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Professional physicist

  1. Apr 3, 2010 #1
    Hello all,

    why physicists are proud to say that they are 'professional physicist'?? Also physicist are dare and bare to say that they dont know chemistry as well as i am not a chemist!!
    But i rarely notice scientists saying ' i am a professional chemist'??..

    why so?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2010 #2

    I'm an amateur physicist, fwiw. :D
  4. Apr 3, 2010 #3


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    It tends to be the other way around. In a lot of countries some professions are protected - you can't just call yourself an engineer or chemist, just like you can't call yourself a doctor or lawyer.

    This is more common in jobs with a public safety concern like engineering or chemistry, physicists tend not to be directly involved in the final design of things so professional physics registration isn't as common.

    I think people say "professional physicist" more to distinguish themselves from academic physicists - ie. they are saying that they work in industry or industrial research.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2010
  5. Apr 3, 2010 #4
    Okay, yes absolutely you cant call doctor or lawyer (without getting degree in those areas)..
  6. Apr 3, 2010 #5
    I think there are two things here.

    First, there is someone claiming expertise in order to provide others with a service, be it an expert opinion or the solution to a particular problem where there are concrete consequences if that solution is wrong.

    In this first case, of course, it is right and proper that the individual involved should be able to provide proof of their expertise.

    But second, there is someone who is simply putting forward ideas in the pursuit of pure science.

    In this second case, I think it is important to, in theory at least, leave the field open to those outside the establishment. After all, possibly the most brilliant mathematician alive is a rather private chap who lives with his mum in St Petersburg and works all on his own.
  7. Apr 3, 2010 #6

    didn't he quit and is now trying to break through as a violinist?
  8. Apr 3, 2010 #7


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    True that, but Grigori Pereleman (sp?) does have a Ph.D. in mathematics (with the attendant work) and took fellowships and postdocs. Not that non-credentialed people haven't been able to make contributions--but they are far and few inbetween, and usually worked with mathematicians 'in the system' to realize their contributions:

    One of the more recent ones was Marjorie Rice who, despite only a highschool educatio,n had an interest in Penrose Tilings, read work in the field, and worked with a mathematician at a local university (IIRC) to get her work published:
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