This summer I graduated from college, majoring in physics, but for reasons outside my academic career, I won't be able to attend graduate school for at least a couple of years. Despite that, I'd rather not neglect my physics education until grad school becomes possible.

I realize that a B.Sc. doesn't mean I should be able to read all the latest articles coming from the frontiers of research. However, I'd like to keep track of current affairs in physics to both be in touch with my field, and to help me decide on which sub-field I will focus once I return to the academia, and perhaps even decide where to go and under who to study. What would you recommend is the best way to do this, and what are the resources available that I should be aware of? (Note: I will probably not have access to paid scientific publications after I receive my diploma in the next few months)

Also, I wouldn't want my physics skills to rust in the meantime. Apart from participating here on the physics stack exchange, do you know of any good resources for physics questions/riddles/puzzles, hopefully at the appropriate level for a college graduate, so I can spend some spare time solving those to stay in intellectual shape in the next few years?

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    I don't know where you would post it, but the only way to stay engaged is to read and participate. If you are a physics student, I would join the American Physical Society or other organizations, and seriously reconsider applying to grad school. Also just start finding questions on stack exchange and trying to give some answers. Another way is to subscribe to RSS feeds to physics blogs. Its easy to track those down, just pick a physics blog and see what other blogs link to it. Like physics orgs/journals/blogs on facebook. Arxiv is a great resource, but start developing a personal library. – Hal Swyers Oct 3 '12 at 21:24
  • Thanks for the tips @HalSwyers! I would absolutely love to apply to grad school immediately, but as I stated, this decision is not up to me, as there are other forces at play. The time I have to spend away from school - for that matter, I won't be considered a student anywhere - is somewhere between one to five years. I give it an expected value of two years until I can start pursuing a master's degree. – Benji Remez Oct 3 '12 at 21:34
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    Check the relevant categories at arxiv.org every day. – Mitchell Porter Oct 4 '12 at 3:22
  • Why not look at free online lecture notes and such? ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics has plenty of graduate level courses, which would probably contain information at the right bridge level between your BSc and your eventual PhD. – Willie Wong Oct 4 '12 at 7:52

I am in this same situation. Here are some thoughts I have:

In order to retain the skills we learned as undergraduates, we have to practice them much like we had to 'practice' problem sets for assignments. I think that the MIT open courseware is an excellent tool for reminding and practicing.

Physicists don't write papers about stuff other physicists know. Most (or all) of what's in a paper could be new and unfamiliar to the majority. A BS does not bring you up to speed with the physics community (my degree barely got me into the 20th century) so there is still a good deal of study before you could pick a paper and read it with ease. Continuing with your own studies by advancing your knowledge of physics will do a lot to help you understand what is in these papers. Reading the titles of recent Arxiv papers is a fun pass time; you can sit down and read any that perk your interest.


As stated in the comment above, the only way is to stay involved. I would suggest reading as much as you can, particularly in the subfields in which you hope to specialize one day. If possible, try to stay in touch with professors you know from undergrad, and attend their journal clubs to stay in the research field.

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