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Undergrad in *dire* need of advice

  1. Oct 18, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone,
    My name is Melissa i am a physics undergrad about to finish up my third and last year. I am facing a problem with deciding whether to continue my master's degree as a theoretical physicist or go into material science, biophysics or applied physics.

    Mainly the problem i'm facing is that i really have no idea what's the best option for me; i enjoy working in labs on experiments, so i think material science is a good option but i am not sure of 2 things.

    1st is there a difference between material science and material physics?
    2nd what's the difference between applied physics and material physics/science?

    my last question is: in your opinion what is the best section of physics to be in right now (Career wise)? because i have no clue what i'll end up working as if i went into astronomy or whatever other part of physics...

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this,
    as you can tell I'm extremely lost any help would be great!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2014 #2


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    1. Those terms are more-or-less interchangable. However, often programs (at least in my very limited experience) that are called "material science" have a significant engineering component.

    2. Applied physics is similar to engineering physics as it is not well defined and different people/schools define it differently. I often think of it as kind of a bridge between engineering and physics but I'm an engineer so my perspective might not be so helpful. Hopefully someone else can chime in there.

    3. Physics is always a challenging field to get a satisfactory career in. My understanding is condensed matter physics has a lot more support behind it these days. If you're interested in industry, please try hard to get an internship or contacts with industry before you graduate.
  4. Oct 21, 2014 #3
    I would recommend you pursue biophysics/applied physics/materials science.

    There are interesting problems to work on in these fields and they are quite active. I am currently in a biophysics group, and one of the recent PhD graduates got a job straight out of graduate school working for a bank on detection algorithms for credit card fraud. I think the job prospects post-grad are good, and the problems in graduate school are very interesting.
  5. Oct 24, 2014 #4
    @analogdesign Thank you for the advice! actually helpful, if you thought of anything else please do tell me!
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2014
  6. Oct 24, 2014 #5
    Hello @Arsenic&Lace sorry for the late reply.

    Here's the thing, i wouldn't enjoy working in finance hence the problem i'm facing with choosing which field to go into...

    So what kind of projects do you work on as a biophysicist? does it have anything to do with working on new ways to help with the medical equipment ? Please anything at this point would be helpful!

    Thank you for taking the time to help out!
  7. Oct 24, 2014 #6
    If you're torn between theory and something else I'd suggest the something else. I started off in an experimental condensed matter research group before changing to a theory group, if I hadn't felt compelled to do theory I'd probably be second guessing myself. I can't say for sure, but I'd guess hands on experimental experience will do more to help you later in terms of a career, I think it's unlikely to do less than theory.

    If it matters, my PhD was in string theory and I now write software (in my research I only used computers for formatting papers). I've had a couple of jobs programming biomed software and contributed to a few papers, so a background in science was nice to have, but not essential. I haven't done anything related to physics since grad school.
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