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Physics Why aren't there more research jobs without teaching?

  1. Mar 8, 2016 #1
    I can only think of a handful of places that employ full time Physics researchers with job security that do NOT have to teach anyone (such as the Perimeter Institute).

    It seems the rest of the research jobs are found at universities where a lot of teaching is required in addition to producing original research.

    Why is this? Do people not want research for the sake of research to be done? Why should research and teaching be so inexorably linked anyways?
     
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  3. Mar 8, 2016 #2

    Orodruin

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    As always, it is a matter of funding. There are not many positions in research even with teaching in comparison to how many want to obtain them. The idea of connecting them is to have experts in the research frontline teaching students directly.
     
  4. Mar 8, 2016 #3

    ZapperZ

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    1. The US National labs are examples of places where people do only research, not teaching.

    2. There are A LOT more research universities than there are places like that. So naturally, there are more science jobs involving academic settings.

    3. Doing "research" requires funding, as as been stated. If you think there aren't enough research being done, and not enough jobs where people just do research, go talk to your political representatives, because they are the ones that control the purse strings.

    Zz.
     
  5. Mar 8, 2016 #4
    1. Yes, they are included in the aforementioned handful of places.
    2. Right. I am asking WHY this is so.
    3. Theoretical research requires minimal funding. If it was solely a question of funding, there would be many theoretical physics research facilities.
     
  6. Mar 8, 2016 #5

    ZapperZ

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    But the need for theoretical physics is limited! How large of an employment do you think is there for JUST theoretical work?

    Even those centers of theoretical physics requires a lot of money to support because of the infrastructure that is needed to maintain it (who pays for the offices administrators, the library/journal access, the salary, benefits, etc...). I used to work at a US National lab doing experimental work, and the LARGEST percentage of our operating expenses is human resources, not equipment!

    Zz.
     
  7. Mar 8, 2016 #6

    Ok, I now get the theoretical physics centers require more funding than I thought

    I just don't understand why theoretical work is not valued. Why don't people want to know things about how the universe works just for the sake of knowing them?
     
  8. Mar 8, 2016 #7

    ZapperZ

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    Who said they are not valued? In fact, stay on this forum for a while and you'll encounter a bunch of naive, wide-eyed kids wanting to do "theoretical physics" without even knowing what it is! I'd say that it is experimental physics that are not valued by most!

    It is only when one gets into science, and realize that many of these theories require experimental verification, and that when conjectures are built on top of other unverified conjectures, you'll realize that at some point, someone has got to sort out which ones are valid and which ones are not. But not only that, which part of science do you think have a closer connection to what can be applied and has a more direct benefit that can be turned into something practical?

    Zz.
     
  9. Mar 8, 2016 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    I'm sorry, but that's just nonsense.

    Let's say your theorist gets $120,000 per year. Fringe benefits on this are about 25%, so that's $150,000. He'll want a postdoc, say $60,000 with 20% fringes: now we're up to $222,000. Add two students at $30K each and it's $282,000. Say $10,000 for travel and supplies (like a laptop) and we're at $292,000. The host institution will take about 50% of this for "indirect" costs - space, heat, electricity, secretarial, etc. so now we're at $438,000.

    If you think that's minimal, can you send me a check for that?
     
  10. Mar 8, 2016 #9
    I've heard many forum members here give advice to avoid theoretical physics careers, simply because of the lack of jobs. Wouldn't there be an abundance of jobs for any valued profession?

    I know the importance of experimental physics, both theory and experiment are included in my initial question. If people really cared about probing the deep mysteries of the universe (from an experimental or theoretical perspective) wouldn't these people fund physics research? Wouldn't there be many research centers that have nothing to do with teaching?
     
  11. Mar 8, 2016 #10

    ZapperZ

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    Then go out and try to convince "these people". Try to convince the politicians to fund more science research. See how far you get.

    Zz.
     
  12. Mar 8, 2016 #11
    I admitted to ZapperZ I had not considered these costs. I was merely trying to say that surely theoretical research must require less funding than experimental research simply because of the lack of equipment. But as you demonstrate, human resources are far greater an expenditure, and required by both.
     
  13. Mar 8, 2016 #12
    Welcome to Capitalism. Pay is primarily determined by how much money you can make for someone else.

    Theoretical physics is cool and well-respected, but you don't get paid extra for either of these.
     
  14. Mar 8, 2016 #13

    russ_watters

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    Sure, but if there are, say, 10,000 of these physics professors/researchers in the US, then the cost of employing them (about $5 billion) is roughly a quarter of the budget of NASA. That's a lot of money for pure research.
     
  15. Mar 8, 2016 #14

    jtbell

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    Or convince some rich people to donate a pile of money. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton was founded using money from the Bamberger family, who had sold their department store.
     
  16. Mar 8, 2016 #15

    ZapperZ

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    There ARE people who do that. The Kavli Institute, and even the Perimeter Institute itself all came about due to private donation. However, the biggest funding agency for physics is still the federal government. And there is only a limited amount of money available, especially when the federal budget for basic science has declined for at least a decade.

    Zz.
     
  17. Mar 8, 2016 #16

    radium

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    One place no one has mentioned is Microsoft Station Q which is located on the campus of UCSB. They work on quantum computing which can get incredibly exotic and mathematical.

    The reason that funding is so limited in many areas of theoretical physics is that there are not many direct applications for a lot of the theoretical systems people are studying. That doesn't mean these ideas won't eventually lead to something with an application, it's just that string theory is not going to tell you how to immediately make a more effective transistor for example.

    One area that seems to be getting more funding lately is quantum information, probably because the NSA would just love to get there hands on a quantum computer. Condensed matter theory is also better funded than a lot of HET because while it can be just as exotic, many systems people are studying could tell us about real world materials like high Tc. But again, that is not going to tell you how to make a device, but you can predict things like the quantum spin Hall effect edge states or try to explain why you have linear resistivity in certain areas of the phase diagram of the cuprates
     
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