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Theoretical Physics or Earth Physics?

  1. Nov 27, 2014 #1
    Good Evening to everyone!

    I'm currently a student of theoretical physics. I have a Bachelor Degree in Physics and I'm from Italy.
    When you finish your B.D. you can choose to go on with your studies in order to get a Master Degree (other 2 years of study) and here you can choose your curricula (Nuclear physics, Theoretical physics, Matter physics, Applied Physics [that means Medical physics od Physics of Complex Systems namely, here, Plasm physics], Astrophysics and Cosmology, Climate physics and Earth Physics [that also include Climate physics, but also Geophysics of Solid an liquid Earth]).

    My problem is this: I started my second year of study, and I'm enrolled in theoretical physics curricula.
    It's since July that I feel a certain sense of bitter, because theoretical physics is the same old story: strings, cosmology and black holes. And don't try to say "no it isn't" because it is.

    I've always loved Fluid Dynamics, Fluid physics, the application of Fluid Dynamics and Continuum Mechanics to concrete problems, and theoretical physics i guess it's not my way..
    But I'm not sure at all.

    I'm going to make a change of my curricula or.. Should I? From theoretical physics to Earth Physics (Geophysics).
    I'm speaking by thinking about my future. Fluid physics has a large amount of application: climate physics, ocean physics, physics of city mobility and physics of cities climate. And in general it's applied mathematics and applied physics and I love that branch, named Mathematical Physics.

    What should I do? It's clear that I want a Ph.D. so what's your idea about this? Should I stay or should I go? :D
    So the question is: it's better to think about the future, or it's better to have a "prestigious study title"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2014 #2


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    I know more than a dozen theoretical physicists, and only two I know do strings, cosmology or black holes. (And that's if I let strings=quantum gravity). I know several theoretical physicists who work in fluid dynamics, even.

    There's not point in a "prestigious study title" if you hate it. You need to be passionate in what you do to be a successful physicist. You won't get through a PhD otherwise.

    Like I said, you won't get through a PhD if you're not passionate about what you're doing. So if you're not enjoying theoretical physics, you should change. Your definition of theoretical physics is strangely limited though. Perhaps look at other universities to see what their theoretical physics departments do?
  4. Nov 27, 2014 #3
    Well my limitation in the theoretical physics sight is caused by where I am. Italy is not so full of opportunities, as instead it may be Europe. Overall UK, France, Germany and Austria, for example, where I saw lots of open position for Ph.D. in Fluid Dynamics and related fields.

    Theoretical physics, here, works in that way: you start your Master in which the first year is full of courses: Quantum Field Theory, Theoretical physics (relativisti waves equations, strings, supersymmetry), statistical mechanics are the obligatory courses. Then you can choose 6 other courses like relativity, general relativity, cosmology, advanced mathematical methods, advances in QFT and GR. I mean: there is no way to have a curriculum with "normal classical theoretical physics" like Flyud Mechanics, Classica Electrodynamics, Continuum Mechanics, Turbulence...

    So when you get a Master Degree in theoretical physics, you are effectively driven to strings, cosmology, field theory or abstract mathematics like topology, differential geometry or something similar.

    Other universities work at the same way.

    Instead the Earth physics curricula is almost fine to what I dream to study and to do in the future.
    I really do love to get a Ph.D. (for example, but I really wish I can do it) in Geophysics Fluid Dynamics at Imperial College, or at Cambridge, or in Zurich.

    But in the other side there is the bitter taste of a loss.. it's like I've lost a trial. It's like to say "i quit Theoretical physics. I love it, I wish I can be two to study the one and the other, but I'm only one, and I quit."
    And the bitter taste grows when you think about this.

    lol I know I'm dramatic and a bit exaggerated... But this shows how much I'm tensed and agitated
  5. Nov 27, 2014 #4


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    Yeah, I understand this feeling. It's hard to have committed to something only to realize that it's not for you, especially if you've spent a lot of effort on something. But if it's not for you, then that's ok. The lessons you learned will be valuable elsewhere.
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