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Programs So I (nearly) have a PhD but

  1. Jan 9, 2007 #1
    Curiosity begs here...

    I almost have a PhD in mathematical geology (submitting thesis shortly), something I just kind of fell into by mistake. While I'm not unhappy with what I've done, it's not what I really wanted to do with my life. And the last week or so I've seriously begun to consider going back to do what I really wanted to do since I was in high school. Theoretical physics. Which would essentially mean another undergrad degree and another PhD in order to make a career of it. Now, I'm still relatively young (26), so realistically it's still possible for me to make the career change in the next few years.

    Has anybody ever done anything like this? Get a PhD, change their mind and go back for another 8-10 years to get another PhD in another field? What was your experience like? What sort of approach did you take in applying to other institutions?

    I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that given my current university offered little in the way of decent maths/physics subjects at the BSc level I'll have to do another undergrad degree and work my way up again. I'm particularly interested in research in string theory or LQG. Which leads me to be looking at a fairly limited number of institutions for both undergrad/PhD. Though I'm interested in hearing other's recommendations. I'm currently in Australia, however I'm a UK citizen so UK university's are my most likely option, but not ruling out going to the US if I can get funding.

    Not looking for anybody to tell me what to do here, just chasing other's experiences and advice :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2007 #2
    Congrats on getting a PhD at that age. Are you starting to dislike Mathmatical Geo or is it more of a curiosity for what you could have done instead
  4. Jan 9, 2007 #3
    I don't dislike math geo at all, it's just that theoretical physics has always just held more interest for me. On the rare occasions that I actually get some spare time, that's what I read about and watch doco's/seminars about. So it's not really curiosity, I do actually have a serious interest in it. I can assure you that if it was simple curiosity I certainly wouldn't be considering spending another 8-10 years of my life being a student ;)

    I'm going into academia either way, just going to be a matter of "doing what?".
  5. Jan 9, 2007 #4
    hmm if your a mathematical geo student you've probably had the introductory physics sequence, and maybe a couple material physics courses.

    you've also most likely gotten all of the math required at the undergrad level, and maybe at the grad level depending on the math that you took,

    So if you started working on the upper division physics courses and put alot of effort in, you may be able to finish an undergrad physics sequence in a year or two.
  6. Jan 10, 2007 #5


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    Aside from the financial concerns of doing another degree + PhD - ie. 7+ years - you'll have to answer the big question from potential employers as to why you choose that route.

    I'd suggest you go on to PostDoc in a physics department, and enter the area that way.
  7. Jan 10, 2007 #6
    I hadn't thought about that specific aveneue. Guess I just figured nobody's going to give a physics postdoc to someone without a physics major.

    I've been looking into postdocs anyway, just been looking more at the geology/maths departments rather than physics departments. Will take a look around then :D Any recommendations?
  8. Jan 10, 2007 #7


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    If I was in your situation, I'd first look at what skills I have which are transferrable, eg. knowledge of PDEs. Then search jobs.ac.uk for possible physics projects at top UK unis which require such skills.

    You could also check out research groups such as DAMPT at Cambridge or OCIAM at Oxford which cross over a lot of fields.

    (Here I'm assuming your geology required a lot of dynamical/PDE knowledge which is great for crossing over disciplines.)
  9. Jan 10, 2007 #8
    I have PDE knowledge from undergrad, but I've not really used it since then. My research has mainly been focused on fractals, bayesian/other geostat techniques. So alot of work on dynamic systems, but I've just not had to actually deal directly with PDE's. I'd think that it wouldn't take me too long to catch up on what I needed to know though.

    I'd been looking at the maths departments at both Cambridge and Oxford amazingly enough :smile: Both have some very interesting programs.
  10. Jan 10, 2007 #9


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    Statistical physics is quoted here: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/jobfiles/ZD268.html [Broken]

    You'll probably have to delve into their website for specifics - remembering that it's all about selling what skills you've acquired.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  11. Jan 10, 2007 #10
    I would not get a second PhD, I would get a job at a place that uses my skills that's closer associated with my interests. If you think you are rusty at math/physics, just take the courses for the sake of taking them, not to get another degree. You will already have the slip of paper that says you're capable, so now you should just look to improve your weakpoints. Don't be one of those guys who goes back to college just because they don't know what to do with themselves.
  12. Jan 10, 2007 #11
    If you are in Australia, go to UWA (University of Western Australia). They have a strong department, with a bunch of theoretical physicists. They also have a Gravitational Waves Research lab and a centre out in New Norcia which is supposed to be one of the world leaders in this research.
  13. Jan 10, 2007 #12
    I'm trying to get out of Australia to be honest. I've worked with guys at UWA as part of my PhD actually. There's nothing wrong with the place, I love Perth...Just want a massive change of scenery :smile:

    I dunno about it all yet. It's not going to happen this year, just something I'm seriously considering a couple of years down the line. I'm aiming for a postdoc for a couple of years before I'd go back to study. Was just curious to know if anybody else had ever done anything like this before...
  14. Jan 11, 2007 #13
    At least in the US, there are a lot of jobs open to you if you have a Phd. Especially in the government.

    For instance, I have a geophysicist working with me (at an aerospace company) and we certainly don't do any geology. I would look around. You might be surprised.
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