Studies & Degrees in Theoretical Physics

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Theoretical physics is a branch of the field of physics. It deals with finding out mathematical explanations for natural events. Because many of the formulas that are part of physics cannot be empirically tested, there are a great number of disciplines within this subject that go under the theoretical physics branch. Researchers in this field are engaged with some extremely complex questions – for instance, they have been trying to explain how the universe developed. What distinguishes theoretical physics from experimental physics is that theories developed cannot be supported through the use of experiments, for which reason researches have to apply other instruments in order to determine whether their theories are correct. For example, the theory should be able to accurately predict and explain physical phenomena, while also undergoing vigorous debate and discussion.

Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are both physicists who are pioneers in the area of theoretical physics. Both of them developed their theories by making logical steps and engaging in thought experiments – exploring ideas in their minds, without the use of a lab.

Personal Qualities

To be involved in theoretical physics, a great deal of patience and perseverance is required. Other qualities include:

  • Zeal for sciences and research
  • Enjoy analysis and problem-solving
  • Think logically
  • Good at mathematics and computing
  • Able to ponder on ideas for a long time, visualizing them and then explaining them clearly
  • Able to work well both independently and as a part of a team

Study Options

In order to go into the field of theoretical physics, you would have to start preparing early in your education. High scores in subjects like physics and calculus would be expected from you. When it comes to an undergraduate program, you should be looking at the curriculum that it offers, as well as the research opportunities it can provide. Because there are the fields of experimental and applied physics too, it would be a good option to have an idea of all these in order to make sure theoretical physics is the branch you wish to specialize in.

Physicists usually go into postgraduate studies, complete doctorate and post-doctorate programs. As far as postgraduate study is concerned, you would be advised to look at faculty staff rather than curriculum, together with possible opportunities to join innovative projects.

Career Options

Career options for theoretical physicists can be extremely exciting – those who have an inclination for mathematics and are fairly creative can go in the areas of astronomy and quantum physics. Such work could lead you to the research of the big bang theory, string theory, general relativity, and quantum mechanics. Jobs can be found in R&D firms as well as universities. Thanks to this, there have been so many technological breakthroughs in computer technology and medical equipment. Finally, after gaining enough experience, you could become a professor in an institution of higher learning. Many physicists choose teaching careers at universities, and this usually involves providing classroom instruction and designing courses. Other physics careers may involve writing material for textbooks and examinations or giving public seminars about physical research.