I will be applying to PhD statistics programs this upcoming fall and really enjoy statistics. But, I also love physics (started as a physics major) and am wondering if there is opportunity post-PhD to work in a physics (or astronomy) department. I am aware of some programs (such as CMU) that do research in astrostatistics and some of those professors got PhD's in physics or astronomy, but did not know if it was possible to do the opposite.

I honestly cannot give a good reason why I ended up switching from physics to math, but do not take this as regretting it, I love math and especially statistics.

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    What sort of physics? In HEP-ex, there were a few very well-regarded physicists who were statistics experts -- big need to know if "we saw 0 events and expected 1 event" is significant or not, and most physicists just plug it into black-box software and extract the sigmas....
    – cag51
    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:11

1 Answer 1


Statistics is pretty widely applicable, of course. Some parts of physics deal with large sets of data handled with statistics, I'm sure. It isn't my field, but one of the ways to discover things in large data sets (star maps, etc) is to look for statistical anomalies. I'm sure that, along the way, you would learn a lot of physics in some domain.

I once worked in math and computing with a geologist who was interested in wave action at the shore. We never went very far (and I was pretty unsophisticated then), but I realized I'd need to learn quite a bit about his domain to help with what he needed to study.

This sort of career could be carried on at a large university with a number of different disciplines represented or at a research institute focused on an area of physics that interests you. You might need to be able to make a case about how you would fit in, but everyone needs to do that anyway.

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