Do you know how a nuclear power plant works? Do you know why the sky is blue? Whether or not the universe really expanding? What the Higgs boson is? Yes, yes, calm down.
A physicist’s job is to understand the deep mysteries of the universe in ways that are useful to human beings. Physicists have changed the world – Einstein’s relativity is why GPS and satellites work, Newton’s laws are the basis of almost any machine.
If you think all that ended centuries ago, consider this – quantum theory is rapidly leading to the development of new cryptographic and computing techniques that can increase the speed and security of our computers several folds.
Quantum physics is also rapidly advancing the field of nanotechnology – and that in turn is revolutionizing materials science, electronics, chemistry, medicine and robotics!
Richard Feynman (who won a Nobel Prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics) famously said of his own subject – ‘I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics’. Physics is hard.
Most physicists work as researchers in particle physics or other labs, surrounded by physicists, post-docs, students and interns.
Physicists are often employed in the R&D departments of firms involved in semiconductor research, computational advances, hedge funds (their comfort with advanced mathematics often helps) and of course – nuclear power plants.
Many physicists seek to advance their names and careers by publishing ground-breaking research work in reputed journals and speaking at various conferences.
There are also often funds and grants from various governmental bodies that promote research – increasingly, physicists are using their expertise with modelling and mathematics to study economics, biology, social dynamics and even politics.
Eligibility Criteria to Become a Physicist
+2: Students should be from Science Stream with 60% aggregate
Bachelor’s: and Master’s: There are different kinds of programs – the 3 year B.Sc, or the 4 year integrated M.Sc, programs in Engineering Physics, as well as the 5 year integrated B.Sc+M.Sc.
Each involves a huge amount of mathematics – mathematics is often called the ‘language of physics’, and it usually takes a great deal of aptitude, interest, and hard work to deal with.
List of The Fundamental Courses in Physics Education
- Classical Mechanics – a complicated formulation of the study of energy, forces, and motion,
- Quantum Mechanics – an even more complicated study of what happens when things get really small,
- Electromagnetic Theory – what is electricity, and what can it do?
- Optics – light, mirrors, lenses and patterns,
- Statistical Mechanics – how do lots of small things start creating big changes,
- Computational and Mathematical Methods – how to be better at solving problems in all the above things,
- Optional Studies in Numerical Methods, Modelling and Statistics.
What Can I Do With A Physics Degree?
Physicists have often accumulated huge amounts of complicated knowledge – and they are easily hired to impart that same knowledge to students while pursuing their own research interests.
Academia is a lucrative breeding ground for researchers to collaborate, brainstorm, and even snap up the best of the younger generations.
Besides, physicists often posses plenty of analytical skills, and are able to leverage these in almost any job subsequently.
Their comfort with number-crunching and complicated mathematics land them jobs at hedge funds, software firms, optimization and operations management consultancies and even as statisticians and data analysts.
Rewards for one’s work are almost always proportional to one’s skills. The money really is where your mouth is.
A Day in the Life of a Physicist
Living on a beautiful campus, with so much freedom to pursue independent research, and a constant influx of new ideas and expertise – that’s the dream. It’s also my life now, after having done a B.Sc in Physics, M.Sc in Mathematical Physics and a PhD in advanced perturbation theory. Don’t worry if you don’t understand that last one – many of my colleagues don’t either!
9:30 AM: I wake up at a leisurely pace. I don’t need to worry, I have only afternoon classes to teach today. Because of this, I could stay up late working on normalization in the Quantum Field Theory problem I’m studying.
10:30 AM: I finish reading the news – a physicist’s news is usually quite different from an ordinary person’s. I keep in touch with developments at CERN, NASA and some of the important labs in the world.
I also keep an eye out for publications from certain professors who are working on similar areas – from a competitive as well as informative point of view.
12:00 PM: I resume working on the academic research paper I’ve been writing. It involves the behavior of microscopic particles in cavities of unorthodox shapes – these particles display an interesting behavior that doesn’t appear to have been studied in a laboratory before.
If my paper gets published, maybe someone will confirm or deny that my predictions from a mathematical perspective are indeed what is observed in the laboratory.
1:00 PM: Time for a quick lunch at the institute cafeteria. After that, I head off to teach my 2 pm class on electromagnetic theory. Most of the students are usually motivated, but it’s hard to keep them interested for a whole hour.
Of course, it’s the 21st century, and computational simulations and experiments make it easier to bring the physics alive in the classroom.
4:00 PM: After class, I grab a coffee with my fellow professors, and we chat about our work and the shenanigans of students in general. A colleague and I head off to have a Skype chat with a professor at a different university whom we are interested in collaborating with.
Today is the day we formulate our problem state and begin attacking it. We have also put up notices for interested students to apply to work with us – there is the attractive prospect of co-authoring a paper on the work we do.
7:00 PM: Time flies when you’re having fun! Our chat with the professor lasted far longer than we thought it would. It’s time to head to the field for a quick jog. Contrary to what you might think, we try to keep fit and active, even as armchair workers whose primary weapons are our pen and paper.
9:00 PM: After a refreshing shower and dinner, it’s time to really get to the grind. Vector algebra, differentiation, integration, complex numbers, statistics – all of these and more will come together to derive results that will make ordinary people’s heads spin.
Before I know it, it’s midnight, and it’s time to go to bed – I have an early morning class to teach tomorrow, followed by a short research discussion to the chair.
Life of a physicist is good as there is a new challenge every day. Do you think you are capable enough to take up new challenge every day? We hope that this article proved to be a fruitful one for you. Have your say in the comment box below! Enjoy Reading!