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Ph.D physics after having Ph.D in engineering

  1. Oct 17, 2014 #1
    I am from India and I hold a Ph.D degree in nanoelectronics. But now I want to be a physicist. I have been studying undergrad physics and bridging up the gaps for a while and am now ready to take up GRE. But can someone please tell me is the idea of achieving a Ph.D degree in physics after having a Ph.D degree in engineering feasible in USA? Is the idea of having 2 Ph.D's frowned upon in academia? Is it tough to achieve a job in the research institutes or to achieve a faculty position if I go for a Ph.D now?Or else what should I do? It is my dream to spend the rest of my life doing researches in physics as I have grown a deep love for the subject over the past few years. Please suggest me
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2014 #2
    Anycase, you'll have to do more work than the other way around
  4. Oct 18, 2014 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Many - probably most - places will not accept students for a second PhD. That's just how it is.
  5. Oct 19, 2014 #4


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    Why don't you look into designing instrumentation for physics experiments? For many advanced physics experiments appropriate instrumentation does not exist commercially. Therefore, typically there is some significant engineering research and advanced development required to enable the physics experiment.
  6. Oct 20, 2014 #5


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    If you have a PhD in nanoelectronics you should already be able to do experimental "physics" research in that same area; nano- and mesoscopic physics/electronics is a highly interdisciplinary field and I have personally worked with people who have PhDs in physics, electrical engineering and chemistry; all of them doing essentially the same things.
  7. Oct 20, 2014 #6
    I read an article about a guy who did PhD's in both Computer Science and in Physics, but he is an extreme outlier. With a nanoelectronics background I should think you'd be able to work on alot of the same things solid state physicists work on.
  8. Oct 21, 2014 #7
    I used to know a man who had PhD's in math and electrical engineering. So that isn't so rare as one might expected.Naturally, some PhD combinations are more likely than others.
  9. Oct 23, 2014 #8
    I have researched this a couple of years ago and the truth is that yes you can do a second PhD and NO it does not have to be a totally different field (as in history and physics).

    For example you can have a PhD in physics and pursue another PhD in Medical Physics or Math. I contacted a number of departments and they all said yes you can! Some explicitly state that. For example, the University of Maryland math department (see their FAQs), University of Wisconsin's medical physics department (I read it somewhere handbook AND confirmed it with the chair), UPenn's biomedical engineering and Math, and many others explicitly state that you CAN do a second PhD. Other universities explicitly state that if you already have a PhD they will NOT allow you to pursue another one (e.g. Penn State physics department and Harvard).

    The reason I mention this is that there is a lot of misinformation about this flowing around (I even read somebody saying it is illegal, lol).

    You decide what is in you best interest in the long run.
  10. Oct 23, 2014 #9


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    Even if it is possible it sounds like a crazy bad idea. The opportunity cost alone boggles the mind. One Ph.D. is bad enough!
  11. Oct 23, 2014 #10
    Yes, I personally don't have the energy to go through the process of getting another PhD. However, some people do and they may actually do much better since they already know the process and know how valuable it is to publish and network.
  12. Oct 23, 2014 #11


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    I hear you on the energy thing. Getting a Ph.D. is a REALLY serious endeavor. I just couldn't imagine another 4 or 5 years making peanuts, or working nights and weekends if you are doing it on the side. What a nightmare.
  13. Oct 23, 2014 #12


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    Nanoelectronics is engineering and physics (and some other fields) together. I don't think an engineering PhD there looks completely different from a physics PhD, so you probably have the same job options. I don't see the argument for a second PhD when you can get a postdoc (or similar) position instead.
  14. Oct 23, 2014 #13
    Well, some people may find it extremely difficult to get a postdoc for many reasons including having a not so helpful adviser, or maybe they want to use the second PhD as their 'postdoc' position instead of working in in a bar or at McDonald's while waiting for the postdoc to come by (nothing against working at McDonald but again some people may not want to work there).
  15. Oct 23, 2014 #14


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    Wow, hiding out in grad school because you couldn't get a postdoc seems like a really, really bad idea. You know the old saying? The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. If you'll indulge my mixed metaphors, getting a second PhD because you had a bad advisor or couldn't find a postdoc is seriously throwing good money after bad.
  16. Oct 23, 2014 #15
    Yes, I agree with you and you are right in general. But, rules usually have exceptions and exceptions are best handled on a case by case basis.
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