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The need for practical electronic and mechanical skills for aspiring experimentalists

  1. May 26, 2012 #1
    I just thought Id post some of my thoughts on what I feel is needed for undergrad physics majors who are interested in the more practical side of what we are learning in our highly idealized and theoretical coursework. I also would like to point out what tools I think are necessary for people who like to do research on their own, because they either want to, or cant find any professor who can or has the desire to facilitate their research.

    I personally feel that many undergraduate physics departments, unlike engineering departments do very little to actually teach practical skills to their students. I think that it is imperative for anyone interested in experimental physics to have a good understanding of practical electronics and instrumentation, and how using machine tools to build experimental devices.

    my university surprisingly does fairly well at preparing us for such - we have two electronics courses we can take from our physics department - both of them have 6 hours of lab included. and for some reason, we are fortunate enough to have a machine shop. anyone who completes the 2 unit intro to machine shop course gets to use the shop anytime they want as long as one of the machinists is present.

    Currently, i am interested in high voltage electronics for pulsed power applications. If anyone would like some information on building some regulated or unregulated high voltage power supplies, let me know.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The need for practical electronic and mechanical skills for aspiring experimental

    "experimental physics" is not equivalent to "modify some mechanical things, which requires any specific knowledge".
    Extreme example: Particle physics. You can work as experimental particle physicist for years and never touch any experiment. I know a PhD student who did not even see the experiment he works at.
    In other fields, many experiments just use commercial parts and (optionally) arrange them in some specific way (for example on an optical table). Required skills: just dexterity.
  4. May 27, 2012 #3
    Re: The need for practical electronic and mechanical skills for aspiring experimental

    Well this is true, however since im an undergraduate (just a youngin) my post is geared towards curious undergraduates who would want to do more than just bury themselves in the taylor mechanics book or the griffiths E&M text.

    and i do know that for particle physics, there is only so much you can do (the only experience I have with P. Physics is from taking a class on particle accelerators) since you cant see or touch the beam, and the whole operation takes a hundreds of people just to make a 200mA something electron or proton beam travel around in a circle. Though if i ever did end up in particle accelerator physics, id either be doing beam diagnostics or magnet design. oh man that stuff is bad ***
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