Prerequisites for Theoretical or Particle Physics

  • Thread starter Nkoenig
  • Start date
  • #1
6
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Hi my name is Nick,

I was wondering exactly what I would need, or could begin learning now that would help me get into the field of either Theoretical or Particle Physics.

I'm a senior in high school and have gotten interested in physics, specifically those two areas. As a result I have been reading books that have to do with things like String Theory by Stephen Hawking and Loop Quantum Gravity. My grades are probably a little above average, but my first year of high school wasn't very great, so I'm hoping I can make up for it. I really want to be able to study these topics, but I don't have much of an idea of where to start or what I need to do to get to the level that some of the scientists of today work at, such as Stephen Hawking or Carlo Rovelli. Although I admit I don't expect to be as great as these people I would like to work with the same problems they do. Could anyone give me information where to start or how to get there?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
1,661
2
Popular physics.
 
  • #3
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What?
 
  • #4
901
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He means your perspective of Physics is likely romanticized.
 
  • #5
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Maybe but being a senior I have started some physics and I really like it. What would the romanticized view be in your opinion? Maybe I could find out if I have it.
 
  • #6
901
2
Having a romanticized view isn't bad it's just many people think that they will study these subjects and make breakthroughs and enjoy sitting in front of a blackboard and calculating all day, ultimately, the majority of these people will hate it. I can't tell you what you'll like and not like, I can tell you the probabilities of getting tenure and how long your post-docs will be which doesn't appeal to a lot of people. I'm not the right person to talk to anyways other people will have better things to say. In the meantime read ZapperZ's "So you want to be a physicist" thread.
 
  • #7
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Ok and thanks. I'm not really sure what I expect but I know I'm willing to put in the hard work needed to get there thanks for the help.
 
  • #8
901
2
Look, there are many cool things that you can do in Particle Physics that doesn't involve working on the cutting-edge of physics but is very rewarding (pays well - over $100,000) and is in great demand. Among these would be a Medical Physicist specializing in Particle Therapy. It's pretty awesome, you essentially work with a room sized particle accelerator that uses proton therapy/electron/Carbon Ion therapies and treat people with diseases. You can also be a researcher in Particle Beam Therapies but it is more applied. I used to love all of the theory but I've come to realize that I want to have an impact on society and apply my knowledge to people and the world.
 
  • #9
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Those things sound pretty cool too. That's part of the reason I made this post. Since I will be entering college soon I want to figure out a general idea of what to do. So far in the last year I have found the theoretical and particle physics part more interesting that's why I mentioned them outright.
 
  • #10
Nabeshin
Science Advisor
2,205
16
Could anyone give me information where to start or how to get there?

Go to university and major in physics. Take as many courses in physics and math as you can (especially the math, even if they are not required by your department).

Realistically, then you can start to ask this question. The simple fact is you don't do anything close to specializing in physics until graduate school. So right now, I would worry about doing well in your physics classes and keeping your mind open to the different areas of research. As you go through undergrad, you should get a feeling for what you like/don't like.
 
  • #11
901
2
Go to university and major in physics. Take as many courses in physics and math as you can (especially the math, even if they are not required by your department).

Realistically, then you can start to ask this question. The simple fact is you don't do anything close to specializing in physics until graduate school. So right now, I would worry about doing well in your physics classes and keeping your mind open to the different areas of research. As you go through undergrad, you should get a feeling for what you like/don't like.

That's probably the best advice someone could give you.
 
  • #12
323
1
Go to university and major in physics. Take as many courses in physics and math as you can (especially the math, even if they are not required by your department).

Realistically, then you can start to ask this question. The simple fact is you don't do anything close to specializing in physics until graduate school. So right now, I would worry about doing well in your physics classes and keeping your mind open to the different areas of research. As you go through undergrad, you should get a feeling for what you like/don't like.

Finally! Someone who actually answered the OP's question^

But seriously I am an undergraduate in physics and like Nabeshin said, really just focus on your physics classes in undergraduate and get them as solid as possible. Of the students in graduate school that I have spoken with, they all told me it was essential to know your mechanics/E&M/QM as best as possible, as these are the foundations for going further(nuclear, particle, etc...).

I'm also very interested in particle/theoretical physics, and I have been debating on going for a math double major vs a minor. For theoretical physics you always hear "learn as much math as possible" or " the more math the better", so I figure with some guidance on math courses to choose, I could hopefully focus those courses that would help me in physics graduate school.

Heres a really good site if your interested in knowing what you need to know/should study for theoretical physics.

http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html
 
  • #13
6
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Alright thanks so far to all three of you for the good information.
 

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