Careers in Particle Physics
Careers in particle physics, also called high energy physics, are always academic or pure research positions because the field involves studying the elementary constituents of matter and radiation. There is little practical application for this level of scientific understanding. A job in experimental or theoretical research in this area requires knowledge of quantum field theory, gauge theory, and the Higgs mechanism. The quantum particles include electrons, neutrino, quarks, bosons, and muons.
The goal of a career in high energy research is to find what physics lies beyond our current knowledge about the Standard Model. Dark matter, the neutrino mass, the search for the Higgs boson, and a unified field theory are areas of research that could lead to a new physics. In such research, the actual lifetime of protons, generally thought by non-physicists to be infinite, is a concern. Not all experimental work is done with high energy colliders. There are job opportunities with projects and laboratories that study cosmic rays from outer space and solar radiation.
There are of course career opportunities in colleges and graduate schools for particle physicists. Many such positions involve working at laboratories with facilities for creating high energy collisions. There are many job opportunities at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is funded by the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), and currently employs about 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel, and hosts 4,000 guest investigators every year. Its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, until 2008 the world's biggest particle accelerator, is designed for research on quark-gluon plasma. The European Organization for Nuclear Research now has the largest accelerator and provides jobs for 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers from 580 universities and research facilities. The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is another DOE lab and is famous for its Tevatron, which has a circumference of 3.9 miles. Another major lab is the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, famous for its linear accelerator. There are also major accelerators and job opportunities at the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics (Novosibirsk, Russia) and DESY (Hamburg, Germany). DESY’s main facility is called HERA, which collides electrons or positrons and protons. KEK (Tsukuba, Japan) is the home of a neutrino oscillation experiment and an experiment measuring the CP-symmetry violation in the B-meson.