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When did you know ?

  1. Sep 5, 2011 #1
    When did you know....?

    What you wanted to do for the rest of your life? How did you figure out what you wanted to major in, and when?

    Any advice for a sophomore in college that has no idea what i want to do in the future?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2011 #2


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    Re: When did you know....?

    It was probably when I was 10 or 11 years old (5th-6th grade) and had developed an interest in math and science (math and science are complementary). I was particularly keen on topics in nuclear physics and nuclear energy. In 6th, I designed a nuclear powered aircraft as a science project. At that point, I expected to go to university, but my focus was on math, chemistry and physics, since at the time, I didn't understand the deliniation or specializing among the sciences and engineering. Overtime, I did well in math and science, studied physics in university, but then migrated to nuclear engineering.

    Actually, my interest in math and science goes back to 2nd grade, and it kept getting reinforced during successive years.

    For anyone in university, I'd advise to look out there in the world to see what opportunities are available. Also, study what one enjoys and hopefully make a contribution to that field or fields of interest.
  4. Sep 5, 2011 #3
    Re: When did you know....?

    I knew I wanted to be an aerospace engineer at age 11. Haven't changed my mind since.
  5. Sep 5, 2011 #4
    Re: When did you know....?

    Any day now.
  6. Sep 5, 2011 #5


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    Re: When did you know....?

    At the age of 10 I thought of being a cosmologist, now I am more keen on being a mathematician.

    I guess this will change after I'll finish my academic studies.

    who knows.
  7. Sep 5, 2011 #6
    Re: When did you know....?

    Senior year of HS when I really liked reading about physics. I think you should take whatever classes most interest you, if you don't find anything, find a job that makes money because you're going to need it sooner or later.
  8. Sep 5, 2011 #7


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    Re: When did you know....?

    I think when I finally get a job with a retirement plan I'll know what I want to do with the rest of my life.
  9. Sep 5, 2011 #8


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    Re: When did you know....?

    All my adult life, I have never known what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I have bounced from one career to another as opportunities arose. Luckily, my wife trusts my abilities, and trusts me personally so she would put up with lots of traveling and absences. No kids, so that was easier, too.
  10. Sep 5, 2011 #9


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    Re: When did you know....?

    i was about 14 or 15 when i realized math was my favorite. it helps to have a good supportive teacher.

    but the whole purpose of college is to expose you to more choices.m so you are normal for a sophomore.
  11. Sep 5, 2011 #10
    Re: When did you know....?

    When I was younger I wanted to be a scientist, specifically someone who wore a white lab coat and mixed chemicals. I started reading encyclopedias we had at home when I was about 7-8 and realized what I actually wanted to do was physics, and it has stuck with me.
  12. Sep 5, 2011 #11
    Re: When did you know....?

    When I was six I knew I wanted to be a scientist. When I was ten, I learned that "physics" was the name of the part I wanted. By the time I was 12, I knew that "fundamental theoretical physics" was my area of interest.

    Sadly, that didn't pan out for me. I got as far as a Master's in Math and one year into a Ph.D. physics program before I gave it up forever. Fortunately, I fell into tutoring, and discovered that I love it and I am very good at it. I only wish I could actually teach intro physics at a university instead of forever scrambling to fix the professors' mistakes, but that would require the Ph.D. 18 years as a damned good tutor doesn't equal a Ph.D., unfortunately.
  13. Sep 5, 2011 #12
    Re: When did you know....?

    14 when I developed an interest in Biology, 15 interest in Chemistry, 16 interest in Physics. I was always interested to some extent in mathematics, but it wasn't until I started doing self-study when I began to develop a sufficient proficiency in the subject.

    But most of that interest was muddled down by people telling me to become a lawyer, pressure from mother and family to become a lawyer. After high school I was so screwed up by dissenting voices saying science would lead me to becoming broke and hungry that I was almost going to join the military to get away from everyone but I didn't and ended up going to college instead. Two years after taking a bunch of classes I had no real interest in because I sort of, "lost my way", is when I finally went back into what I was truly interested in and decided to major in Biochemistry.

    Now that I've finally decided I don't really care too much for the money (making $40k/year is enough for me) I feel sort of free and happy with my decision.
  14. Sep 5, 2011 #13
    Re: When did you know....?

    Can I ask why why you chose to give it up?
  15. Sep 7, 2011 #14
    Re: When did you know....?

    Please dont take this the wrong way, or rude, but how much did you guys earn salary wise during your first 10 years? Could you live comfortably off it?
  16. Sep 10, 2011 #15
    Re: When did you know....?

    I've never have had a plan and probably never will, I've just kept on taking which ever opportunity sounded the most interesting. Stumbled into taking physics lessons when I was 13 and now I'm 23 just started my (physics) PhD a week ago. Maybe when I'm done in 3 years I'll stay in physics, maybe I'll think I've had enough, who knows. I find when you make plans they never quite go like you imagined, so what's the point?
  17. Sep 10, 2011 #16
    Re: When did you know....?

    Around 10 I knew that I wanted to do something science related. By 16, I was leaning toward chemistry/physics. Senior year of high school and the first semester of undergrad, I was swayed by engineering (chemical), but I switched when I took my first university physics class. I'm now a junior, and don't regret the decision. I still don't know what exactly I want to do after grad school.
  18. Sep 11, 2011 #17
    Re: When did you know....?

    What I've wanted to do with my life has changed a lot. From about grade 1-3 I loved dinosaurs and wanted to be a paleontologist. From grade 4-6, I wanted to either be a concert pianist or be like the crocodile hunter. From grade 7-9 I wanted to either be a historian or some sort of musician. From grade 10-12 I wanted to be a guitarist in a rock band. I was always near the top of my class in math/science, but I never really had an interest in those fields or the drive to work hard at them until Grade 12. In Grade 12 I was torn between going into physics/engineering or going into music. I finally decided on engineering since I had a friend who was going into engineering at the same school as me, and figured that music would always just be a hobby of mine. It was freshman engineering (last year) that I really fell in love with math and physics, though I'm still entirely unsure what exactly I want to do with them. Currently, I'm taking a mix of electrical engineering and physics classes, and I've recently developed an interest in the physics of musical instruments. I honestly don't know what I'll end up doing with my life, but I plan to keep my options as open as possible and just see what happens as I progress through my degree(s).
  19. Sep 11, 2011 #18
    Re: When did you know....?

    Still don't know. Gotta do something though.
  20. Sep 15, 2011 #19
    Re: When did you know....?

    What caused me to give it up?

    I had three strikes against me: I am not rich, I am shy and untrusting, and I have chronic hand pain. I think I might have made it through a program if any one of those handicaps had gone away.

    I don't know how graduate school is supposed to work. I don't know how anyone learns anything in those programs--but obviously they do. I went to classes that felt like a waste of time, did my homework, and never managed to have a real conversation with anyone in the department, student or professor. I might as well not have shown up--and it would have been nice if someone had told me that. I think they should warn undergraduates about...whatever mysterious system graduate school uses. Certainly no one has ever explained it to me.

    I still don't know what I did wrong, but as far as I can tell it has nothing to do with my ability to do physics. So I buy textbooks and read them for fun; I slowly study QM and group theory and topology. I've found hundreds of errata in Von Neumann, solved nearly every problem in the first six chapters of Bransden and Joachain, every problem in Chapters 1-3 of Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds, studied general relativity (and forgotten it again probably eight times.) I love physics. But I'm not a social person, and that apparently is the kiss of death. I'm not smart enough to do it all on my own--I can't replicate an entire graduate program in my spare time. I'll likely die of old age before I ever master enough of the prerequisites to dig into quantum field theory. Anything I find interesting, has prerequisites for the prerequisites for the prerequisites for the subject that I have to learn. And there is the eternal race against forgetting, running from diff eq to linear algebra to vector calculus to QM to complex calculus and back to diff eq's because I'm forgetting again, round and round. I can't keep the knowledge because I never get enough of it in my head at once to DO anything with it.

    I'll never be a physicist, which was my dream. Instead I seem to have become the teacher I never had. I help a lot of students, and I love my work as a tutor, and they tell me I'm amazing, and it makes me happy to help them. Maybe some day I will write textbooks. I've thought about writing "Spivak for the Merely Brilliant" for example.

    Why did I have to quit? I'll probably never know why. Dreams die hard, if at all. But you find a new dream, and you go on.

    Apologies if this was TMI, but you *did* ask.
  21. Sep 16, 2011 #20
    Re: When did you know....?

    Cruikshank, I have or had a similar problem. I would say I am still shy to a certain extent but I've taken steps to actively stop being a shy guy, and now just speak, have conversations even at the cost of ignoring some social rules that I may be ignorant of. For me, I am just trying to tackle my inherent shyness problem and be more proactive when it comes to speaking to people. From what others have told me when I wasn't speaking to anyone, they thought I was rather stuck up, rude, quiet, or just judgmental. That is what I was told on several occasions by certain people who encountered me.

    But, aren't we suppose to discuss physics or any of the hard sciences with other people in order to retain the information better and conceptualize it? That is how I retain most information by telling others about it and discussing problems in the field with other people.
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