Careers: Physics/Physics


Respected sir,
Is academia a perfect career, if you want to conduct independent research? Although you aren't a university professor(or are you?), have you been still able to do the kind of research that you had expected to do at the time of doing a phd? Is there enough scope at the college level to do advanced research, that is, after taking time after your college responsibilities as a professor? Do you think university professorship is the perfect spot to conduct independent research? Or are there any other options?

Dear Rohit:

I am, in fact a physics professor at a research university.  As such I have the freedom to do whatever research I choose, although that is always tempered by the availability of funding to support the research and to support my graduate students.  Consequently, much of my time is spent in writing grant proposals.

Now to your questions.

Is academia a perfect career?  No career is perfect.  There are sacrifices one makes to get a position in academia.  First of all, you don't earn a lot of money as a Ph.D. student and then you must take at least one postdoctoral position, which is only slightly better paid.  Once you have a faculty position (at least in the united States), you have 6 years to get funding and produce significant scholarly research to be judged worthy of tenure.  All this time, you are probably underpaid with respect to the education and training you have for a position in industry.  However, if you want to do your own research, this is a very attractive position unless you are not really interested in teaching.

There are other possibilities for a research career.  These include National laboratories or industrial research.  In both these cases, you are paid much better but you also must match your research to the available funding.  This is always the case these days unless one is a gentleman scientist who is independently wealthy.

Finally, I would say that my experience has been very rewarding.  I like teaching classes and I have been able to do the research i enjoy, although it is not precisely what I thought I might be doing when I was getting my Ph.D.  This is pretty typical, a scientist changes direction more than once in his/her career.



Careers: Physics

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Carlo Segre


I can answer most questions about studying physics in college and graduate school; questions about condensed matter physics; x-ray physics; synchrotron radiation; and general and modern physics. I can also answer questions about careers in academia.


Professor of physics for 30 years at Illinois Institute of Technology. Academic adviser for undergraduates and graduate students. I have served on university promotion and tenure committees, search committees for Deans and Department Chairs. I have also been an Associate Department Chair and an Associate Dean. I have 34 years experience in materials science research and I have been responsible for building and now managing a User facility at the Advanced Photon Source.

American Physical Society
Sigma Xi
American Chemical Society
American Associate for the Advancement of Science
International Centre for Diffraction Data (Fellow)
International X-ray Absorption Society

Nature; Physical Review Letters; Physical Review; Applied Physics Letters; Journal of Physical Chemistry; Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials; Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics; Solid State Communications; Physics Letters; Journal of Low Temperature Physics; Journal of Crystal Growth and Design; Physics Letters; Journal of Applied Physics; Journal of Archaeological Science; Physica C; Corrosion Science; Electrochimica Acta; Journal of Nuclear Materials

Ph.D. Physics, 1981 - University of California, San Diego
M.S. Physics, 1977 - University of California, San Diego
B.S. Physics, 1976 - University of illinois, Champaign-Urbana
B.S. Chemistry 1976 - University of illinois, Champaign-Urbana

Awards and Honors
Duchossois Leadership Professor of Physics, IIT Fellow, International Center for Diffraction Data

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