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Why Take Physics?
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  1. Why Take Physics? Caroline Le Dain Burgess Faculty of Science McMaster University carolineledain.burgess@gmail.com

  2. Outline What I Won’t Talk About What I Will Talk About • Stats (jobs, employment rate, salary) • Static picture of the past • My Sources • High School Physics • University Physics • Physics in Level I and Beyond • Physics versus Engineering • B.Sc. In Physics • Versatility and Dynamism • Career Paths

  3. My Sources • Dialogues with high school math and science teachers and students through outreach • Conversations with high school students and parents at OUF and McMaster Open Houses • Dialogues with undergraduate and graduate students in Science (including coop students) • Dialogues with alumni (including Faculty of Science Career Nights) • Dialogues with faculty in Science • Member, McMaster Student Experience Task Force

  4. Why Take High School Physics? Benefits • Problem solving with math • Requires and encourages discipline, time management, practice and perseverance • Can’t cram for it • Admission requirement for Engineering and several entry level programs in Science • Admission requirement (or equivalent) for most Honours Science programs that start in 2nd Year (e.g. Honours Biology) Barriers • Weak math skills (familiarity versus mastery) • Perception that it is “hard” • GPA anxiety related to university (or med school) admission

  5. University Physics? Benefits • More problem solving with math (+ computer programming) that can be applied to many fields • Encourages discipline, time management skills, perseverance (takes time to learn and to gel) • One full year of physics (with lab) is the standard for many med schools and other programs in the Medical, Health and Life Sciences • Many can do “easy” you stand out when you demonstrate that you can do “hard” Barriers • Weak math skills • Requires a certain level of commitment, discipline, time management skills, perseverance • GPA anxiety (getting into med school)

  6. Physics or Engineering? Similarities • Problem solvers with strong math skills • Easy to move between disciplines at the undergrad and grad level • Many physicists hold “engineering” jobs (except those that require a “Professional Engineer” designation) • Both degrees lend themselves to interdisciplinary fields Differences • Engineering: more pragmatic ,“real world”, approach to problem solving, more proscribed program, fewer electives, less flexible career options • Physics: more first principles, fundamentals approach to problem solving, more math, more electives, more flexible career options

  7. Physics B.Sc. Transferable Skills Program • Math • Problem solving: world– math –world • Scientific computing (programming) • Modeling of complex systems • Lab skills (instrumentation) • Data analysis Summer Research • Research lab skills, experimental design, more data analysis, more programming, working in a team, reports, papers, presentations, conferences Coop opportunities • Same as above plus industrial and government environments, networking, possibility for travel Complements (electives) • Math • Computer Science (programming) • Astronomy • Biology • Biochemistry • Chemistry • Material Science • Electronics • Optics • Geology • Economics • Philosophy • English (writing) • Finance • Business and many more….

  8. Careers with a Physics B.Sc. Careers in Physics Non-Physics Careers • Optics and Photonics • Electronics/Instrumentation • Nanotechnology • Acoustics • Energy • Materials science (e.g. microelectronics at Intel, IBM, etc.) • Telecommunications • Aerospace • Medical Imaging • Nuclear energy • Geophysics and seismology • Biophysics • Meteorology and many more… • Computer programming • Software development • Web design • Insurance (risk analysis) • Banking • Technical writing • Scientific reporting • Armed Forces and many more…

  9. Careers with Physics B.Sc. + Graduate School Professional School • Physics, Astrophysics, Biophysics, Geophysics, Medical Physics • Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Physics, Mechanical Engineering • Applied Mathematics • Chemistry • Meteorology • Neuroscience • Systems Biology • Medicine(MD/PhD) • Economics … • Medicine • Dentistry • Law • Teaching • Financial Mathematics • Business

  10. Emerging Fields • Energy and Environment (from climate modeling to fuel-cell design, biofuels) • Self-assembly at all scales (e.g. the cell membrane) • Origins of life • Bioengineering and Bio-inspired Engineering • Drug delivery and implantable diagnostics • Anticipatory medicine • Bioinformatics, tracking/modeling disease spread • Reconstructing ancient organism and ecosystem function from fossil record • Bringing quantitative methods to descriptive fields (e.g. psychology, sociology) • Biomechanics – sport (and injury) as biophysics • Ecology as economics and vice versa Essential skills needed to solve all of these problems are learned in a physics undergraduate program

  11. The Take Home • Facts can be picked up from anywhere, including the web, relatively quickly • “World-Math-World” skill is universally useful (now and in the future), but takes time, discipline and practice to learn, so is rare • Physicists have the necessary math and computer programming from a B.Sc. • 62% of Ontario workers have PSE • Many can do easy, you stand out when you demonstrate you can do hard

  12. Thank you