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Switching to astrophysics after photonics PhD (complications)

  1. Dec 2, 2014 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm looking for a little advice. I'm coming to the end of a PhD in photonics in about 6 months, specifically I have been looking at plasmonic nanostructures. It's gone ok, I'm at a great university and have two 1st author papers in ok journals with hopefully a third before I finish. My supervisor is happy with me. However I do not wish to stay in this field, and after teaching cosmology at a summer school, I remembered that it was the space stuff that got me interested in science in the first place and I was wondering how I have drifted so far away from it. Additionally I have been working mostly solo for this project and would like to part of more of a group effort.

    Basically I would like to transfer to a practical field within the space sciences. The things I have been best at in my PhD have been coming up with novel ideas and developing microscope setups to investigate these. I prefer the applied science much more than the fundamental and so I think instrument or componet development would be great. However, developing structures on the nanoscale does not necessarily apply to large scale, working devices and I am not sure I have the necessary skillset for a more applied role. I only have a (very) limited knowledge of Matlab and Labview (I do not consider myself a programmer) and my innovations, whilst useful, have mostly been quite low-tech.

    The complication is that my girlfriend, who I am quite fond of, needs to stay an extra year to finish a qualification, so I am left with about 9 months time with nothing to do. I have the chance to build on research in my PhD and apply for an additional grant for 6 months to continue this, which would be interesting but I wonder if it would help my transition to another field.

    I am wondering how best to go about this transition. I am happy to relocate outside the UK (I have US citizenship too ), and in fact would prefer to move somewhere interesting for a few years. Should I try and go immediately and get my girlfriend to follow after a year? If I got this extra funding award (it's a mini-postdoc basically) would this make me look better (as I won the award), or would it make me seem too locked in to my current research? Should I just get a bar job and learn labview for 9 months? How can I convince someone in instrumentation development that I will be worth employing? Is there a realistic way I can re-train?

    Thanks for any input everyone!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    My feeling is that its better to stay do the work because you have the funding and enjoy being with your girlfriend. I don't think 6 to 9 months is going to make any real difference. Also by staying to do this it looks better on your job resume as it shows you can get the research done.

    As far as switch to Astrophysics, I can't say. Is there some way to transition to Astrophysics by leveraging your Photonics work like could you design or improve on telescope technology (quantum optical telescope?) somehow or use that to get into experimental Astrophysics?
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