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Weapons design and research

  1. Nov 28, 2012 #1

    I'm curious about what kind of academic paths would lead to weapon design and research. Right now I'm doing a BS in physics and will likely pick a sub-minor in Mechanics or Electronics. There is also computational physics, condensed matter, and cosmology sub disciplines at my school.

    I'm planning to take chemistry courses at my uni to keep options open for graduate schools. What kind of field would one go for in graduate school? optics? condensed matter?

    I'm a Canadian citizen btw.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 28, 2012 #2
    I have a BS in Physics. I interviewed for and was offered a job in warhead design in the states. I didn't end up with that job, but that is another story. One of the things I would have needed to learn on the job was hydrocodes. Those are CFD models used for explosions. Many of the people in that area subsequently earned a Masters in CFD. Computational physics has a lot of overlap with CFD. Optics is probably also useful for sensors, for example the nose cones of heat-seeking missiles.

    I have no idea what the defense industry is like in Canada. In the US, you need to be a citizen or permanent resident for jobs in weapons, since the usual customer is the US military. There is also a background check involved, which is probably more complicated if you are a permanent resident. Do you know if you could work in the UK? I know there are some defense companies there.
  4. Nov 29, 2012 #3
    I also need to do a bit more research into weapons industry in Canada. I'm betting we buy most of our gear from US producers as they have the infrastructure and RnD already set up.

    Interesting to hear you were offered a position with a BS, though, I get the impression that often a masters is required to get hands-on for industry positions utilizing your physics background. My bachelors is fairly programming intensive which hopefully is an advantage when it comes to the workplace.

    Can I ask what the offering salary range was like? Also, what was your feel for the company/position - big, small, younger employees, older ones, nice workplace? Mostly programming-based work? individual or more team based? I understand you didn't take the position but any 'feel' for it you can share would be helpful.

    Thanks again!
  5. Nov 29, 2012 #4
    Mechanical and Aerospace engineers deal a lot in weapons design. Penn State has some research regarding explosive shockwaves and blast wave propagation in solids.
  6. Nov 29, 2012 #5
    You will hear it said that a BS in Physics prepares you for a PhD in Physics. This is true. However, it is also true that many, if not most baccalaureates in physics do not get a PhD, but enter the workforce instead. In my program, between half and three quarters of the students enter the workforce immediately after graduation, usually into the companies which have an established relationship with the program. This is precisely how I landed an interview, the company in question employed a lot of people from my department, and was happy with them.

    I think programming is a very useful skill in the marketplace. Hopefully you will find good opportunities to use it.

    The offer was made 9 years ago, so you need to adjust the figure accordingly, but it was in the high 50s USD. The company is large, about 70,000 employees. Team based work is the norm, with a mix of simulation and hands-on work. Defense work has its own special feel. Big, old, bureaucratic companies for the most part, with cyclical booms and busts due to policy shifts. If you work on the pointy end, you get to blow stuff up sometimes.
  7. Nov 29, 2012 #6
    I know a few people who did Materials Engineering and it was very easy for them to get jobs in the weapons industry (one makes submarines, another is working on some armour project).
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