jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

larry burns
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jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby larry burns » Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:26 pm

how are the job opportunities for one with a phD in condensed matter theory? do government and research labs want to hire them? do people in industry want them? or are they just as doomed in terms of career opportunities as physicists working only on string theory?


i've been looking into condensed matter because i heard it uses stat mech alot, which is my favorite area of physics as i didnt enjoy E&M or quantum as much. i dont know too much about it as i havent taken any electives, such as Solid State physics. Based on my undergrad research experiences, i'm certain that i want to avoid experimental work and work on computational simulations of physical systems. one of my projects was materials modeling, which was pretty interesting. i also want to do something more on the applied side, such as working on CM or lasers or whatever, not something too theoretical like QM. i've also been looking into computational fluid dynamics

physics_auth
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby physics_auth » Wed Aug 26, 2009 5:27 pm

larry burns wrote:how are the job opportunities for one with a phD in condensed matter theory? do government and research labs want to hire them? do people in industry want them? or are they just as doomed in terms of career opportunities as physicists working only on string theory?


i've been looking into condensed matter because i heard it uses stat mech alot, which is my favorite area of physics as i didnt enjoy E&M or quantum as much. i dont know too much about it as i havent taken any electives, such as Solid State physics. Based on my undergrad research experiences, i'm certain that i want to avoid experimental work and work on computational simulations of physical systems. one of my projects was materials modeling, which was pretty interesting. i also want to do something more on the applied side, such as working on CM or lasers or whatever, not something too theoretical like QM. i've also been looking into computational fluid dynamics


Your stance sounds a bit strange. Somebody who wants to engage in theoretical condensed matter physics should master the following subjects:
(1) Quantum mechanics -> the most basic tool of CMP
(2) Statistical mechanics
(3) Electromagnetism
(4) Continuum and wave mechanics
(5) Classical mechanics
(6) Thermodynamics
(7) mathematical methods
(8) elements of field theory

As I was told (by some professors while in an REU program in US), the branch of statistical mechanics on its own does not offer any significant research opportunities. However, it can offer pretty prospective research opportunities in conjuction with other branches. For example, statistical mechanics applies to a very very large extent in biophysics. As for simulations, I don't know if you something relevant to the branch of physical chemistry would be of interest to you. You had better search on your own initiative about it. Last but not least, fluid mechanics is largely implemented in physical chemistry and biophysics as well.

And keep in mind that applied CMP offers much more job opportunities compared to Theoretical CMPh. Besides, CMPh encompasses also more exotic topics like plasma physics ... .
Physics_auth

larry burns
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby larry burns » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:57 pm

by 'applied' CMP, do you mean only those who are condensed matter experimentalists can find plenty of job opportunities? or can those who work on computations/simulations on the applications of CMP find jobs as well?

physics_auth
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby physics_auth » Wed Sep 02, 2009 6:26 pm

larry burns wrote:by 'applied' CMP, do you mean only those who are condensed matter experimentalists can find plenty of job opportunities? or can those who work on computations/simulations on the applications of CMP find jobs as well?


I do not know if there is a separate branch of computational condensed matter physics. I haven't seen sth like that ... yet. For example, people who work in theory usually construct any simulation they want to use on their own. And probably (I am not absolutely sure) the same is the situation with experimentalists. However, in other branches of physics like particle physics the work is partitioned into 3 parts: those who conduct experiments at accelerators or sth, those who handle the data and thereafter the theorists who try to interpret the data and produce new knoledge.

Physics_auth

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dlenmn
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby dlenmn » Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:46 pm

I don't know much about job opportunities (kind of willful ignorance really), but it's my understanding that, in general, experimental people are more in demand. Industry doesn't spend all that much doing basic science, and when they do, they generally want results (meaning experimental stuff -- maybe a couple theorists are needed for support).

You should test the waters by taking a solid state class. It uses an interesting mix of the things physics_auth said. I didn't think the QM was all that bad (compared to some of the stuff you have to do in other fields). Yeah, QM is the basis for most of the stuff you do, but a bunch of it is hidden out of sight (e.g. the Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions are inherently non-classical, but one you know them, you can just go ahead and use them without giving QM a second thought). The QM content may be different if you're doing research. I don't really know. My guess is that it varies with what you're doing.

If you like computer simulations, it's a great way to go. The CM theorists I know spend all day in front of their computers... Pretty much all the low hanging fruit in CM (the stuff that can be done by hand) has already been picked. Simulations are all that's left.

I'm not sure what you mean by "applied". Compared to say, string theory, all CM theory is "applied". Are you looking for a situation where you interact with experimentalists? I think that's not particularly uncommon in CM. I know all the quantum computing theorists and experimentalists are pretty close in my department. On the other hand, a number of CM theorists in the department don't have direct counterparts doing experiments. They may well collaborate with people at different schools though.

larry burns
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby larry burns » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:23 pm

physics_auth wrote:
larry burns wrote:by 'applied' CMP, do you mean only those who are condensed matter experimentalists can find plenty of job opportunities? or can those who work on computations/simulations on the applications of CMP find jobs as well?


I do not know if there is a separate branch of computational condensed matter physics. I haven't seen sth like that ... yet. For example, people who work in theory usually construct any simulation they want to use on their own. And probably (I am not absolutely sure) the same is the situation with experimentalists. However, in other branches of physics like particle physics the work is partitioned into 3 parts: those who conduct experiments at accelerators or sth, those who handle the data and thereafter the theorists who try to interpret the data and produce new knoledge.

Physics_auth


what about those other branches of physics? is it easy to find employment in industry or in a govt lab if i specialize in handling data or be a theorist who interprets the data and produce new knowledge?

larry burns
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby larry burns » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:35 pm

dlenmn wrote:I don't know much about job opportunities (kind of willful ignorance really), but it's my understanding that, in general, experimental people are more in demand. Industry doesn't spend all that much doing basic science, and when they do, they generally want results (meaning experimental stuff -- maybe a couple theorists are needed for support).

You should test the waters by taking a solid state class.

If you like computer simulations, it's a great way to go. The CM theorists I know spend all day in front of their computers... Pretty much all the low hanging fruit in CM (the stuff that can be done by hand) has already been picked. Simulations are all that's left.

I'm not sure what you mean by "applied". Compared to say, string theory, all CM theory is "applied".


i was hoping industry would want CMP theory phD's if they have good modeling/simulation skills, but apparently thats not true?

unfortunately, i'm doing the physics BA, so no electives are required, and I already declared to graduate after the upcoming semester. also, one of the required classes for my other major has a time conflict with solid state. i think i like solid state though. one of my research projects used it a little (since my prof made me read a solid state book to help understand the research prob), and it seemed like a subject i would like

yes, i want to do computer simulations, preferably on a science research prob, in a govt lab or academia. but since i heard those jobs are scarce, i'm willing to consider industry jobs as well

by 'applied' CM, i meant i wish to work on simulations in CMP, but something that is applicable, so i can find a job in industry after finishing my phD

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noojens
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby noojens » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:36 pm

Applied CM doesn't have to mean experimental, though most industry jobs are likely to be that. IMO "applied" just means it's relevant to some problem faced by for-profit firms. Common applications of condensed matter are in the semiconductor industry (for LEDs, solar cells, computer electronics, etc), and in my limited experience firms are looking for scientists with training in both conventional and novel growth methods (CVD, MBE, PVD, etc), fault detection, imaging, etc. A few firms still do Bell Labs style basic research, although IBM's Watson Lab is the only place that comes to mind. Batteries are also a hot area of industry research, though I guess that falls more along the lines of physical chemistry.

There's probably military funding for applied CM physicists too (e.g. invisibility cloaks) if you want to go that route.

Someone who's in the field (grae?) could probably provide more specific information. Otherwise I'd suggest talking to your professors about jobs for CM physicists in industry, and looking at companies' websites/talking to recruiters to figure out what skills they're looking for.

G'luck.

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noojens
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby noojens » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:38 pm

As an aside, material science departments tend to do a lot of condensed matter research that's generally very applications-focused. MatSci PhDs from solid universities never seem to have problems finding jobs, in my vague and anecdotal experience.

Food for thought :)

larry burns
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby larry burns » Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:05 pm

noojens wrote:As an aside, material science departments tend to do a lot of condensed matter research that's generally very applications-focused. MatSci PhDs from solid universities never seem to have problems finding jobs, in my vague and anecdotal experience.

Food for thought :)


is it just materials science? or EE as well?

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noojens
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Re: jobs/careers in condensed matter THEORY

Postby noojens » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:22 pm

EEs are also in high demand, and depending on the department/your advisor, you might be doing research that's very similar to condensed matter physics.

And engineers typically do 0-1 postdocs before reaching tenure-track positions, as opposed to 2-4 for theoretical physicists. :)

Okay, end of propaganda.




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