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Physicist Career Description

Physics is the science that deals with the structure of matter and the interactions between the fundamental constituents of the observable universe. Its object of study therefore range from quarks (tiny particles making up the nuclei of atoms) to quasars (apparently star-like objects, but brighter than billions of stars put together) found at the edge of the universe. Nothing is too small or too big for physicists to investigate - the entire universe is their field of study.

What am I going to do in this occupation?

Physicists study the structure and behaviour of individual atoms and their components, the different forces of nature and their relationships, the physical properties of matter and also phenomena such as electricity and magnetism. Like a detective they assemble all the clues and then construct a theory when the facts become available. These theories are re-examined when new facts emerge and are improved if the predictions were incorrect. In this way progress is achieved to a better insight into nature's secrets.

Physicists usually specialise in theoretical or experimental physics. Experimental physicists supply the fundamental data on which physics is founded. They spend a lot of time in the laboratory where new phenomena are examined through systematic, exact measurement and experiments are performed to test existing theories. Theoretical physicists formulate the laws of nature which determine the properties and transformation of matter and energy. This is done in mathematical terms and electronic computers are often used in calculations.

There are many fields of specialisation available for physicists such as:

» Solid state physics and materials science.
» Nuclear, particle and radiation physics.
» Optics and spectroscopy.
» Solar-terrestrial physics, astronomy and astrophysics.
» Plasma physics.
» Engineering physics.
» Medical physics and biophysics.
» Environmental physics.

Requirements

What kind of personality do I need? Physicists need a strong mathematical and practical ability. An enquiring mind, good observation skills and adaptability in order to learn new skills and cope with advances in science and technology are also important.

Where can I work?

Education, universities, and hospitals. In some of these institutions you will be doing original research while at others you will be involved in applying your knowledge to the solution of specific problems.

Can I work for myself in this occupation?

Yes, physicists with the necessary experience can act as private consultants.

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