1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics major wondering what to specialize in

  1. Sep 5, 2012 #1
    Here is my problem...

    On the one hand:
    I know I love mathematics, and enjoy being able to describe physical phenomena with it. Predicting the future with such an incredible degree of accuracy is FUN to me.
    I know I love fishing out the secrets of the universe, and mulling through the different possible ways to describe literally everything in it. I love picking apart equations, trying to fit the pieces together in a way that hums along with the reality. I love looking into the deepest level of detail possible to find flaws and insights.

    On the other hand:
    I really want to develop an alternative energy source that has a high efficiency rate and can be found throughout the galaxy. This means a combination of nuclear fission reactors and propulsion systems, nuclear fusion reactors, and possibly particle annihilation reactors and propulsion systems. I would like to be ABLE work on any/all of these technologies if I could.

    So, what do I do? What should I major in? I know I'm in physics for the long run, but nuclear? theoretical? high energy? ... I don't really know what to choose.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2012 #2
    Sounds a bit like you want the golden major haha. I understand where you're coming from. I would love to find a massively powerful energy source and work with all types of systems and applications realted to such a source, but it's a bit more problematic. To achieve a task of this nature would require a team of people with skills from multiple different fields of expertise. For example, a theoretical physicist (probably more like 100) would be neccessary to make the breakthrough theory (lightbulb idea), an applied physicist (multiple) to work out the more practical large scale concepts, and engineers to build the various means of harnessing and using the energy. And of course, all of these men woud have to be brilliant at what they do.

    I don't know if you've seen Spider Man 2, but if you have, that's a great example of what you're talking about. Dock Ock makes this colossal, self perpetuating fusion based reaction (obviously using some fictional element with tremendously powerful radioactive capabilties) and monitors it with these fantastically convenient robotic arms with which it is possible for him to control the reaction. The catch is that no matter how brilliant Dock Ock is , such a task would require mastery of a dozen different fields; theoretical atomic physics, chemical physics, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, mechatronics, computer science, electrical engineering etc. The point is: focus on one, maybe two things and attempt at pursuing your goals through accomplishing one piece of the puzzle.

    Based on your interests, I would say that condensed matter, particle physics and atomic physics are all potential fields in which you would have interest. All of these of course being topics found in physics. If you're looking for a double major, accompany the physics with either math or a field of engineering (robotics if possible would be great). As for the theoretical or not, it depends on whether or not you want to perfect already existing technology, or find some type of breakthrough source of energy. If it's the latter, you're going to have to go theoretical, and hope to hit the lottery. If the first, go applied physics if possible.
  4. Sep 5, 2012 #3
    I didn't mean ONE crazy awesome energy source. I meant all of those individually. They're all workable, being worked on, etc by many a country and billions of dollars are being dumped into all of the research (see ITER fusion, LMFBRs in India/China, etc). I just wondered if I could pick a major that would be workable within all of those different types of nuclear/radioactive tomfoolery.

    I was actually thinking of combining the physics with some type of computer science so that I don't get all confused when I'm trying to talk to my programmers. Thoughts?

    Thanks for the advice camjohn
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook