands on work).
    If you are interested in such a degree then by all means I would say go for it, because understanding the fundementals behind nature is very satisfying. Of course you don't actually have to take a "Theoretical Physics" course, but can take a "normal" physics course and pick more math modules as your options, but this generally means you will have to design and conduct experiments as well.
    I hope this helps, and be aware that you dont need to go all the way to the US to study this facinating field, there are plenty of oportunities in Europe.
  4. May 8, 2015 #3


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    First of all, start by reading this:


    Secondly, you have a "romantic" idea of what physics is because, from the way you are describing of what attracted you to it, you really aren't fully aware of what it is. Do you think it is wise to go switch field based on such a superficial understanding of something?

    And finally, what exactly is your goal? Do you really want to be a physicist? This is a long and arduous path, and being a theorist will be even harder because of the limited career opportunity that awaits you after you graduate. Is this something you have considered?

  5. May 9, 2015 #4
    Thanks for the Reply Zapper.Yes I have took that in consideration too.That's also my "fear of failure".And about switching fields ; for some reason I see that Physics goes well with Engineering.But also I have to still finish this College before I will really start moving thoward "physics".But here in Romania getting a job even with a huge amout is experience is very hard cause Educational System is ****ed up and also people who hire you.But is it worth it in your opinion cause from what I see you are skilled:).Thank you
  6. May 9, 2015 #5
    Yes , well I think that the quote "Shoot for the moon,even if you miss you'll land among the stars applies here.And the physics field is huge in opportunities so I choose from many.Bottom line is that I enjoy reading alot of things about physics even if it gets tough sometimes to understand to concepts.I still have 3 more years to finish this University and ill see then what doors will open for me.Thanks again :)
  7. May 9, 2015 #6
    I admire your passion to work hard, that is both good and a nesessity, but be aware that most people within physicists (especially theoretical ones) spend their entire lives without their work being known to people outside their field. So if you want to enter the field it needs to be for the enjoyment of the field itself and not for the possible prais and respect that may come with it (which is a big reason why loads of people want to become physicists. Long as you accept that keep your opportunities open!
  8. May 9, 2015 #7
    You are right.I've seen that alot of people usually got in science files just for the glory and the respect they would get but to be honest I really like physics and its wonders like how stars form,what is dark matter,is there only 1 universe.It really makes me feel so happy that I can learn about this things and at the same time I find them very very fascinating,cause sometimes I usually can't get my head around some things:)
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