Perhaps this question is about leaving the academia, but hopefully it's still in the right place. Given that many people have been there before, I'll spare you most of the personal details. Late in my first postdoc doing abstract theoretical physics (related to string theory) I'm seriously entertaining the idea that I should quit. First, I doubt that I'll be competent enough to keep up with the field and do the research at the level I want. Second, although I think I should be able to continue with another position somewhere, and then again, I'll hardly get to choose the places and people to work with, but rather the other way around. I never had plan B, so I'm inventing it right now.

Sure, there are a lot of jobs you can do with good mathematical background. Although I must say I have no specific skills beyond that. My problem is that I'm utterly non-interested in most practical things. The word "industry", for example, only rings a slight aversion in me. So the most usual routes people suggest just don't click. Maybe someone knows of a more science-oriented things one can do? My dream job would be to crack an artificial intelligence on a quantum computer at google, the only problem being that I have to particular skills in these areas and turns out I'm not as brilliant as I once hoped to be. But you see the point, right? The point is that I need to be disillusioned:)

So, what are some possible jobs to take that would feel like a pure research, be paid well, but have a less competitive market then, say, string theory, but require no special skills beyond that and be just as cool? Is there a list somewhere?

Sorry for the exaggerating tone, and lots of personal details in spite of promise given, perhaps I feel a bit nervous writing this:)


Community decided that the question is too personal, and perhaps this is indeed the case. I will have no problem with closing/deleting it, but I would be very grateful for suggestions of other on-line resources I may try to consult with my questions.

  • Hmmm. Are you just in the wrong place? The stuff you do sounds like it requires a lot of synergy and a tight working group. Do you have that? Can you find that? Not a topic to be explored in an academic desert, I think. – Buffy Nov 4 '19 at 13:09
  • 1
    When you find something let me know! :) – Dave L Renfro Nov 4 '19 at 14:49
  • @Buffy Probably I don't and probably this was the biggest aspect of my academic life I neglected to improve. However, having only a minor network in my field, and having bad publication score during this postdoc, I believe that chances to land in a strong team are ghostly for me. And if I get to a place which is not the right fit, I expect things to only go downhill from there. – Weather Report Nov 4 '19 at 15:16
  • It's your life. Figure out what you should do with it. Talk to a career counselor if you think it helps. Or get an acre in the middle of nowhere, grow your own potatoes and vegetables, and work some odd jobs. It's certainly true that there are more physics PhDs/postdocs than permanent academic jobs for them. – Alexander Woo Nov 4 '19 at 17:03
  • Well, back in the noughties lots of string theorists went into financial firms and became "quants". I know a few who have done quite well for themselves. – user_of_math Nov 5 '19 at 14:19