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Still crazy about physics

  1. Apr 13, 2012 #1

    This is my first post so sorry if I break any etiquette. I got crazy about physics at a young age, and then more crazy after I got the Feynman books as a teenager. My grades in high-school were sufficiently good to put me into engineering - in India, where I'm from, if you have technical aptitude, you automatically become "engineer" whether that's your passion or not. I managed to do a reasearch course (MS) in engineering where my topic was on quantum computation + coding theory (this was the closest I could get to "real" physics). I still dream of a career as a physicist (I'm 30 now and work as an engineer.) What I'd like to know is: what are the active and interesting areas of physics where a contribution still has to be made (I'm guessing quantum computers is one), since many major theoretical aspects of physics have either been solved (like the renormalization and QED of the past century) or stuck (like unification, etc.) Is it better for me to choose an applied topic so that I can leverage my engineering experience? Is it wise for me to continue with a phd in physics at my age? Please read the article: http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html [Broken] and let me know if you agree with the man's views..

    Sorry for lengthy post,
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2012 #2
    There is no opposition between "real" physics and engineering. Engineering needs "real" physics to work. Engineers need to deal with "real" physics everyday. Engineering is the applied part of the physics. I guess that you tried to point out research in physics as different field than engineering. Even this is not completely true. Apart from QED, most of the research in physics have direct applicability.
  4. Apr 18, 2012 #3
    Hi Kholdstare,

    I agree with you - engineers need to deal with "real" physics everyday, even if it's just Ohms law. However, that's not enough for me. I want to see magnets levitating above superconductors some day. I want to understand statistical mechanics and use it to solve a real problem. I want to help build the next level of computers. I don't want to die without solving a path-integral. I want to have enough understanding to answer a question like: "OK, Ohm's law works for 50Hz AC power into a resistor. But how does the response change when the frequency is 50 x 10^20 hz". Most of all, I want to do physics and be able to contribute as a physicist in some way.
  5. Apr 18, 2012 #4
    Have not you heard of IBM's various research centers? They guys who work there (although called researchers) are aimed at solving engineering problems. Yet they move atoms with stm tip, use optical interconnect etc. There are MAGLEV trains built by engineers. I'm sure Intel, Infineon also have guys working on something cool. We all know the story of Bell labs. In fact the difference between engineers and researchers become thin as research gets funded to solve engineering needs. I can give you many more examples where engineers do research in physics (not repetitive copy-paste jobs). Then it comes down to the point that you have to look for these kind of jobs and youre happy. The sad thing is there are not many jobs like these compared to traditional service market.

    In case you are strictly interested in particle physics/QED, grab Lahiri and Pal, "a first book of quantum field theory" and its so simple anyone can get it. But there's no engineering jobs here (apart from the tiny number of guys who develops detectors and accelerators).
  6. Apr 18, 2012 #5
    hi Kholdstare,

    Thanks for the reply again. I agree with you again - "the difference between engineers and researchers become thin as research gets funded to solve engineering needs." I'm not hung up on QED. I'm more interested in learning physics (and the accompanying math) by solving problems in a line of work - whether in academics or in industry. I think the basic prerequisite that I lack to get a job of this sort (academic/industrial, physics/engineering) is a PhD. Do you think a PhD in physics would be a bad choice since my training has been in engineering? (Despite this, my math is not too bad.) Thanks,

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