“Easy” Course Would Provide Useful Background
Reading “Conference Takes a Critical Look at Graduate Education”
in the March 2008 APS News
, I recalled being at a similar conference a decade ago (“Chairs’ Conference on Graduate Education”). Our conclusions were also similar: that our programs should not be the same as 50 years previous. Since most of our PhDs will have careers in industry, we might emphasize less academic-research oriented courses, start research early, and work for shorter time to the PhD.
However, I’d also like to suggest an “easy,” definitely qualitative, course to broaden the physics perspective of young physicists about to leave academia.
Five possible topics:
1. Particle physics
3. Foundations of Quantum Mechanics
4. Condensed Matter
5. Some Industrial Applications of Physics
Each of these areas is currently discussed in newspapers, radio/TV, and books for a popular audience. (And number 3 comes up in too much pseudo-science.) The course should include, even emphasize, controversial issues, which do get the most popular attention. Can anyone deny that our PhDs in one of those areas are often unable to discuss the others? In fact, the course would have to be taught by several different people, even lecturers from outside the department.
As a former industrial physicist, I know that the ability to talk about current issues with non-physicist, technical colleagues will benefit the career of a new industrial physicist PhD. Such background would also be valuable for a new instructor at any level. Bruce Rosenblum Santa Cruz, CA