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Careers: Physics/Antimatter Propulsion Careers


QUESTION: Dear Carlo,

I feel immensely interested in antimatter propulsion concepts for interstellar travel. Are there any focused graduate courses out there for antimatter physics and/or antimatter propulsion?

Is antimatter physics simply a very small subset of particle physics? Would I have to aim for a degree in particle physics?

Or are there any engineering graduate programs out there that focus on advanced propulsion systems, including antimatter propulsion?

Thanks for your time!

ANSWER: Hi Shikhin:

I am afraid that I have to tell you that antimatter propulsion is merely a science fiction concept at this time.  Our world is made of matter and it costs a lot of energy and money to make antimatter.  This is done routinely at accelerator labs such as FermiLab and CERN for scientific purposes but to get an appreciable accumulation of antimatter is not really practical.  

If you want to work on advanced propulsion systems, I suggest a career in aerospace engineering.  If you want to study particle physics because that topic interests you, then go for it but not for antimatter propulsion.



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QUESTION: Dear Carlo,
I understand that currently antimatter propulsion is merely science fiction. However I came across a company called Positron Dynamics ( that are using positron based propulsion to keep low earth orbit satellites in orbit for longer periods of time or something of that sort. Since my understanding is very limited, all I could figure out was that it's a proof of concept or a very tiny step in the direction of storing and accumulating antimatter.

Specifically, I'd like to work on the problems of storing and large scale production of antimatter. I understand people only have vague guesses on how to solve these problems, if at al they can be solved. But I do want to work on those problems. Keeping that in mind, would a graduate course in experimental particle physics the way to go?


Hi Shikhin:

I took a look at the Positron Dynamics web site.  Pretty sparse...

Yes, of course we know how to create positrons but at the moment, the cost is certainly prohibitive to do so and then store them.

In any case, physics is probably the best place to start and specifically, you could study accelerator physics or particle 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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