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Sophomore Seminar ACADEMIC CAREER IN PHYSICS.  Undergraduate Physics Major  Graduate School  Postdoctoral Research  Faculty Position PATH TO AN ACADEMIC.

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Presentation on theme: "Sophomore Seminar ACADEMIC CAREER IN PHYSICS.  Undergraduate Physics Major  Graduate School  Postdoctoral Research  Faculty Position PATH TO AN ACADEMIC."— Presentation transcript:


2  Undergraduate Physics Major  Graduate School  Postdoctoral Research  Faculty Position PATH TO AN ACADEMIC CAREER

3  Main goal: Prepare for graduate school  Take as many physics courses as you can (within reason)  Get advice from your class advisor on courses  Try to get as much as possible out of each course  Prepare to take the Physics GRE  General + Physics subject exam (physics most important)  First step: learn as much physics as possible  At some level, your Physics score will determine graduate schools you can get into  The best schools use strict cuts on GRE as starting point to filter applicants UNDERGRADUATE

4  GRE Information online:    Take the exam in Fall of senior year, or Junior Spring if you feel comfortable with the material  Allow time to take exam twice if possible, in case you have trouble  e.g., illness, some other sort of disruption  Senior seminar and Dept. study groups will help you prepare  Can download free practice exam  No reason not to download and flip through now, just to get an idea what to expect GRE (CONTINUED)

5 PHYSICS GRE TOPICS … some of the questions are, well, random and very specific. Best to review broadly

6  Apply late fall/early spring of senior year  Keys to getting accepted:  Transcript and grades  Letters of recommendation  Especially from research experience/summer REUs  GRE scores (especially physics)  Picking a graduate school: Important decision  Depends a lot on field(s) of study you think you might want to pursue  Intangibles are important  Relationship with advisor (more in a moment)  Graduate student classmates  Departmental atmosphere  (happiness is important)  Ask professors for advice! PHYSICS GRADUATE SCHOOL

7  Most physics programs focus on Ph.D.  Stay at one school the entire time  Typically takes 5-7 years  Physics graduate school should be free  In fact, you usually are paid a modest stipend while a student  In return, you serve as either teaching assistant or research assistant  If you are not offered a TA or RA, probably don’t want to go to that school  If you can win a national fellowship (i.e. NSF) for graduate study, big plus!  Higher salary, no teaching responsibilities  Applications for these are due before the grad school ones  Take classes and do research  Classes mostly done in first 2 years  Focus is on research with a thesis advisor  End goal: Produce a Ph.D. thesis  Original research  Guided by a professor who serves as advisor to research (and often career and life….) GRADUATE SCHOOL BASICS

8  Year 1  Taking core graduate classes (Quantum, Math methods, E&M— Jackson, mechanics)  Typically supported by TA  Exploring research areas, looking for a graduate advisor  Year 2  Taking advanced classes, especially in subfield (e.g. particle, nuclear, condensed matter, etc.)  Continue TA or start RA (if working with an advisor with sufficient funding.  Year 3-5+  Done with most classes  RA, unless advisor doesn’t have enough funds (otherwise TA)  Note: Typically work on research through summers—no more summer break! TIMELINE

9  Exact requirements vary among institutions  Courses:  Core graduate curriculum  Electives: both within specialty and outside (breadth)  Qualifying Exam (sometimes called other names)  Written physics exam that must be passed in early years  Focuses on advanced undergrad/core graduate curriculum (i.e. mechanics, E&M, stat mech., quantum.  Difficulty and scope varies widely among institutions  Candidacy exam (some schools don’t have this):  Oral (and sometimes written) in specialty  Usually: purpose to evaluate whether you’re pursuing a viable thesis  Ph.D. Thesis  Written document: ~ pages  Defense: oral presentation and Q&A session  By this point, you are THE world expert on topic! TO GRADUATE

10 Theory  Working on calculating/solving  VERY math intensive: Study all the math you can!  May be more computational or pen and paper Experiment  Measuring things  Need to have good grasp of statistics, electronics, and computer programming  Often better funding: more chance of RA, less of being TA as senior student THEORY VS EXPERIMENT Typically choose theory vs experiment early on

11  You are now “Dr. So-and-so”  You can make your friends/siblings call you “Dr.”  Your parents may call you this whether you want them to or not  You are not a professor yet!  Need a faculty position  Depending on goals, may need to do one or more post- doctoral research positions. (Postdocs for short)  Analogy:  Grad Student = “Apprentice”  Postdoc = “Journeyman”  Professor/Scientist = “Master” AFTER GRADUATE SCHOOL

12  Perform research full time under guidance of faculty member  Temporary position: 2-6 years  Sometimes will do two (or even three) before finding permanent position (e.g. faculty, lab scientist)  Salary typically about 2x greater than graduate stipend  Often asked to do research tasks faculty can’t do because of teaching responsibilities:  Live at remote experimental facility  Travel to different labs for experiments  “Visibility” or “becoming known” to other members of the field is a big part of this stage  Should include high-profile talks at conferences, leadership positions  Forms basis for “next step” in career POSTDOC

13  Teaching and research performed at university  Balance between teaching and research determined by type of institution (see next slide)  Timeline  Assistant Professor: Initially hired for limited term contract: either 6 years or 3 years + 3 years (with renewal decision in between)  After 6 years: tenure decision  Establish national research reputation + sufficient to excellent teaching: given permanent position: Associate Professor  Fail to do so: contract not renewed—dismissed from university  Full Professor:  Establish international research reputation  Service to the university  Typically after ~6 years as associate professor FACULTY POSITION

14 Research University  Postdoc required  Spend ≥ ½ time on research  Teach 1 course per semester  Supervise graduate students  Teaching assistants to help with grading, help sessions etc. Liberal-Arts School  Postdoc optional  Research often “on your own time” or limited to summers  Teach ≥2 courses per semester  Only work with undergraduates  Limited access to teaching assistants FACULTY POSITION

15  Frankly, challenging to get academic job  Numbers:  Physics Ph.D.’s graduated per year in US: 1554 (2009)  Number of Physics faculty retirements per year (2006-8): 378  Number of Physics faculty openings per year in US: 705 (2008)  Number of new Physics faculty hires per year: 563 (2007)  Openings in field can vary significantly depending on circumstances  Example: plunge in HEP openings when SSC canceled  May not have luxury of being picky about where in country (or world) you seek employment  Will need a back-up plan  Luckily, physics is good training for lots of things… JOB PROSPECTS

16  If you want a teaching and research position at a top university (like ND), cannot apply for any faculty opening  only opening in your specific field  Take (as example) my field (experimental high energy physics)  Over last few years:  ~ 15 faculty offers made per year in US HEP experiment  Compare to  NFL draft: Div 1 players: 224 players / year (32 in first round)  NBA draft: 4800 Div 1 players: 60 players / year (30 in first round)  Getting a faculty position at a research university is not easy  You can do it, but be prepared for the challenge  Work hard!  Have a backup plan ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

17  Graduate School: 4-6 years  Postdoc: 2-6 years  Assistant Professor (before tenure): 6 years  Total: years from undergrad  You will “finish” the process at age (assuming you graduate from college at age 22), where “finish” just means “tenure”  Be prepared to be significantly “behind” your peers who go into private sector in terms of career advancement  Be aware that part of the way through the process, you may not be able to move to next level (e.g. unable to find faculty position after 6 years of postdoc)  Being aware of this timeline is key to avoid disappointment TIMELINE FOR A FACULTY POSITION

18  Absolutely best job in the whole world!  Job responsibilities include:  Plumbing the depths of the universe to wrest away its secrets  Interacting with and guiding brightest young minds US has to offer  Communicating your enthusiasm and excitement regarding physics to the world at large  Other benefits  Complete freedom regarding research path (and largely teaching too)  No one keeping track of hours, activities, etc.  Flexible schedule outside academic school year  Discounts on football tickets, tuition, bookstore, etc.  You will love your job and never be bored for rest of your life (many profs work past retirement age and then become professor emeritus: still have office and do research but no teaching/service—and of course, you’re retired…) BENEFITS OF ACADEMIC CAREER

19  Constant need to self-fund  Research is paid for by grants you write  No productivity = no grant money = no research  So, being your own boss means that you work all of the time  Career/Family balance can be tricky  Many competing responsibilities  An academic department is a cooperative  Committees have to do work or nothing functions  Teaching: very important but time-consuming  All of this takes time away from research  Sort of like being an undergraduate again  Too many things to do in too little time  Priority/time management, triage techniques, efficiency become key  Exhilarating, but Exhausting! CAUTIONS ABOUT AN ACADEMIC CAREER

20 The end QUESTIONS?

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