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Physics Particle Physics and Quantum Physics

  1. Dec 19, 2016 #1
    I am trying to figure out what winfield oh physics i should study for a career. I absolutely love learning about strange quantum phenomena but also love learning about extremely small particles and how they interact at the smallest of scales Would i be interested in a career in particle physics based on my previously stated interests?
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  3. Dec 19, 2016 #2
    I work with quantum mechanics in condensed matter, which has not much to do with subatomic particles but still features a wealth of strange quantum phenomena. I can assure you particle physics is EVEN MORE of that - in some cases there are similar maths involved in both fields anyway, though usually condensed matter is somewhat less complex (or maybe so it looks to me because I'm more used to it).

    What's your stage of education and current awareness of quantum mechanics?
  4. Dec 19, 2016 #3


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    We can't tell you whether or not you would be interested in something.

    If you think you might be interested in particle physics - start reading about it, start working on math beyond what you're learning in school, take a physics course. As your education advances your interests will mature. Some people continue to have the same interests, others will get more interested in different problems. Careers come out of a combination of interests and the opportunities available at the time.
  5. Dec 20, 2016 #4
    One thing they don't tell you early is that most experimental work in particle physics only occurs at a few big facilities. This means that where ever your home university is, you have to travel to those to do your experiments (unless you happen to live close to one, which is rare).

    As soon as I figured that out, I focused on the areas of experimental physics that could be done in any university laboratory, eventually settling on atomic, molecular, and optical physics. I'm not a fan of lots of travel, and I want to be able to do my experimental work more often than the days I spend away from home.

    Of course, you can do theory anywhere.
  6. Dec 20, 2016 #5


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    However, much of the analysis can and probably usually does take place at the home universities. This may vary from one experiment to another. The analysis usually takes much longer than the actual data-collecting.
  7. Dec 20, 2016 #6
    Can you give me some insight on what kind of experiments that you do? I'm quite interested!
  8. Dec 20, 2016 #7
    I didn't make a career out of atomic, molecular, and optical physics. I moved on to other research areas. Some are detailed in recent Insights articles:



    My work in atomic, molecular, and optical physics centered around laser spectroscopy of Rydberg atoms in strong fields. This search brings up most of the scholarly citations:


    This Wikipedia page probably explains it better in terms accessible to undergraduates:

  9. Dec 20, 2016 #8


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    Unless there is a dire need for you to select an area of study, I strongly suggest you simply study to be a physicist. The undergraduate curriculum at most schools here in the US are geared towards providing a solid foundation for a physics graduate to pursue a specialization at the graduate level. So unless you are there already, you should hold back and "shop around" first.

    You should have plenty of opportunity to do this shopping around. Attend your department's colloquium/seminars. Read Physics Today and talk to students who are already doing research. Figure out what areas of physics do the faculty at your university do research in. In other words, truly shop around. From what I can gather at this point, you appear to still not be fully aware of the scope of the subject areas in physics. So why not hold back on any kind of decision before you get a better picture of what's out there?

  10. Dec 21, 2016 #9
    Haha, i wish i could but i need to graduate from high school first! Thanks for the information though, i really appreciate it!
  11. Dec 21, 2016 #10


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    I saw in your post that your a 15 year old high school student. So focus on doing well in high school and getting into the college/university you want to attend. The rest can wait!
  12. Dec 21, 2016 #11


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    You are trying to narrow down on things waaaaaaay too early. You haven't even a good idea yet on what's out there.

    And as another precaution, you might want to take a look at the informal poll that I conducted a while back:


    Based on this unscientific poll, there is a very strong chance that what you envision what you want to do right now will probably NOT be what you will end up doing by the time you're done with all your schooling.

  13. Jan 5, 2017 #12
    The problem is i am simply not as interested in general physics as i am in QM. I'm more than happy to learn general physics to set myself up for QM, but i can't make a career out of normal physics, it needs to be, well, strange. And QM offers strange phenomena i crave to learn about.
  14. Jan 5, 2017 #13


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    You can't pick and choose. CM, QM, and E&M are almost the 3 pillars of physics that you must know. Every physics major must know those.

    Secondly, the area of study called "QM" is actually almost non-existent. Everyone one studies QM, and then branches off into various fields that may use QM extensively. Particle physics uses QM. Condensed matter physics uses QM. Atomic/Molecular physics uses QM, etc...etc. Go the APS website, and look at all the divisions under the APS and see if there is such a field just called "Quantum Mechanics".

    You have a lot to learn still, grasshopper.

  15. Jan 6, 2017 #14
    haha that's true, thanks for the guidance.
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