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Admissions Switching fields after PhD

  1. Jul 8, 2016 #1
    Hi there! It has happened to me these days when I went to a conference that I realised maybe my PhD topic is something I would like to work in after it (IF I continue in the academic path). My current research is based on applying QFT in condensed matter physics, particularly related to the Kondo problem and so. However, I ve seen that most of condensed matter research nowadays is based on high T SC or TOPOLOGICAL stuff, which I have no idea about, but these conferences served me to explore the field a bit, and realise that my interest on it is not that great. On the other hand, Ive always been interested in theoretical physics towards RG and quantum mechanics foundations, and QFT is definitely a subject I like. My doubt is if maybe is getting too late for me in order to switch fields when I end my PhD. Also, when I will be done, presumibly most of my publications (if any) will be in the Kondo problem and related, but not pure QFT in RG or strings. Do you think it will be possible for me to switch after the PhD t get a postdoc? (If you are going to answer something like "Yes, of course you can apply, but wether you get it or not is another question" dont lose time. I m asking more from the side of switching completely from Many Body theory to quantum gravity for example, because the techniques are pretty similar) Thanks in advance!
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  3. Jul 8, 2016 #2


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    Since you mention quantum gravity, are you interested in holography? It is at the interface of CMT and HET and has got a lot of high energy theorists interested in condensed matter problems . Most of the time people are in the large N regime so the calculations use the framework of classical GR. However, there are more complicated ways to add quantum corrections.
  4. Jul 9, 2016 #3
    Yes, I just mentioned QG because I find it a fascinating topic, and Ive always been interested in relativity and QM. However, the questions is more in the line of what are my chances to get a postdoc in a different field (In this case, switching from many-body theory to high energy physics), if it is too late or quite unlikely because of the lack of publications in the field after the PhD. I like condensed matter and I like my PhD topic, however Im not sure if its a field I would like to stay or rather try to switch to a more "fundamental" part of physics. Thanks for the reply!
  5. Jul 9, 2016 #4


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    Well I would argue that CMT is in many ways as fundamental as HET and definitely just as interesting (if not more to many). In terms of research interests it seems the trend is actually going the other way as many people (such as Ed Witten and even Maldacena) in HET have started to work on problems relevant to condensed matter.

    It is very unlikely you could make this transition as a postdoc. Postdocs are highly competitive and there are especially few in HET. If you wanted to switch fields after your PhD, most people do it when they already have a faculty job, which is even more unlikely.

    However, as I said before; there are many areas of CMT which are of interest to both communities.
  6. Jul 9, 2016 #5
    Yes I heard something about Edward Witten moving to condensed matter problems, perhaps mi knowledge in topology is too poor to realise if its something I like or not. When I said fundamental I referred to as the way research is done in both fields. So what is your advice in terms of getting a postdoc then? Ive also heard that too many people make postdocs in different fields respect to their PhD's, that's why I was asking. Also, I would say my interest in theoretical physics is quite broad
  7. Jul 9, 2016 #6


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    I'm a grad student, so all I know is what I have heard through the grapevine (which is a lot and tends to be reliable). I've haven't heard of any cases of people switching into high energy for postdocs, only the other way around. There are already so few HET postdocs (and even fewer faculty positions) and so many interesting problems in CMT using similar methods (field theory to look at dualities, half filled Landau levels, holography, CFTs, entanglement, SUSY critical points etc.) which I would say are more down to earth in that they can be tested on tabletop experiments.
    I do know of a situation someone switched applying for faculty jobs (they are kind of at the border now between CMT and HET but might have gravitated towards HET) and it did not work well. They may have gotten a job but could have done better.

    By the way, the reason I mentioned quantum gravity is that there are a lot of new papers coming out using holography to study chaos, since black holes are the fasted scramblers known in nature. A few add stringy corrections, but generally they are not that important.

    So in summary, I would say that your chances of doing a PhD in your current specialized area and switching to HET as a postdoc is extremely unlikely. In fact, even getting a good postdoc in CMT is very hard. There are currently more faculty jobs in CMT since people are really starting to appreciate the field but there are still many more really incredible people.
  8. Jul 9, 2016 #7
    So far I've only heard of people switching out of HET.

    Here's an idea, suppose you apply for post docs in your field but try to find an advisor who isn't opposed to you collaborating and working with other people. Apply to a place where there are people who do the research you really want to do and learn about while you are there. I'm not really sure if you can do that, but I don't see why you can't try?
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