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What is physics research?

  1. Nov 19, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone, I'm trying to find out a little more about physics research as a career and if it's right for me.I am a little unclear on what physics research is all about. SO Here's a few questions:

    1) what area of research are you apart of?

    2)what do you actually do in the lab WHILE conducting an experiment?
    ex: watch computer screens, do you actually get to play around with stuff, do you actually get to SEE things in action or is it all through computers etc.

    basically i want to know what goes on in the lab which no one really talks about. i want to know the boring and exciting stuff.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2012 #2
    A lot of it is reading other people's research papers.
  4. Nov 19, 2012 #3
    Thank you for the response!
    but i'm wondering specifically what is actually done and seen in the LAB while conducting an experiment
  5. Nov 19, 2012 #4
    Well a lot depends on what kind of experiment you do, of course. Being extremely general, I'd say that first you build/calibrate some lab equipment (based on prior research). Then you let it run for a while and collect data, which could be manual or automatic. Then you graph that data and try to make sense of it.
  6. Nov 19, 2012 #5

    this is why i posted the two questions asking what research area one works in so i can have a view of all areas instead of in general.

    what do you do while collecting data? would you say most if not all of it would be through computers?

    say for particle physics, since we cannot see these tiny things, i would think all the observations would be through computers

    what about something like condensed matter, what is it exactly that gets done experimentally?
    in any field actually

    i love physics but this is actually the first time ever wondering what physicists actually do?
    engineers, chemists, biologists, can all see their experiments in action.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2012
  7. Nov 19, 2012 #6
    I think these are very reasonable and extremely simple questions...
    i'm not looking for what physicists do but more specifically what gets done in experiments.

    this isn't to just professional physicists but students such as undergrads who have done research or anyone in physics doing research.
  8. Nov 19, 2012 #7
    In my last project (accelerator/nuclear physics), I got to set up experiments and then watch the results on the computer. I also programmed some simulations and did calculations on a computer. In my current project (astronomy), everything is done through a computer. We take data from observations, run codes that do modeling and calculations, and then look at the results.
  9. Nov 19, 2012 #8


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    I did astronomy research for a career for a while. I spent time at telescopes (about 3 weeks at a time running a telescope, but most observers are only there for a few nights), collected data, used the computer to reduce the data, and then made computer simulations of what I thought was happening and compared them to my results. Mostly computer work (data reduction, programming, writing), a lot of reading, and some math.
  10. Nov 19, 2012 #9
    Thank you! this is great, exactly the information i'm looking for.
    the thing is, i don't know if i'm into more hands on stuff or not. this is why i am curious about physics research.

    i would love to hear from more people, it would be greatly appreciated.
  11. Nov 19, 2012 #10
    thank you for your response!
    So one would have to enjoy computing would you say?
  12. Nov 19, 2012 #11
    honestly anything will help
  13. Nov 19, 2012 #12
    Some physicists don't do any experiments (theoretical physicists).
  14. Nov 20, 2012 #13
    yes, i know. i'm just wondering about experimentalists :)
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