I recently finished my MSc in Physics and my average is within the absolute 1% of the whole institute where I study. I really like programming and numerical work, so my thesis was also concerned a lot with this, but there was also some experimental work to "justify" the numerical results.

I want to continue with a PhD and my thesis-advisor offered me a PhD project. However, the project is mostly experimental and the amount of programming is quite limited. The project is still interesting, because a large part of it is realizing the setup I proposed and simulated in my MSc thesis. It should be noted that the project is partly funded by a relatively large space agency, so (besides looking good on my CV) there are good chances of getting new contacts through this specific project. I thought that I could use this opportunity to see if it possible to spend 1-2 (or more) months at this agency during my PhD, working with them on their programming-heavy work. This wouldn't be directly related to my PhD project, so I'm not sure I'm "allowed" to do this, but this should be an option for me to investigate further.

I'm not sure if I should accept this experimental PhD project, because I worried that doing too much experimental physics may not be where my interest lies. On the other hand, I don't have any other offer and it may very well take some time before I find an alternative.

Regarding my future, then I definately see myself having a job which is based on programming/numerical work. This is another motivation for finding an alternative project, but would an experimental PhD make me less "attractive" for such a job?

Besides looking at my future, are there any questions I can ask myself to clarify this decision I have to take?

1 Answer 1


Do not spend several years of your life pursuing a PhD project that you aren't enthusiastic about. If you do not want to be an experimentalist, it won't do you much good. It will be a lot more difficult to overcome the challenges and setbacks you will face if you don't like your project. Moreover, it's harder to become "an expert in the field" if you're not highly motivated to do so.

However, that said, it is possible for people to move back and forth between computational and experimental work. It's perhaps somewhat more complicated now than it used to be, but it's still certainly doable. Unfortunately, it may take some additional convincing to show people that you want to be a modeler if you've only done experimental work.

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