1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Where is the best place to work as a Theoretical Physicist?

  1. Jan 22, 2015 #1
    Hello. I'm finishing my last year of school and I have wanted to become a Theoretical Physicist at CERN for 2 years, so I want to get a PhD degree. Knowing that people at CERN speak both english and french, I decided to study Physics in Paris (bachelor-french, masters-english), but is it CERN really the best place to work as a Theoretical Physicist, or is it a good one? If not what would you recommend to me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 22, 2015 #2
    I think the best place for a theoretical physicist is to work at home as an independent scientist - if you can afford this.

    This gives you true independence as a scientist, thus, you do not have to follow the actual fashion, but can develop your own approach.
  4. Jan 22, 2015 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm pretty sure that most theoretical particle physicists work at universities, simply because there are far more universities that do particle-physics research than there are places like CERN.

    Most people working on experiments at CERN are actually professors, post-docs and graduate students from the universities that collaborate on the experiments. They visit CERN to help build the apparatus and then run it while the experiment is in progress.
  5. Jan 22, 2015 #4

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    As a practical matter, the best place to work is the place that will hire you. Very, very few theorists can look around and say "there - I believe I shall work there".
  6. Jan 22, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    There's a lot of myth here. You'll be very surprised that most of the people that appear to "work" at CERN are actually NOT EMPLOYED by CERN. Don't believe me? Look at one of the papers that came out of the LHC. You will see that the MAJORITY of the authors on such papers are employed by other research labs or, more importantly, employed by various different universities!

    Facilities such as LHC, the Tevatron, various light sources, various neutron sources, etc.. etc. may reside in certain locations or laboratories, but these are all, to put it crudely, "users facilities"! Users from other parts of the country or the world come here to either collaborate, or do their research. This is even true for institutions such as NASA, where other laboratories and universities either get research grant money, collaborate, or work with NASA, but they are not employed by NASA.

    So just because you hear so-and-so works at CERN, or such-and-such a facility is at CERN, it doesn't mean that that person is employed by CERN!

  7. Jan 22, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    OP, I'd also like to take this opportunity to take offense with the term "Theoretical Physicist". First, it is not supposed to be capitalized. There is no special brand of physicists which are "Theoretical Physicists", there are only physicists who work primarily with theoretical methods. Second, only a minority of physicists (including theorists) work in fields which are associated with the work done at CERN or similar labs. And of the physicists who actually work there, a large fraction is *not* primarily concerned with the actual particle physics, but rather with the design and running of the beamlines, detectors, data analysis, etc.

    As long as you cannot provide some concrete motives of what you actually want to achieve, and what skills you can bring to the table, the question of *where* to go is at best secondary.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Where is the best place to work as a Theoretical Physicist?
  1. Theoretical Physicist (Replies: 10)