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So which physics phds are useful for industry?

  1. Feb 2, 2013 #1
    I'm currently an undergraduate student in my junior year of college and am thinking about careers/graduate school. So far I have had research internships in solid state physics and astrophysics and I haven't liked either of them enough to pursue them as a career. I like experimental physics but I'm not too interested in the theory of solid state physics in particular. I always hear that solid state and medical physics are good fields to go into if you want a job in industry. Are others useful right now? I like nuclear physics, plasma physics, and optics but I don't want to be limited to academia. Are those fields used in industrial research? I did some research and there seems to be crossover with nuclear physics and nuclear medicine but I'm not sure how direct it is. Optics looks like it crosses over with a lot of other fields as well.

    I'm an American but I'd like to try to go to grad school or work in Europe after I graduate. I considered teaching high school in another country. Is it easy to do that do you need years of teaching experience in the U.S. first?

    I've taken circuits courses at school but I haven't liked them. I know I don't want to be an electrical engineer but I might like other branches of engineering. What are the jobs prospects for a nuclear engineer right now?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 11, 2013 #2
    Nuclear engineers can do many things, depending on your specialization. Reactor core design is big right now. Thermal hydraulics is also important for maintaining good coolant circulation throughout the core.

    In nuclear medicine, we have prion therapy, boron neutron capture therapy, and other therapies using photons. Plus, medical imaging makes use of nuclear physics.

    Plasma physics is generally divided into two categories: high temperature plasma physics and low temperature plasma physics. High temperature plasmas often lead to fusion research which means you'll work at a national lab, probably. Low temperature plasmas have many applications in industry for plasma processing of materials, semiconductor etching, plasma space propulsion, and others, to name a few.
  4. Feb 11, 2013 #3
    About nuclear medicine, I meant *proton therapy*.

    To answer your questions, nuclear medicine needs people who specialize in nuclear physics. A lot of imaging systems exploit principles of nuclear spin and parity. These are definitely nuclear physics concepts.
  5. Feb 11, 2013 #4


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  6. Feb 15, 2013 #5
    Who hires people for nuclear medicine research, acedemia or industry (hospitals?) Would they rather hire nuclear physicists or medical physicists?

    What are the growth rates like in these industries? I would like to be able to work in the United States and abroad but I don't want to work for the U.S. department of defense.

    Accelerator physics looks cool. I'll look into that.
  7. Mar 2, 2013 #6
    ZapperZ, which schools actually offer phd programs in accelerator physics. I looked at gradschoolshopper.com and it looks like no schools in the U.S. offer any programs. I heard otherwise. Is that website just outdated?
  8. Mar 3, 2013 #7


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    Maryland, Indiana, UCLA, USC, Stanford, etc. Many other schools do not formally have such programs, but will have a faculty member that will support a student wanting to go into accelerator physics. Most students in this field will take courses from the accelerator schools.

  9. Mar 10, 2013 #8


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    I have the same dilemma you have. I have a summer undergraduate fellowship in medical physics coming up, so I'm hoping to know which way to go by the end of it. I think it is getting to be a more specialized field- that is, people go into a medical physics program for their PhDs if that's what they want to do, since there's now a board certification process if you are going to work in hospitals. Maybe if you didn't want to work directly with patients (such as for a medical equipment company) then board certification might not be necessary. Don't know about that part.

    I guess at some point I have to make a choice, but I'm pretty terrible at that, because most all of nuclear engineering interests me. I might even take a year out to work somewhere just to think about it, I will have a general engineering degree by the end of next year so I think that's an option.
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