PhD in Physics a good idea ?

PhD in Physics a good idea? Pursuing a PhD in Physics is often driven by a deep-seated passion for discovery and understanding the universe's fundamental laws. For many, the allure of contributing to the frontier of human knowledge is a compelling reason to embark on this challenging academic journey. However, the decision to pursue such an advanced degree must also be tempered with a practical understanding of the evolving educational and economic landscapes influenced by rapid technological advancements, particularly artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

This blog is not for people who are extremely motivated for a PhD. My goal is not to demotivate in any form. I am sharing my personal thoughts in my personal blog.

We all know what is happening with AI and automation. Before you say wait, that has nothing to do with PhD or research. However, I slightly disagree for multiple reasons, and perhaps all of the reasons may not be explained in a blog. Let me be clear, this blog is not for those 0 .01% of the people in cutting-edge research domain (such as ai, ML, chip, etc.) or world's best labs. So, if you are one of those, I would recommend that you skip the blog because you won't like it or probably you won't understand it.

Firstly, let me explain why. AI and automation will impact—the job industry, especially for PhD scholars and researchers, especially in physics. Unfortunately, physics is in a deplorable situation because physics students are like "Jack of all trades but masters of none". In previous Generations. Physics was a top-of-the-line subject because there was very little subdomain.

For example, if you are working on fluid dynamics, maybe you are from a physics major or something like that. So, if you look closely, most of the cutting-edge research was from basic math, physics or chemistry backgrounds. But now, since each research domain has Subdomain or specialized domains. A person specialising in a particular domain (Let's say fluid dynamics) will better understand fluid dynamics than someone with a physics background who has spent a semester on fluid dynamics. Since due to AI and automation job opportunities are Shrinking down to only specialized skill labour, and people with a background in physics are having a hard time, further due to the crazy amount of layoffs in both R & D. and research in the corporate world. Many experienced researchers are also knocking on doors in academia as professors. Hence, fewer positions are available for fresh PhD Physics students to get a job. Specifically, I am talking about India, and I guess. The situation is the same across the world.

For example, the number of PhD physics students enrolled in India in 2021-2022 was 8197. This data is from a survey by the Government of India. Check HERE. I haven't counted PhD in other applied subjects, material sciences, etc. Further, there are students abroad who will be coming back to India

The report also says:

"32,588 students were awarded Ph.D. during 2021-22 with 18,464 males and 14,124 females. The highest number of Ph.D. was awarded in science 7,408 followed by Engineering & Technology 6,270"

All India Survey on Higher Education was started in India

And this is only in 1 year. What makes PhD physics unfortunate as compared to other PhD, such as PhD in chemistry, is that If you do a PhD chemistry and you have some experience in synthesis or drug design or protein design, there is a very high chance you will get absorbed in pharma companies or related companies that are involved in synthesis. And there are a ton of companies in that domain.

But that is not the case in physics. Even if people get hired in corporate companies from physics, it's from the very top institutes with specialised skills. There may be some exceptions, but this is generally the case. This is because of multiple reasons. One of the most straightforward reasons that I can write here is that, let's say, you are working on fundamental physics. For example, you are working on a theoretical publication on quantum field theory. In India, there are not many projects or vacancies. There is no requirement for those skills in the job market. Even if it sounds painful, this is the fact, and nobody talks about it.

Across the web, there is a false motivation that the PhDs are a great way to pursue research—passion, etc. But. your electric bill will not be paid by your love. For ~90% of the researchers, the only option in India is a postdoc abroad. It is like a contractual project with decent pay for one year or two years. One more interesting observation I have made is that most PhD students work because they are asked to work on that particular topic. They don't know what the application of that work is. Neither do they know how they can use the skill to survive. It is a rat race to publish papers. Unfortunately, in 2024, there will be no jobs just by looking at papers. Now, when it comes to time, a PhD is almost 6 years, and there are very few job opportunities even after 6 years of work that involves 12+ hours a day work in some form. Isn't it crazy that you work 12 hours a day for six years without a job guarantee after that? Yes, this is true!

Many people will say that you should not go to academics if considering the job. I think this is ridiculous. Who will pay my bills? How will I plan my future? How will I plan my family? At the age of 40, after five postdocs? That is fine, but at least the student should know the reality or possible scenarios before investing six years of their vital life. That is the primary goal of this blog post because no one is speaking the truth about academia in India, especially in fundamental physics. I believe it is the same in basic maths also. The situation in chemistry is slightly better because they have an edge over recruitment in the synthesis and drug design sector. So you have to do a postdoc, or you are forced to do a postdoc by your peers indirectly because there is no other option. Furthermore, people join PhD, Especially PhD. Physics just because they want to contribute to science, or maybe they want to work on an exciting problem that they want to solve. But in reality, honestly, that is not the case. It's mostly like starting with great motivation and then working for some publication to complete the thesis. In rare cases, you may get exciting results and think of filing a patent or getting some great work that gets attention from different communities. But then again, even if you have 10 patents, what is the job opportunity after that? That is a genuine question, isn't it? is the probability even 50% ? these are questions that everyone try to ignore.

I just wrote this because I had some random thoughts about it. Apologies for some mistakes that I have made or for some different perspectives.

This is an interesting thread. I will keep updating the blog as I get more and more ideas about this domain. I am pursuing PhD in physics and am happy about my work. I'm just writing this to inform you of the current "real" scenario nobody is discussing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *