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Careers: Physics/Funding Basic Science


Hi Carlo,

This may be outside of your domain of expertise but I am looking for opinions from academic scientists to get an insider's perspective.

Basic science and scientists rely on public sector funding. Basic/open-ended research does not produce products or services that can be directly sold in the free market. Hence, the problem of funding.

How can basic science ever be made market friendly, if at all? Can we ever sell basic science like we can sell iPhones and Business Consulting for example?

Hi metalrose,

That is an excellent question.  Some scientists have tried crowdfunding as a way to support their research but I am not sure it has been a very successful route.  

Another way, is what we sometimes do becuase we have access to a unique facility at Illinois Tech in the physics department.  We can do specialized analytical work for companies and use the overhead to fund our research.

Recently, there has been an organization set up to connect scientists with those who need to make charitable contributions for tax purposes.  The name is and itis a good idea but I am not sue if it will work or not.  Only time will tell.

What you are suggesting, is to have a market where ordinary people can come to have science consultations.  I am not sure if there is a market for that but fundamentally that is what those of us at private universities in the United States (and if you think about it, in public U.S. universities too) universities do.  We collect tuition from students in exchange for providing an education.  


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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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