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What should be my plan if I wish to do physics in Europe?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm currently an undergrad in the United States, and plan on pursuing my PhD in physics. I'm most interested in astrophysics and cosmology, and an ideal job would be a faculty position.
I really want to work in Europe, and am willing to choose another focus area of physics, as well as different jobs in physics. Also, by work, I mean after one gets their PhD and so forth.
What's a good plan of action for someone wanting to do work in physics in Europe? For example, PhD focus, location of PhD(country), types of physics jobs available, languages usually required, physics jobs that are more common, etc...
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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PhD focus, location of PhD(country)
PhD positions in Europe are often tied to a specific advisor or group. I would suggest that you figure out what areas you could imagine focusing on first and then seeking out groups that work in those areas. Find out if they have any open positions and whether or not you are eligible to apply. (The European university system works a bit differently. In order to qualify you would have to be deemed to have a knowledge level equivalent to a European bachelor+master, which is typically a total of 5 years of full time studies.) Of course, if there are countries that you really would not like to go to, do not apply there. Otherwise, apply to what matches your interests. There will be a large number of applicants for each position and as a non-local (meaning from the university in question), you will often compete with others who have done their Master theses in the same group (already knowing that you can work with someone is a huge plus when hiring a student).

languages usually required
For work as a PhD student, you will most likely only require English. Research environments are international and publication is essentially exclusively done in English in all fields that I am even vaguely familiar with. For getting by outside of work, not knowing the local language can be an issue. In the Nordic countries, you will have no issues whatsoever - you can talk to most people in the street in English. My feeling is that not knowing the local language becomes more and more of an issue the larger the language is (in terms of native speakers).
Whether this is something desirable or not is up to you, many people enjoy the challenge of learning a new language.
  • #3
You check the websites of research institutes and universities and write ordinary application emails. Most physicists do condensed matter or optics, so positions in these fields are more abundant and less contested. People come here for a PhD from developing countries, with sometimes questionable qualifications from their previous university. You'll probably have 2-3 Skype sessions with European professors and someone will ask you to come over and take the position. For immigration procedures, the local university will then be able to assist you a bit but there's also plenty of information on the internet.

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