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What about the other Science PhDs?

  1. Dec 8, 2011 #1
    The "So You Want to be a Physicist" video on YouTube, it would seem, actually gives a good idea of where Physics PhDs end up if they don't go down the post-doc route. It would appear that Math and CS PhDs also do similar work.

    What about the other science-PhDs then? (biology, chemistry, neuroscience, neurobiology, etc) Apparently their work is not very computational or does not rely as heavily on mathematical tools as their Physics counterparts. So, where can they find work outside of academia and doing what kind of jobs?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2011 #2
    While the current economy has thrown the employment market for a fairly epic loop, the PhDs in biology and chemistry traditionally found homes in the pharmaceuticals and major chemical sectors, along with (depending on skills & abilities) biotech, oil & gas, and various contract research organizations.

    Certainly, there's more - I have classmates and friends who are in management consulting, patent law, (scientific) publishing, and other sorts of "alternative careers." Of course, there also exist the national lab options for us other-science PhDs, just as there are for physicists.

    My friends who are theoretical/computational chemists might take offense at your quote (and I would find it slightly offensive being a physical chemist myself, but I am used to being looked down upon by physicists, ;) ), but they do get jobs with (scientific) software companies and such. Of course, what is usually being looked for there is some mix of both programming skill and relevant scientific background from what I've gathered.
  4. Dec 10, 2011 #3
    biologists can find computational work, or any major for that matter -- if they are interested in that particular field. I've looked a lot of bio phd programs for bioinformatics research, and i went to school for engineering (and not bioE).
  5. Dec 14, 2011 #4
    What kind of work, in general, do they do in oil & gas?

    Rest assured, I meant no offense. It was only a general observation, which could very well be an incorrect one but from what I gather, mathematics is quite sparse in the typical Biology or Chemistry Bachelor's degree. To get into physical chemistry, I'm guessing you had to take extra classes from the maths and physics departments? (same question; for your friends who work in theory or computation)

    Highway, I did read about biomath/stats/informatics a while back and it does indeed look interesting. The UCLA program does not require a specific degree but they do require a certain level of proficiency in a few different areas, which means that either a math or bio major could still have a shot at getting in.
  6. Dec 14, 2011 #5
    Insofar as oil & gas - my understanding from friends in the business is that there's room for analytical/physical chemists for analysis and characterization of materials from extraction to final products, as well as chemists of a more synthetic bent, focusing on catalytic methods, polymer chemistry, process chemistry, and various other odds and ends. From my perspective, the oil & gas industry is basically one big playground for one to apply organic chemistry, but at a rather large scale.

    I suppose it matters on how one defines "sparse" - undergrad chem majors in the US, in my experience & observations, usually run through the same typical lower division math sequence that physics and engineering majors are expected to do (single & multivariable calculus, introductory linear algebra, and an intro-level differential equations course), although aren't typically required to do any more. It's usually more than what biology majors are expected to do, although clearly it's nowhere near the amount that physics and engineering majors do. In principle, one can graduate with a chemistry degree and consider everything from biochemistry to physical chemistry to synthetic organometallic chemistry a legitimate option. In my observations, the people who were more inclined toward theoretical chemistry usually had a double major in physics or mathematics to go along with their chem degree.

    Insofar as coursework for physical/theoretical chemistry research - it depends. My anecdotal experience is that chemistry departments don't have the same inclination for making students crank through as much coursework as physics departments, but YMMV on that. There's usually some coursework outside of the field (whether official or via audit), but there aren't any standard rules for it. I took a year of formal classes and another year's worth of audits during my time in grad school. That applies to most of my friends in the chemistry program had the same sort of schedule. Most of my acquaintances & friends over in physics were in formal coursework for at least 1.5 to 2 years. Of course, if one is in an interdisciplinary chemical physics program, the course requirements are defined and are generally slightly more extensive than a typical chemistry graduate program.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that there can be quite a bit of self-learning (obviously!) and "internal" classes. My doctoral work involved solid state NMR, so my research group had semi-regular tutorial sessions to get the new people caught up on the essentials as well as explore the more recent developments of note. It's not a topic which is conducive for a department to set up a formal class (as it's really only of significant interest to those of us in that research group).
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