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Other Physics or engineering?

  1. Mar 5, 2016 #1
    Okay so before I start let me say I guess it might be a bit early for me to ask this question. At the moment I am a sophomore in high school, so I do have a couple years left to decide what I want to do. But I know that I do want something in physics or engineering, the classes I always understand best and make the best grades in would be all my science and algebra classes, and I'm on the robotics team which requires use of some physics. My point is, recently I heard of this sub-field of physics called quantum field theory, which really interests me. I heard google bought a quantum computer using these theories and it seems very interesting to me. I feel like I'm on the fence of engineering and physics, but don't know which one I would be better suited for.. could anyone guide me on how their day to day life is as an engineer or physicist is like? Thanks and sorry in advance for the long thread.
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  3. Mar 5, 2016 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    QFT is very very mathematical ... do you like calculus and linear algebra?
    Right now quantum computing is afaik a field in physics- though, by the time you are set for college there may well be a subset studied as part of an engineering degree. Probably post-grad.

    An engineering degree will usually require a grounding in all the major sciences - which they usually mandate in your first year at college: so you will have to do chemistry and biology as well as physics. For a physics focus, you will do core physics and a lot of maths. In the early years you will spend more time in the maths department than in physics.

    Life as a theoretical physicist is spent mostly reading, talking to other theoretical physicists, and working on computer simulation. Lots and lots of computer time.
    Experimental physics is much the same but also time arguing for research grants, trying to get on teams etc. You also write and teach. It's hard to describe. At my most active I spent about 8hrs a day in front of a computer - about 4 days a week, 2 days for teaching. 1 day for reading. I could start at 10am but go through to 2am the next day (usually out by 8pm though). No vacations.
  4. Mar 6, 2016 #3


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  5. Mar 7, 2016 #4
    The for the response! I know you probably wont know the answer to this question but why are the chances of there being a new field of engineering for quantum computing ? Also do you think these jobs will have good job stability or do you believe these jobs will have low job security? Thanks if u answer my questions :)
  6. Mar 7, 2016 #5
  7. Mar 10, 2016 #6
    You asked about what day to day life in the workplace is like, but you were writing in context of a technical endeavor.

    Most of the working day for either profession is not technical. There is bureaucracy, meetings, documentation to write, correspondence to catch up with, project status updates to read and update, and so on. It is also good to socialize a bit so that you know what your colleagues are working on, where they've had successes, where they've had failures, and what issues they're having to deal with. This is not the waste of time you may think it is. It's the glue that holds a workplace together.

    As a technician, I spent about 30% of my day actually working on technical stuff. As an engineer, I started off spending about 15% of my time actually designing stuff. These days, I don't even get that much. However, I've also learned where the shortcuts are, so I can get routine technical tasks done much faster than I used to.

    I'm trying to convey to you that the workplace is so much more than just technical stuff. If you choose a line of work based upon the technical challenges alone, you may be quite disappointed.
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