On my latest post, I received the following comment:
This post sounds just like a physical science MCAT passage. Once I was done reading, I was expecting a series of questions. Ha! Ha! It is actually interesting. Do you ever wonder whether you will miss physics when you get to medical school?
This is a great question, so I decided to answer it in a post, instead of a comment that would probably go unread by many.
The experience of most undergraduates notwithstanding, physics is far more than equations and formulas. It is a way of thinking, reasoning, and curiosity that can be applied to many different fields. Most physicists (myself included) do not actually work in the field of physics, but are employed in fields like computer science or engineering. I have classmates that went on to do medical physics, software development, and even one that became a quantitative analyst on Wall Street. I truly believe that the sky is the limit – it really just depends upon what one finds interesting. Richard Feynman, probably one of the most celebrated physicists of the 20th century, and one of my personal heroes, had an intense interest in the field of biology, which is something apparent in his writings and lectures.
As to the question of whether I will miss physics, I suppose it is difficult to give a precise answer. I don’t really see pursuing a career in medicine as abandoning physics. Medicine combines aspects of biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry with a clinical application, so in a sense, leaving an aerospace career to become a physician isn’t all that strange. It’s really just an application of the basic scientific principles that I was trained to use to a specific field.
The goal of a physicist isn’t to blindly repeat the past – there’s no purpose to solving the Schrodinger equation for the hydrogen atom or working out the mathematical foundation of the uncertainty principle – all of that was done almost a hundred years ago. Our goal, the goal of all scientists, is to go beyond, to apply basic scientific principles to new problems. Those problems could be in the field of finance, biology, particle physics, chemistry, mathematics or just about anything else. Some choose to apply themselves to discovering whether the Higgs boson actually exists while others might choose to attack problems in molecular biology – recall that one of the discoverers of DNA was himself a physicist. I decided that I want to apply myself to studying the way that the human body works and the practice of how we manage and treat diseases. So, to answer your question, I will never miss physics because I’m not really leaving it – I’m simply taking it with me to a new place.