70

I've heard from a couple physics professors and chairs that it's somewhat difficult to find a first position in physics in general This is a dramatic understatement. I always recommend reading the first chapter of Karen Kelsky's book. She demonstrates that our universities are not in crisis -- that was 20 years ago. Rather, they are in decay. Most ...


35

I'd like to offer a different perspective on this. I was in your position in 1979, and convinced I was going to solve the unified field theory problem¹ I went to Cambridge to do first a degree then a PhD. But talking to postdocs in the department convinced me that I really didn't want to get on the postdoc treadmill, and even in 1985 there were already ...


26

I think the verbage "evidence-based" is often a little misleading to a STEM researcher. When we hear "evidence", we think of proofs or scientific experiments with significant sample sizes and controlling of confounders. Clearly, such hard data is not usually available in your teaching statement. However, it's also not really what people ...


21

Most people apply for positions while still students. That is normal. The "date of hire" could mean various things, depending on the institution. Don't worry too much about it, and apply. If there is any sort of issue they might be able to finesse it a bit, but likely they intend that early 2021 graduates are part of their intended outreach. The ...


12

I think what Zero the Hero said is important to bear in mind too. Like you, I was really interested in theoretical physics at high school. I participated in the physics olympiad, went on theoretical physics summer schools, wrote an expository book on realtivity etc. I was really into it. After 3 years of undergraduate physics, I switched to pure mathematics ...


11

Talk to your advisor. It is absolutely possible for a person to get hired for a tenure track position straight out of their PhD (and when that happens, the person must have applied before they graduated). I know several people who had that happen to them. So in that sense, you are overthinking things. However, I’ll repeat: talk to your advisor. Just because ...


9

I chose to study physics because I liked doing it, without any expectation that a particular job would be guaranteed for me. And, several degrees later, I'm still in essentially the same position- employed as a researcher, not necessarily knowing what my 'final' career will be (if that's even a relevant concept in this day and age), but liking where I am now....


9

I agree with your concern that sometimes "evidence based" is sometimes tossed out with less-than honorable intention. Just as on this website the use of "citation needed" varies between useful and snarky. According to my memory and Wikipedia (proper citation needed), the term was in use in medicine before it was used in education. ...


9

Like other academic disciplines, the literature on education research includes evidence-based results for various teaching methods. The "evidence" being a measurement of student outcomes (how well students achieved specific learning objectives) for various methods in comparison (e.g. active learning vs. lecture). One way to argue for an "...


8

You want a job? So apply. That’s all there is to it. The academic job market is not some kind of neighborhood bonding event or support group where people try to be as nice as possible to each other and avoid hurting each other’s feelings. No one will be mad at you — in fact, the very notion that someone getting mad at you is a consideration you should take ...


8

Salary negotiations are about supply and demand. If your stipend has come to an end, it is no longer relevant to that supply and demand. If your stipend is ongoing, you can say you will only accept a new position if it pays more than the stipend. Your past stipend pay is not very convincing evidence of your merit. Your past stipend pay is not relevant to ...


8

It is absolutely possible. You can consult the American Institute of Physics for job statistics, which they publish from time to time. It is very far from being the easiest way to get a job. If you have the ability to become a physics professor, you can earn a great deal more money as an engineer, banker, or programmer. It is getting harder to get a job in ...


7

Finding a permanent research position in theoretical physics is very difficult. Theoretical physics implies, by definition, blue sky rather than applied science (but of course theoretical physicists can do applied science). Blue sky science is limited to academia, and permanent research positions in academia are very rare and very competitive. You have to ...


5

Well it kinda depends what you mean by “physics”. If you mean in the restricted sense of “string theory” the odd are very slim. If you mean more broadly condensed matter/soft matter, quantum optics, experimental physics or any number of physics area “not-string-theory” then it is completely possible and indeed it is an exciting time to study physics. The ...


4

I think the prospects for physics PhDs are pretty good (even if most ended up outside of academia) considering the fates of the people I went to grad school with and American Physical Society statistics. I started grad school about 15 years ago, so things have probably changed a bit. But here's my experience. From my class of about 55 physics PhD students, I ...


2

Just to add to what others have said: Getting a faculty position is a long shot. But that doesn't make doing a Physics PhD a bad option. Do a PhD because you enjoy the subject. Not because you can't think of anything you'd rather spend the rest of your life doing, but because you can't think of a more satisfying way to spend the next ~5 years. See the PhD as ...


2

It is appropriate for you to ask for a recommendation. However, the professor may not feel it is appropriate for him to ask them directly. But it is part of their responsibility to at least write you a letter of recommendation. And they may be willing to do more. But the "way" to ask, is just to ask. Ask for a recommendation, preferably a letter ...


2

It is a postdoctoral research position in e.g a university or research institute setting, right? If so I would say that a research statement is not the place for demonstrating proficiency. Your CV and reference letters should make it clear that your expertise is up to the level required by the position. I would follow other standard advice about research ...


2

Don't confuse an application for admission to a graduate program with an application for a postdoc. In most cases the application will be read by people well versed in your field, if you have matched your skills to the listed requirements. I think you can be much more technical in such a situation and it will probably serve you well. The only caveat is ...


2

The job listing says These positions require a Ph.D....at date of hire So the requirement raises one question: Will the applicant have the degree, at the date of hire? But if I act before graduation, will my potential application be considered when I have not yet sealed my Ph.D.? Yes, your application will be considered if it notes that you will have ...


1

In many, and I hope most, places your friend will need to recuse from the decision to hire you even if they don't write a letter. Given that, assuming it is true, getting a letter from them isn't an issue. But you can ask, first, for their advice on whether a letter from them would be helpful or not. It is even possible, I suppose, that rules would make such ...


1

I think you've gotten plenty of good answers, and so now I'll add another personal anecdote/piece of advice. I was likewise at a young age interested in theoretical physics, and ended up getting undergraduate degrees in physics and math and then a PhD in physics with a focus on quantum information science. I think everyone who wants to get a PhD should hear ...


1

Some of the other answers give you the stats and a global view on the problem, so I'd like to add an anecdotal answer. Not that long ago, I was pretty much where you are right now: I'd fallen in love with physics at the end of high school and I'd started learning on my own. During my physics undergrad I was a good student (I understood a lot of the material ...


1

Edit after some exchange in the comments below: I recommend that you contact the writer of the third letter and tell them that what you really need is them to send the letter directly when asked, and to pass on contact details now. This problem seems to be the result of a misunderstanding, and busy high profile researcher or not, if a misunderstanding is ...


1

There might be some effect but I'd expect it to be small and easily overcome. If you want a largely research position grades will be mostly irrelevant and you will be judged on the quality (and maybe quantity) of your research. But even if you want a teaching position, you may have some insight into the troubles and travails of students that might serve you ...


1

Departments are not growing as fast as they are all pumping out new PhDs that are looking for fewer jobs. So being a superstar and having some luck will be a big factor. This started circa early 70s and has continued in STEM fields since then.


1

If your goal is to work in the software industry, then a thesis on that subject would be more helpful than one on electronics. And vice versa: if your long term goal is to work in electronics, then a software-oriented thesis isn't as helpful. That doesn't mean it's not helpful at all. Anyone completing a master's degree is showing that they're smart and ...


1

If your advisor is happy and the local job market is aligned, then do which ever you want. For longer term goals it might be different. But your employability is probably determined by what you have done recently.


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