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I am basically an Electronics student - background in computer science (that's where I want to work). I applied for an internship in USA in a research institute where the group is focused in Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, Chemical Physics, Physical Chemistry, Materials Science.

I got selected. Now, I would like to know where could possibly a CS background guy would actually work on?

I am looking for a detailed answer

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When you switch topic like that, especially if you are there for an internship, just do what you want to do. That’s where you’ll be at your best, if you love what you do. If you’re really afraid that you won’t fit, you could always try to bring it up when you meet your future team: just tell them again your background, and check that they don’t have hard prerequisites that you don’t meet. –  F'x Nov 3 '12 at 18:44
@Rahul: What aspects of CS and Theoretical Physics interest you the most? –  Paul Nov 3 '12 at 20:57
@rahul, you will work on whatever your supervisor wants you to work on. Obviously the supervisor has an idea what you will be doing or you wouldn't have been selected. Perhaps you will be working on the code for an computer simulation to model whatever condensed matter or materials science system is being explored. –  Ben Norris Nov 8 '12 at 11:54
@rahul, however your question is too localized. Could you edit it to make the answer useful to more people (than just you)? –  Ben Norris Nov 8 '12 at 11:54
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This question came from our site for scientists using computers to solve scientific problems.

1 Answer

Given a background in CS, that probably means you have a sophisticated view of software development—at least one that is far more advanced than the average physicist or materials scientist.

It seems to me that you would probably find that you would be working as a programmer on a computational project: perhaps a new numerical method needs to be implemented, or the performance or functionality of the existing code base needs to be improved. Or perhaps they want somebody to help prototype new interfaces between experimental hardware and computer hardware or software? There are a lot of possibilities.

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you would probably find that you would be working as a programmer — ...unfortunately. All too often, other fields view computer scientists as mere programmers rather than intellectual peers. (For example: a new algorithm needs to be implemented, not designed, even though algorithm design is squarely in the domain of computer science.) –  JeffE Nov 3 '12 at 23:03
@JeffE: Algorithm design does fall under computer science, but it still has to be done with the cooperation of the people who understand the physics, if the programmer doesn't. However, I've changed the text to "numerical method needs to be implemented," to allow more freedom for algorithm design. –  aeismail Nov 3 '12 at 23:11
That's no improvement. Numerical methods are algorithms. And of course algorithm designers must understand the problem at hand, which requires working closely with — but not for — domain experts. –  JeffE Nov 4 '12 at 20:25
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