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Physics Seeking General Insight or Advice

  1. Oct 19, 2016 #1
    Hi, I'll try to keep this brief but this is a hard subject to keep brief. Thanks to all who take the time to read. I appreciate any advice even if it's just a repeat of what someone else has already said.

    I have a B.S. in physics from the University of Utah with a GPA of 3.4. I finished my courses last year 2015 but I continued taking courses because I was unsure of my next move. I decided it was a waste of money to keep taking classes so I graduated this Spring 2016 and got my degree.

    All my life I was planning on getting a PhD in physics. I've always been fascinated with the subject, and always been very good at it. My lackluster GPA is because I was depressed over a breakup all throughout college. I had low energy and I always procrastinated. I could have done much better in a different circumstance but that's neither here nor there. For related reasons I never ended up taking my GRE and my undergraduate research is lackluster. I never published anything. All I really did was grunt work for 2 years. Nonetheless, I do have undergraduate research experience and I could still take the GRE.

    During my last undergraduate year and my year outside of school my drive to study physics has crashed and burned. I feel very smart, I feel very capable, but I feel like nobody ever noticed besides me. Why do I keep competing and competing to try to prove something if nobody will ever notice or care? Do I want to spend the next 10 or 20 years of my life competing all for the opportunity to just compete even more? I'm tired of feeling like I'm never good enough.

    Furthermore, scientists have been telling people about global warming for like 50 years, nuclear energy for 100 years. Nobody listens to us. So what's even the point? I see these researchers that are 35 or 40 and they make hardly any money at all. And for what? To keep partaking in a competition that never ends? I'm 25 right now and I'm afraid if I pursue physics I will live an impoverished and busy life and in the end never even be recognized or never even make an impact.

    Okay so even with all that set aside... My family are simpletons who lived mundane and pointless lives. They don't understand my vision to be exceptional. They don't know what the word physics means. They don't make good money. They simply don't sympathize with my goals in life. My family is not supportive so they've pressured me to get out of school and to move out on my own. Now here I am struggling with money every day. I'm making 9 bucks an hour and I'm spending 2 to 3 hours every day doing resumes, cover letters, follow up calls, interviews, and the like. It feels like nobody wants a physicist without an advanced degree. Everywhere I go there's someone sitting next to me with a master's in engineering.

    Anyways that pretty much sums it up. Here are the options I'm considering:
    - Getting a master's degree in a pragmatic field like computer science or engineering
    - - But how does this work financially? I'm impoverished as it is I don't know if I can afford to continue my education.
    - Going forward and getting my PhD in physics
    - - Same downside as above plus the concept of competing and never ending up with a position to be proud of. I'll essentially be in poverty until I'm 35 hoping for it to pay off, without any guarantee it will pay off.
    - Keep looking for jobs and just get on somewhere and start working my way up
    - - The major downside of this is that I'd be just giving up on my dreams and submitting to the system.
    - Jump off a bridge
    - - Currently this seems like the most practical option

    As a final note let me tell you that if I get an advanced degree I will probably try to do it in Europe. I've lived in the same town my whole life and I'm tired of it. Let me know what you think about this.

    Again, I appreciate you for giving me your consideration and I appreciate any advice. I hope you all have a wonderful day.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Honestly, this is much more of a problem than your GPA. Depression, lack of enthusiasm, and procrastination are all things that are big warning signs to an employer.

    If you are clinically depressed then you need to seek medical help. A brain can be sick or injured just like a leg or a kidney.

    If these are attitudes and not symptoms then you need to address those. Whether it is industry or academia, you will always be in a competition. Decision makers like enthusiastic and dedicated people, and will pick them over people with a high GPA.
  4. Oct 20, 2016 #3
    If I go to a psychiatrist they're going to prescribe me pharmaceuticals that are overpriced and designed to make me dependent for the rest of my life. Everything out there is just an industry. Not to mention I can't really afford that.

    While it's true that I've always been somewhat depressed it was much worse due to the breakup and has since subsided. I believe it's not a problem so long as I can find some sort of relief. It's simply not logical to be enthusiastic about a lonely and destitute life.

    Also why does a person need to take drugs in order to be enthusiastic about something? Can't someone just explain to me the logic and convince me that way? Are the points I made above not valid? I want to travel to Europe and Asia and meet new kinds of people. I want to study neuroscience and evolution and climate science. I'm just not allowed to do those things. I need to make money so it's time to give up on my interests and passions and start kissing shoes. Where is the joy in that? Why should I be enthusiastic about that? Why would someone have the energy to be competitive when they see an embarrassing world around them full of idiots who will never recognize their achievements? Why would you want to work your life away trying to impress an unimpressable world as opposed to laying low and pursuing your own personal passions? I really just don't see the logic in being enthusiastic or energetic about submitting to such a failed system.
  5. Oct 20, 2016 #4
    This isn't a bad idea, I must admit though that CS majors are a dime a dozen from what I've heard, but that's just heresay. However going for something in mechanical engineering would be the most practical option, there's often demand for them and it fits well with your physics degree.

    Engineers make a lot of money, especially with experience.

    Answered your own question

    Relevant job experience is always extremely valuable. Did you have any internships or anything?

    I've never heard of anyone becoming an instant (less than a year) success in anything. Andrew Carnegie was an immigrant child laborer at a textile mill, but eventually he became a steel magnate and become one of the richest people in American history. Everyone starts somewhere, and it's like that for a reason. That's where you learn what traits and qualities are important for success.

    No, this will only ensure failure. All of life's problems are temporary, death isn't. At the end of the day it's just the ultimate form of running away. You're better than that.

    From what I've heard European universities focus too much on theory, if you don't like the area you live in America has lots and lots of universities all across the country, you could try one of them.


    Edit: Quote tag fails
  6. Oct 20, 2016 #5
    My problem with money is how I would afford to continue my education. I'm not worried about the money after I've graduated and found a career. I'm more worried about doing something full-time that feels like a waste of time. Time is my only limited resource. To trade all of my time for some meaningless pieces of paper sounds highly regrettable.

    I did not do an internship. It absolutely blows my mind how I'm expected to get a high GPA in one of the most complicated fields, do research for my university essentially for free, and also obtain an internship, all the while essentially taking a mortgage without ever getting a house. Talk about looking back and asking where your twenties went. I can't believe this is what is expected of us. But no I didn't do an internship.

    I love theory. And frankly I'm so sick of America. This country is ****ing me over.
  7. Oct 20, 2016 #6
    Then come up with a plan, look at what grants are available, how much you're making now, and how much you'll probably need. Maybe it will work, maybe not, you'll never know unless you try. Though I must question whether or not going back to school is the best option for you now given your state of mind, would you really be able to focus?

    Yep, and it's pretty much the same everywhere. I don't mean to be cruel but this is how the real world is. I have to ask, what kind of research did you do for your university?

    Is it really? You'll never be a success blaming "the system" for your own failures, there is no law saying "Hertz can't ever have what he wants" except if you write it for yourself. I know that from personal experience. I've found that the "easy road" is usually a dead end. Hope this helps.
  8. Oct 20, 2016 #7
    Really? You could have been born a starving Somali.

    If you're as smart as you think, you need to start DOING something that makes you happy.

    You mentioned nuclear power -- try calling some of the power companies that run the plants. AFAIK, they're all looking for smart people in their 20's to replace the retiring old fogies like me. Talk to the reactor engineering departments, they hire plenty of physics BS.

    But that's just one idea. The point is, you can do something that they need.
  9. Oct 20, 2016 #8
    I question that too. I'm just worried that I'm wasting time. I wanted make something of myself and do something to be proud of and I've worked so hard to get here so how can I live with giving up now? I know this is condescending and annoying but I really was the best in my classes. All throughout college I thought "dang I'm really good at this physics stuff I can't wait to see what I accomplish with my life." I would sit in my bathroom doing random mathematical modeling all weekend.

    But now it's like nobody ever noticed and they care more about how much ass I kissed as opposed to caring how much I actually understood the material. I feel like the real world doesn't care about genuine intellectual ability so much as they care about you getting on your knees and begging to be recognized. I guess they prefer subservience because they want the most bang for their buck. But how can you accomplish so much when you're trying to survive off $9 per hour and you're depressed over losing your first love?

    We had a telescope that we ran overnight. I would drive out to the desert and run the telescope overnight and then send data back to the university. We were studying ultra high energy cosmic rays.

    What's your point? If I was born in Somalia I would have never had the opportunity to do anything with my life. It just goes to show your system is the major determining factor.

    Doing something that makes me happy? Okay let me just catch a plane to Germany and get a master's degree there. Oh wait, I'm living paycheck to paycheck and I'm spending 2 to 3 hours every single day doing resumes, cover letters, interviews and follow-up calls.

    The thing you older generation don't realize is there are not enough jobs for everyone anymore. Every single decent job gets at least 50 applicants and I've seen some get over a thousand. And to be seriously considered it takes about 3 to 4 hours at least to submit a proper application. That's not mentioning the time it takes to do online testing, phone interviews, and real life interviews. After all of that your chances of being the one who's picked are still only around 10%. And for someone like me who didn't do an internship, who doesn't have a master's degree, and who doesn't have any experience, the chance of getting any job paying over 15 is almost nil. Couple that with paying off your student loans and the ridiculous prices of insurance and other things, and you seriously can't afford to do anything with your life at all. I guarantee the majority of people my age are working in coffee shops, fast food, major retailers, making 10 dollars an hour with no benefits. My generation got completely boned. I hate when older folk come in and act like "if I could do it, so can you". This country has been on a steep decline since the 70's. It's no where near what it used to be.
  10. Oct 20, 2016 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    Which is it?

    You should take a look at the unemployment rate in the early 80's compared with today. And then maybe the 1930's.
  11. Oct 20, 2016 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    A normal brain does not need to take drugs, but an unhealthy brain might. That is why it is important to talk to an expert (or more than one).

    Frankly, if it is not medical issue then from your comments in this thread you need to fix your unrealistic assessment of your own abilities, your overly negative assessment of others, your entitled mindset, and so forth.

    If you sound in person like you do on the internet then people with higher paying jobs are not going to want you. You don't seem likely to be a net contributor to a high performing team.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  12. Oct 21, 2016 #11


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    Man, this is why people complain about millennials, isn't it? I'm very close in age to the OP, and I feel like going off on a rant about "kids these days".

    1. If your entire college experience was harmed by a breakup (4 years!) you need to seek professional mental health assistance. Even if you don't want to take antidepressants, there are plenty of other therapies that have proven efficacy.

    2. In my experience, people do notice if you are genuinely smart and capable. But part of being capable is being driven.

    We do physics because we love to do physics. That's pretty much the point. Doing it for fame or fortune is a path to nowhere.

    If someone showed that much disdain to me, I'd want them to move out too. Look, most people, even most physicists, are pretty mundane. Get off your high-horse. You seem to put a lot of stock in people praising you. Having a goal of being "exceptional" isn't very achievable. People are exceptional because they have definite goals and work towards them.

    If someone asks you to pay for your own PhD, they don't really want you. Find a scholarship.
  13. Oct 23, 2016 #12
    Will someone please remove my name from my first post?

    (I would just ask for the topic to be deleted but I see that as censoring an unfavorable opinion so I would rather just remove my name if possible. Thanks.)
  14. Oct 23, 2016 #13


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    You might possibly benefit from only enough extra schooling that you study practical things to make yourself employable. Consider what you know how to do, what you want to know how to do, in order to be useful to employers. When enough of that is done, getting a job may be in your route. Earn some money and continue thinking how to stay employable. You should want to have skills and be able to perform them so that employers can use YOU to make money for THEM. All this could well be less than a PhD in Physics; you will have to settle for that. You either work to learn practical things and get a job soon, or you worry about not having an advanced degree in some academic science field.
  15. Oct 23, 2016 #14


    Staff: Mentor

    A recent post by Hertz has been deleted and the thread is closed.
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