by Quirino Sugon Jr.
Physicists are highly versatile and can easily branch out to diverse career paths.
Physicists derive equations like mathematicians, build machines like engineers, and write code like computer scientists. But physicists only use equations as tools to describe reality, machines as means to measure physical quantities, and code to simulate the real world. When these tools outlive their usefulness, physicists replace them. That is why many new algebras, innovative devices, and programming languages were invented or discovered by physicists.
The normal path in a physics career is to take graduate studies, earn a doctorate, and do postdoctoral work. Graduate studies abroad is free if you get accepted in universities in US, Europe, Taiwan, or Japan. Your main task there is to help a professor conduct classes and do research. And at the same time, you also get paid salaries several times higher than if you immediately work after college in the country. An increasing number of Ateneo physics majors take this career path.
Some Ateneo physicists teach in universities, do research, and train the next generation of physicists. But they are not confined to teaching physics subjects. In Ateneo de Manila University, for example, physicists teach in other departments as well: ECCE (Electronics, Communications, and Computer Engineering), DISCS (Department of Information Science and Computer Systems), Environmental Science, and Mathematics. Some physics teachers become administrators, such as Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, a climate scientist, who is the President of Ateneo de Manila University.
Some Ateneo physicists enter the industry. They study how drug proteins fold, how soft matter flow, or how to make better computers. They manage information systems, design fiber optic networks, or fabricate micro switches. They dig the earth for minerals, work in nuclear power plants, or program robots.
Some Ateneo physicists study the world around us. They study the colorful structures of beetle’s wings, the shapes of water droplets on thin film coatings, or the electromagnetic frequencies generated by a lightning strike. They measure the size of aerosols, model typhoon paths and rainfall volumes, or predict Philippine climate 20 years from now. They monitor the geomagnetic storms, probe the ionospheric heights, or count sunspot numbers. And some are truly out of this world: they study how black holes collide, how galaxies form, and how the universe begun or how it will end—in a bang or a whimper.
Some Ateneo physicists enter the world of finance. They streamline business process, analyze stock market fluctuations, and advise international banks. But in this age of Wall Street scandals, US financial cliff,and European debt crisis, it is needed more than ever that physicists must be trained not only to solve the problems in physics but also those in metaphysics as well. And this is where the Ateneo de Manila University’s core curriculum comes in. Through their courses in Philosophy and Theology, Ateneo Physics students are trained to read and discuss the original texts of Aristotle, Kant, Aquinas, and Augustine, in order to learn how it is to be truly human and Christian, choosing what is good and avoiding evil.
There are many career paths if you get a physics degree, and there are many schools that offer such a degree. But if you wish not only for excellent training in physics, but also for strong grounding in humanities, then the Ateneo Physics Department is for you.
So visit us at Faura Hall!