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Physics Outlook after M.Sc. or PhD in Lattice QCD

  1. Jul 10, 2016 #1
    I will soon start a Master thesis in Lattice QCD. There I will spends lots of time developing C++ code and running it on different supercomputers. After that I consider doing a PhD if the Master thesis runs well.

    For the experimentalists I can see a lot of almost-engineering jobs where they work on cutting-edge technology that will become engineering some time later. But what about a somebody with a focus on theory and numerical methods? The list at https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...options-for-the-theroetical-physicist.491468/ has some really nice ideas, so far I have only thought of a few of them. However the OP says that he has sufficient knowledge with IT but due to back pains he discards all the programming jobs.

    What kind of niches are there in the industry for a Lattice QCD practitioner? I would imagine that my largest selling point would be the supercomputing, not the physics when it comes to the industry. So what I thought was this:

    • Going into finance and use computational methods to do whatever hard computation they have.
    • Join a hardware vendor like AMD, Intel, NVIDIA and improve their products such that physicists and computational scientists prefer their hardware. For instance I see that NVIDIA has a foot in the door with supercomputers and GPUs while Intel is pushing its Xeon Phi and making it sweet for legacy code since it is x86.
    • Switch the field and do data analysis. Perhaps medical physics or something like that.
    Just as @daveyrocket wrote in the linked thread, I was able to program (albeit only a handful of cores) before I started studying physics. So I could always abandon physics completely and program websites with PHP or Django, alternatively I should be able to pick up Java again and develop Android apps. But that is not really something that I would aim for. It is just that I know that those jobs exist and that I would easily fit there.

    I have the impression that in Germany, after you have your PhD, you enter this post-doc phase where you move from one post-doc to the next until you get (at least I imagine it this way) cold-called with “thanks for hanging there, we got a professor position for you” and then you are a made man. This is a gamble I am not willing to take without a solid plan A. So going into industry is my plan A and the academic career the plan B for which I would not hold my breath in Germany, at least at the moment.

    For going into the industry, I am not sure how much a PhD would actually help. Especially in the industry I heard are a lot of people who are flashed by the “Dr.” in the name and that gives better chances for salary and career options. I don't want to look back and be angry at myself that I did not take the chance and did a PhD. But perhaps going into the industry after the M.Sc. and betting on a career there is more promising? Of course, I will first write the Master thesis and see how I like the topic before making a decision.

    So what kind of programming jobs could I do where a M.Sc. in physics with a master thesis on Lattice QCD would helpful? Would a PhD actually change something there?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2016 #2

    Dr Transport

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    Gold Member

    I'm not aware of any lattice qcd positions in industry today......

    your programming skills would translate into a real job, but not the physics you are practicing exactly.
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