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i need an interview with a physicist

 
 
Reply Sun 2 May, 2010 08:09 pm
Hi, my name is Stephan. For a school project, i have to research about a career i'm interested in and interview someone to learn more about it. Can i interview someone who works as a physicist in quantum information/quantum computers to learn more about their job?
Some questions are:
-What is the daily routine of your job?
-What kind of education is required for that job?
-What are the entry level and intermediate jobs out there that you would normally have before you work your way up to a physicist?
Thank you.
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 05:50 am
Where's Thomas?

Joe(Thoooooomas!!)Nation
roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 06:53 am
@Joe Nation,
Yeah. I want to see how you work your way up to being a physicist. Is it kind of an on-the-job training thing?
0 Replies
 
Ionus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 07:07 am
@cheerios,
Watch the Big Bnag Theory. It has accurate Physics and Physicists, including the guy who has a pathological disorder preventing him from talking to women.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  3  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 07:53 am
@cheerios,
I'm not a physicist but I know some physicists and can answer your questions...

-What is the daily routine of your job?

Theorists and experimentalists are different, and it also matters if you work in industry or in an academic setting. An experimentalist would be more likely to be actually doing stuff (building, fixing, or fine-tuning physics experiments) while a theorist would be more likely to be writing papers or discussing ideas.

In an academic setting, there would be classes to teach, labs to supervise, office hours, recitations, etc. etc. There would also be travel to give talks at other universities (for either experimentalists or theorists). Various graduate students and postdocs would need to be supervised.

In industry, it would be more of a typical office environment.

-What kind of education is required for that job?

A whole lot. A doctorate and then usually one or two postdoc positions before getting a permanent position.

-What are the entry level and intermediate jobs out there that you would normally have before you work your way up to a physicist?

First you get a bachelor's degree in physics. Then you're a grad student until you get your Ph.D. Then you get a postdoc or two (postdoctoral position, a paid job that is temporary). Then you get a professorship (if you're going into academics) which may or may not lead to tenure. If you're unable to get tenure, you move to another institution or get an industry job or leave the field.

It ain't for the faint of heart.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  3  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 08:34 am
@cheerios,
I have a degree in physics, although I don't work on quantum computers. Since I left college, I have worked in engineering jobs closely related to one of the sub-fields I ploughed in academia.

I think Sozobe covered almost all the ground I would have covered if I had came first. Just one point of clarification on your third question: "physicist" isn't a job title. You can call yourself a "physicist", or a "trained physicist", as soon as you graduate from college. After that, you just move up the pecking order. That's what Sozobe is describing.

If you want to work in quantum computers, your most likely path (in the USA) would be to go to college for four years and get a bachelor's degree with a major in physics. Next, you would find a professor who works in quantum computers (most likely a theoretical physicist, since quantum computers haven't yet been built). He will assign a problem to you, and that will be the subject of your thesis. Times for completion varies, but tentatively, plan for another five years (in the USA). By that time, you might either continue to work on the topic at a university, which is the case Sozobe covered. Or you could work at a dedicated research facility where you would most likely be employed by the computing industry or the department of defense.

rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 09:13 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
Next, you would find a professor who works in quantum computers (most likely a theoretical physicist, since quantum computers haven't yet been built). He will assign a problem to you, and that will be the subject of your thesis.

When you get a problem like that assigned to you for a thesis, are you expected to solve the problem in order to get a good grade on the thesis, or are you just expected to design good experimental processes and make some progress toward the goal?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 09:18 am
@rosborne979,
You're expected to end up solving some problem, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the problem you were assigned originally. For example, one possible consequence of trying to solve a problem is that you find you're barking up the wrong tree; that the real problem is something else. In this case, it's perfectly acceptable to solve the "something else" problem. Of course, you'll first need to persuade your adviser of what the real problem is. But basically, you're fine as long as you find out something that's publishable in a peer-reviewed journal. At least that's the way it's works in Germany. I wouldn't expect America to be very different though.
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 09:36 am
@Thomas,
I think America is similar. (I missed the quantum computer part btw, sorry.) Being able to prove that an idea that people have thought to be reasonable is in fact unreasonable can be publishable.

Quote:
But basically, you're fine as long as you find out something that's publishable in a peer-reviewed journal.


That's my understanding as well.
0 Replies
 
cheerios
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 04:11 pm
thanks for the info, guys!
one more thing- how do you make money? is it a salary or grants or what?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 04:25 pm
@cheerios,
I'm pretty sure that varies, according to academics vs industry as I already mentioned, and also where you are in your career -- grad student, postdoc, assistant professor, etc. Grad students and postdocs are more likely to get fellowships, new professors get start-up funds to tide them over until they get grants, but they do need to get grants. I think. Not totally sure on that one.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 04:33 pm
@cheerios,
cheerios wrote:

thanks for the info, guys!
one more thing- how do you make money? is it a salary or grants or what?

Sticking with the concrete example of your helping develop a quantum computer, there are several possibilities. You could --
  • get a university job as a post doc, then work your way up to professor.
  • get a research job at the department of defense, or in the computer industry. That's a similar kind of job, minus the teaching requirements.
  • start up your own company, build a quantum computer that works, and patent the design. That's the most risky path, since the quantum computer around which you founded your company may not work after all. But it's also the path with the greatest potential bounty. If things do go right, you make a killing in quantum computer sales, and from sub-licensing your patents to Intel, IBM, or whomever.
0 Replies
 
cheerios
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 07:52 pm
@Thomas,
so, how is your job? is it really hands-on or is it conducted in a regular office? Whats your most favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 08:01 pm
@cheerios,
Well, at the moment I'm unemployed, but the jobs I had over the 9 years before that were office jobs doing design work at a computer. There was the occasional visit to the labs at system test, but, mostly computer work. Other physicists at my employer's did do hands-on tinkering with electronical and laser-optical systems, though.

Favorite part of the job: solving a problem, and it works. It feels like solving a really hard puzzle. Least favorite parts: (1) Trying to solve a problem, and it consistently refuses to work. (2) Office politics.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 08:06 pm
@Thomas,
That was true in my field as well - solving problems, yes. Office politics - uggabugga. I was pretty lucky on that, but I hated it. Oops, I'm not a physicist.
0 Replies
 
cheerios
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 09:55 pm
@Thomas,
-What kind of stuff did you do? (what did you engineer, what kinds of things were you working on, etc.)
-also, what things did you have to do at your job besides problem solving and working on the computer? (ex: do paperwork, presentations, meeting, etc.)
-what was your job title?
(sorry for asking so many questions, but its for a project)
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2010 11:02 pm
@cheerios,
That's information I'm not comfortable sharing where people can Google it. I'll write you a PM tomorrow.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2010 10:28 am
@Thomas,
Before I write that PM (= Private Message): May I ask what grade you're in? It helps to know what knowledge I can take for granted, and what I have to explain.
cheerios
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 12:22 am
@Thomas,
9th grade at Whitney High School
0 Replies
 
 

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