What would you do if you were in my situation?

  • Thread starter faizlo
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  • #1
What would you do if you were in my situation!?

Hi all,

This might be a tough question indeed.

I am an international student who came to the US to do his PhD in Experimental Particle Physics, my childhood love and passion.

I have taken part in one of the most important discoveries in particle physics recently, the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Well, as most newly graduated PhD students or graduating ones, I have been looking for a job as a faculty at any college or university but to no avail. A postdoc is not an option, because statistics show that one needs two to three postdocs to finally land as an assistant professor at some university. I am not young, I am almost 37. Then, not so long ago, the political situation back home is too bad to even think of going back now with my wife and kids (I have 2 kids) and I have been delaying my graduation to the point that I cannot do this again. Even without these troubles, it is still very hard to find a position for a particle physicist back home.
I have not thought about job prospects before I do my PhD, simply I wanted to do what I loved most, research.

I still cannot find a job, and teaching, which I am/was excellent at, I could not demonstrate myself as a good TA in my university because our work needed me to be stationed at the experiment I worked for, and so have always worked as an RA, and so no good recommendations from my department as a good teacher can be achieved!

I have been thinking about this for sometime and when I tested the market and knew how difficult it is to find a job, I took courses in Medical Physics so I can make the transition; but I was lucky enough to know that AAPM have changed their regulations and I wont be able to work as a medical physicist unless I have a degree in Medical Physics (and the irony is, most of medical physicists I know are either particle or nuclear physics graduates!)

Now, after I formally graduate, I will have the option to stay here, in the US, for a while on an OPT program, but I can't stay here for long, since I have no financial resources to help me stay for more than few months.
My questions now are:
- Were I wrong when I decided to go to Particle Physics, and Physics in general?
- Is it crazy to think of getting another degree (Master or another PhD) in Engineering or another field that may help me find a job in industry? That's another 2 or 5 years of hard work!
-What else one can do, besides getting a PhD and working in a tough field to find a bill-paying job?



Answers and Replies

  • #2
I'd look outside my field. You are qualified for any job requiring a BS or a BS in physics. What are you good at? If you can do math, especially statistics, there are many jobs requiring that. If you can program, there are always jobs doing that. Then you can look for jobs where those primary skills are enhanced by a knowledge of particle physics.

Cast a wider net. Use your school's job counseling services to help you expand your thinking. Read What Color is Your Parachute or look at Bolles' web site for more and better ideas.
  • #3
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On the medical physics side of things - if you really are interested in that route - you have a couple of options. There are a couple of programs that allow PhDs to complete their coursework in about 8 months and award you an accredited diploma that the ABR will recognize. This, coupled with a PhD in physics, will put you on par with current medical physics PhD graduates for residencies. This of course is costly as, the courses do not provide financial support. The other option is to enroll in a full medical physics MSc... which has the advantage of being funded (in some programs anyway). I know a few people who've been in a similar situation as yourself and have had success both ways. The major issue is that you're talking another few years of your life, financial investment, an no guarantee that you'll get a residency.
  • #4
I know Drexel University is looking for a particle person.

http://www.drexel.edu/physics/contact/jobs/ [Broken]

Not sure if that is applicable to you, I have little knowledge of particle stuff, but I hope it helps.
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  • #5
Vanadium 50
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It will be very difficult for you to find a job as a faculty member without having done a postdoc.
  • #6
Do you have teaching experience? Can you get letters of recommendation based on that, even if it isn't at your current university?

If you are interested in moving into a mainly teaching-oriented career, every year there are some temporary full-time positions ("visiting assistant professor" if you have finished your PhD, "instructor" if you have not) available around the country at small colleges, for replacing professors who are on sabbatical. Most application deadlines are late this year or early next year, for positions that start next fall. Some such positions also become available in late spring when faculty members decide to leave their current position at the end of the academic year.

One or two of those positions (assuming they lead to good recommendations) would give you a chance at a tenure-track teaching position. Of course, there's a lot of competition even for these positions, but at least they give you an additional route besides research-oriented postdocs.

For any kind of academic position (teaching or research), I think you'll have to deal with temporary positions after the Ph.D., before landing a tenure-track position.

There are also adjunct (part-time) teaching positions, but it's hard to support a family on those, unless your wife also works.
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  • #7
Thank you all for replying.
So, do you think it is of no use to think of another degree in Engineering or industry related field?
Teaching jobs are fine with me, I wish I can find one, I have applied but they call back that they had to take it back because of funding issues. I am still trying, though, and I wish I can find one.

Medical Physics is very time consuming and still one will have to fight for a residency. And yes, it costs tons of money...

I hate to say this, but I feel doing basic research is useless these days.

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