I recently met an experimental physicist who does his measurements using the X-ray beam-line at a national lab. Since the university he works at is not too close to the facility, I wonder how much travel do people in this and related fields of research have to do for taking measurements on their samples.

Also, do people have any personal opinions about how strenuous the constant travelling can be?

  • 1
    The question might also be extended to ask about academics whose milieus apparently require as-frequent-as-possible travel to conferences... which can be as much a career-breaker/maker as doing the actual work... Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 23:32
  • 2
    @paulgarrett I think that's been addressed at least partly in How much travel is too much travel?
    – Anyon
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 23:45
  • 1
    You could imagine cases where the scientist just sends instructions as to how the experiment is to be done, and the actual work is carried out by technical staff at the facility itself (likely paid from the scientist's grant), who then send back the results and data. In that case the scientist might not need to visit the facility at all, or only occasionally. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 3:30
  • @NateEldredge You could imagine, yes, but that would be a rather rare case. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 9:24
  • 4
    IMHO it is not the amount of travel that is stressful. If everything is well-planned it is great. However, I sometimes had to travel on short notice which interfered with my remaining life. I did trips literally across half the world for some research which was a great experience. But some stuff should have been planned better...
    – J-Kun
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


I did my PhD in experimental nuclear structure physics, in a similar situation to the one you've described here. Within a month of starting my PhD, I was sent to the IFIN-HH lab in Romania for a week or so, to help a collaborator with their experiment. A few months later, I traveled to the experiment which provided my PhD data at Argonne National Laboratory in the US. This level of travel kept up for the 3.5 years of my PhD, to Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France and Romania, all on multiple occasions, although it tail off a bit towards the end when I was writing up my thesis. I have to admit, the travelling did get a little tiring, but I generally enjoyed the experience.

So not only are you attending your own experiment(s), but also those of collaborators from both your own institute and others. I was ok with this as I wasn't in a long-term relationship (well, I eventually was for a while, but with a PhD student on the same course), and didn't have children, so had few commitments which required my regular presence.

Really what a person looking at this level of travel needs to decide is if they actually want to travel this much, and if their commitments can handle them not being at home for days or weeks at a time, on a regular basis. (Admittedly, this is much more thought than I put into it at the time!)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .