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Daniel011's avatar

Any advice on becoming a particle physicist?

Asked by Daniel011 (77 points ) January 30th, 2013

I want to become a particle physicist more than I want to become an I.T. expert. I’m afraid that the college work is going to be too intense. This is something I really want. Any advice would really help.

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11 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Try taking high school physics and intro to calculus see how it goes. If you are afraid that the college work is going to be too intense but you still really want it, then you have some thinking to do.

Thirteen hours ago you wanted to become a cryptographer.

So, what is it you really want?

glacial's avatar

Disclaimer: I am not a particle physicist, but I have taken several physics and engineering courses at the university level, so I’ve spent a little time in that world.

What year of high school are you in? If these are choices you are considering, I am guessing you’ve already taken some physics and calculus. Believe me when I tell you that college-level math and physics are at the very least as intense as what you do in high school. Pressure increases dramatically.

However, as you learn more, particularly if this is a subject that you love, you will find that the nature of the work also changes. So, what you are learning now becomes a base of knowledge that you draw from later, and the types of questions that you will answer (and ask) with your work change a lot. In some ways, it is difficult for you to judge now what kinds of challenges you will face, because you will develop new skills to handle them as you move forward. Also, the further you go, the more support is available from people around you (if you want that).

If, as you say, this is something you really want – then you should not be afraid to pursue it. You will find that your classmates also struggle with the workload; everyone does. It is your own desire to learn about physics that will keep you going. What would concern me more are questions about making a living in your chosen field once your studies are complete. Is this something you just want to take classes about? Because eventually, the question will be whether you want to conduct your own research. Is that the kind of thing you can see yourself doing? If not, think about channeling your interests towards something like mechanical engineering, which uses many of the same mental tools, but has a much wider variety of applications (including academic research), so your employment options would not be as limited. Just a bit of food for thought.

Pachy's avatar

Chances are you’ll face a lifetime having to explain and re-explain what you do for a living, especially to family members—unless you win a Nobel prize—but I say GO FOR IT!!! Follow your passion.

gasman's avatar

Keep learning general science and as much math as you handle. If you have no real talent for math, however, you should consider another career. Not until graduate school in physics would you choose to specialize in something like particle physics, though it’s good to have a focused goal. There’s plenty of overlap of physics with IT, btw – both at both theoretical and practical levels.

zenvelo's avatar

The undergraduate classes to provide a foundation are actually useful in a number of areas, so if you have a passion and interest for physics and math, I’d follow @gasman‘s recommendation.

I suspect one not would get into the specifics of studying particle physics until one is either close to a Bachelor degree, or until one is in a Master’s Program.

wundayatta's avatar

If you are that interested in it, the college work should be a breeze. If you’re faking your interest, then it won’t be so easy. But particle physics isn’t that hard if you have the right kind of mind. The kind of mind that finds it interesting.

Rarebear's avatar

How old are you?

Rarebear's avatar

Okay.
Go to college that has a good particle physics department. Do well. Take a lot of math and physics classes. Get an undergraduate position with a physicist and be involved with his or her lab. Be proactive. Get involved with a publication if you can. Major in physics and do well. Do an undergraduate project with a group, ideally associated with the aforementioned job. Figure out what kind of particle physics you want to do. Apply to graduate school. Go to graduate school. Do all of the above but far more intently. Finish graduate school and start a post doctoral fellowship. Publish a lot. Be gregarious and make a lot of contacts. Go to conferences and introduce yourself to people. Be polite and mature. Develop a reputation as a doer, not a slacker. Compete for one of the limited jobs in a particle physics department at a university. Continue to publish. Lather, rinse, repeat.

cazzie's avatar

If you are really wondering, I can give you the name of a professor of physics at a very high standard University in the US. He was probably very much were you are now with wondering about computer and IT vs theoretical physics. Just PM me.

Response moderated (Spam)
mattbrowne's avatar

There are several times more excellent physicists than there are specialist physics jobs in the real world. So many trained physicists either end up as teachers or as IT specialists. So if you develop realistic expectations, go for it. One day you might discover the neutralino at CERN.

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