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On my way to Ph.D in Physics Need guidance from non-academic physicists

  1. Oct 15, 2014 #1
    Hi all,

    I just finished my 4 years college with a B.S. in Physics from a reputed physics program.
    I came to college with a naive mindset about myself. I thought I want to become a theorist and get a tenure from somewhere. I have changed quite a bit after working in research as an undergrad.

    Nowadays I prefer experiments over theories. I prefer physical objects with applications. I want to make something that other people can use. I don't feel like staying in academia after my Ph. D. I want to work in industries.

    I have decent grades, decent scores and letter of recommendations. Right now I am applying to graduate school. I know I will go somewhere but I begin to see Ph.D. as a big commitment.

    I want to do experiments in condensed matter and hopefully pick up some practical electrical engineering skills along the way.

    May I ask you, hows life like after your PhD for those who decided not to stay in Academia?

    Thank you very much
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2014 #2


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    Note that to some people, working in a national lab, for example, is also an "academic" environment, since one often deals with grad students, postdocs, and some form of a "tenure" system (at least here in the US). So even if such an institution doesn't have teaching responsibilities and doesn't grant degrees, it has a bit of an academic atmosphere.

    So assuming that you really meant working in industries or private sector, there is an article from Science Careers that you might want to read:


    This is a good time to remind everyone, especially the new members, to clearly state where you are at, or where you intend to do all this. Often times, these types of questions and answers are very location-specific! It will be a waste of time an effort for someone to write a long, detailed answer, only to be told that the person asking it is from a part of the world where such an advise is worthless.

    It is a good time for you to recognize and realize that PF is a global forum.

  4. Oct 17, 2014 #3
    Thank you ZapperZ for the wonderful article.

    I am a Californian resident. I went to my undergraduate institution in CA and it is my preference to attend another school in California for my Ph.D

    My current concern is that graduate school curriculum is typically geared toward academic research. I afraid I can't obtain the required skill to work in industries. Some people try to convince me to go into Engineering. However, I am still passionately in love with Physics. I have a profit-driven mindset but nothing beats the thrill of learning new physics.

    I want to ask for advices from scientists in industries. What are some approaches I should take during graduate school to make myself more marketable toward private companies and corporations?
    In fact, ultimately I really want to start my own firm to work on projects that I am passionate about. However, I feel I can't go anywhere without any experience in industries, especially if I am going to do solid state devices.
  5. Oct 18, 2014 #4
    I did a PhD in experimental solid state physics and left academia. But I am from Europe - so I am always a bit hesitant to post here.

    Here it is not uncommon to work in research projects that include both academic institutions and partners from industry as a PhD student. So not only do you pick up useful skills but you also learn about the culture of interesting industry sectors, and you are given the option to build a network of contacts.

    If it is not obvious from universities' websites I would ask about such opportunites and pick a PhD program based on how "close" it is to industry.
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