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Physics guidance

  1. Nov 21, 2008 #1
    I am currently striving towards an Honours Degree in Physics at the University of Saskatewan. However, I am hearing a lot of negative information regarding my path choice, and am looking for some unbias guidance. Basically, what I want to know is what kind of programs are there in terms of doctoral degress? I am really interested in theoretical physics, but is there even doctoral programs that can satisfy this interest? Also, if I have aspirations to perhaps one day lecture physics at a University, would that seem unreasonable? I initially was interested in pursuing a career in medicine, but I believe I would be much more happier in the realm of physics, however, I'm starting to regret that decision based on what others are telling me.

    Thanks, in advance.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2008 #2


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    Theoretical physics isn't a field of physics, it's the way you approach a field - almost any field, from optics to astrophysics to condensed matter, could be done through experiment, modeling, and/or theory. Plenty of universities have professors who study topics using theory. It's true that there aren't as many applications for it outside of academia and some national labs, whereas a background in experimental physics or computational physics might have a broader scope. But no, your goal is not unreasonable. It's just going to be a lot of work.
  4. Nov 22, 2008 #3
    Hello, dimpeldur.

    I personally disagree with eri; there is a significant difference between theoretical physics and other aspects. Consider string theory and other GUTs (grand unified theories). As yet, they are entirely untestable theories and exist only on paper and in brains.

    It is true that experimentalists use theoretical and simulation methods on a regular basis - I, for example, am trying to get into DFT calcualtions and use quite regularly the XVEGAS code to simulation ion scattering data - but at the end of the day I'm an experimentalist. I play with kit, I go do experiments at central failities - home and abroad - and I get my hands dirty in the process. Friends of mine that do theoretical physics sit solving differential equations and sit behind computers all day writing simulation programs from scratch. Both the physical and mental requirements of experimentalists and theoreticians are quite different.

    Now, as for your questions, I'm not sure that I can help you too much as I don't live in North America - I am British - and have little knowledge of your educational system. Over here, you don't have Ph.D. programs, per se, but instead attach yourself to a research project and slog your guts out for 3-4 years getting enough new and interesting data for your thesis. But rest assured, there are Ph.Ds available that will satisfy anyone, whether you want to do experimental or theoretical physics in any field of your chosing.

    I would also say it is not unreasonable to want to lecture one day - that is my aspiration too! And there are many reasons why I would prefer to work in academia rather than industry.
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