Careers in Nuclear Physics
Careers in nuclear physics began in the early 20th century when the nucleus and its building blocks were discovered. Jobs working with nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants exist, but there are many other applicable of nuclear physics jobs. In hospitals, medical physicists work in nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging. Particle therapy is a form of external beam radiation therapy that uses accelerators to generate beams of protons, neutrons, and other positive ions to treat cancer. Using an accelerator is clearly a position for someone with a background in nuclear physics. Accelerators are also used for implanting ions into solids, such as semiconductors, to change their properties. Another source of career opportunities is archaeology because of the use of radiocarbon dating. Research in fusion and the creation of heavy elements also provides career opportunities for nuclear physicists.
An indication of the large number of nuclear physics jobs is the size of the American Nuclear Society, which is a not-for-profit, international, scientific, and educational organization. Its membership consists of 11,000 engineers, scientists, administrators, and educators with jobs at over 1,600 corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies in the field of nuclear science and technology. It publishes Fusion Science and Technology, Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Nuclear Technology. The organization has over 20 separate professional divisions from “Accelerator Applications” to “Materials Science and Technology” to “Aerospace Nuclear Science and Technology,” indicating the wide range of career opportunities for nuclear physicists.
The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is affiliated with the University of Chicago and many other organizations and operates the second largest high-energy particle accelerator in the world (CERN has the largest). While high-energy physics is associated with particle physics, rather than nuclear physics, there are many career opportunities for scientists experienced in accelerator-related technologies. Another source of jobs is the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which has an annual budget of about $1.5 billion and employs 7,000 people. According to its mission statement, LLNL is dedicated to the “safety, security, and reliability of the U. S. nuclear deterrent,” reducing threats to “national and global security,” and enhancing the “energy and environmental security of the nation.”