Physicist: Please, please help

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Physicist: Please, please help

Postby WhyTheWorldWorks » Fri Jul 27, 2012 3:11 pm


My name is Casi and I am 15, about to be a sophomore in highschool . I wish to be a physicist but I have a few problems. I am not sure what I have to look for as far as colleges, what to study in high school as well as college, where to go and practically everything. I would really appreciate an actual physicist who can answer a few, if not all, of my questions. I would appreciate very much if you wouldn't mind helping me. Also, I would love it if you could tell me if you think this is the right career for me. I want to know how everything works, from the smallest thing in an atom to the vast parts of the universe. I love to figure out new things, I love math (I know, a teenager, loving math?? Crazy right?), and I have a huge imagination which, get me in trouble sometimes. Thanks you so much for even taking the time in reading this.

Thanks again!

P.S. I would like to work as either a biophysicists or an environmental physicists.
Last edited by WhyTheWorldWorks on Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Physicist: Please, please help

Postby John Dreher » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:17 pm

"I want to know how everything works, from the smallest thing in an atom to the vast parts of the universe. I love to figure out new things, I love math (I know, a teenager, loving math?? Crazy right?), and I have a huge imagination which, get [sic] me in trouble sometimes."
A perfect description of a physicist :D

" what ... to look for as far as colleges"
This depends on your learning style. Large universities, such as state universities, will have several advantages, including: 1. a lot of choices in your career path will be available, which makes it easy to change majors as you find out what topics appeal to you the most; 2. by definition, universities will have graduate programs, which makes it likely they will have active research programs, which in turn will be reflected in the kinds and contents of the courses offered; 3. the students at a large university will probably be be more diverse than at a smaller school; and 4) the large student body means you will get less individual attention -- some students like the sense of freedom that goes along with a degree of anonymity. At the other end of the spectrum small schools will offer personalized educations where you are likely to get the most individual support and encouragement in your studies plus much higher chances of getting to know, and be known by the faculty. Some small universities like CalTech have top-notch research programs too (take a look at for more on small schools).

"what to study in high school as well as college"
In high school study all the math offered. Ditto physical sciences, particularly AP classes. Less obviously, learning to write expository text and learning mechanical drawing (yes, I'm serious!) will come in very helpful later on, especially in your graduate studies. Computer programming is a very handy skill (Java and Python spring to mind). When you become an lower-division undergraduate, naturally you will take the physics series and the accompanying math courses. Be aware that these two years are a good time to take breadth courses like elementary biology and an engineering course, also "wildcard" courses such as social anthropology or political science. If, at this point, you cannot write a grammatical and well-organized two page essay, an english composition course is a must.

"where to go"
There are far too many excellent school to cover here. Some web searching should turn up megagrams (tons) of information relevant for selecting colleges. Most of the major universities practice "need-blind admission" (look it up in Wikipedia), so the wealth of your family should be of less importance than your academic achievements as far as gaining admittance. The "best" schools are, of course, the most selective in their admissions. But do not worry too much about your undergraduate school -- your graduate school is the one that will matter most in the development of your career.

"practically everything"
I'm afraid the Theory of Everything (TOE) is not entirely finished yet, although I have been hearing that "it's just around the corner" for a decade or two :wink:

I hope these answers prove helpful. They reflect my opinions -- I expect some of the other physicists among our experts will post some different views, because that's how physicists are: a contrary bunch :twisted: I hope you join our ranks someday. It's a wonderful life!
John Dreher
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