Day in the life of
Physicist – Jed Macosko, PhD
Being a physicist is surprisingly fun, given how many taxi drivers and people sitting next to me on the airplane have said, “You’re a physics professor? I hated that class!” Yes, I acknowledge that taking a class in physics can be a miserable experience. But actually getting to be a physicist is a whole different ballgame. It’s really interesting and fun!
My Typical Day
On a typical day, I have to read what other physicists have done in terms of recent experiments that are similar to the ones my research team and I are trying to do. Then, I have to see what roadblocks stand in the way of our experiments and try to solve them. If I was a theoretical physicist, I would still have roadblocks, but they would be with solving math problems not with solving experimental design problems.
After trying to solve the roadblocks, I have to write some of the grant proposals that I’m working on to get money to do more experiments. Then I need to teach a class, which is my favorite part of being a physicist, and the reason I’m a physics professor instead of a different kind of physicist. Finally, I have to get on a Zoom call and give a 50-minute research talk to physicists at another university so that they can understand the results of the paper my team and are writing but haven’t yet published.
One of the pros of being a physicist is that you get to figure out things (and sometimes solve problems) that involve the most basic parts of the material universe. I’m a biophysicist, so I get to figure out basic parts of the living universe. Other physicists figure out astronomy, particles, solid materials, etc.
Another pro about my job is that I get to start companies that can more directly help people. For example, I recently worked with a startup company that helps people find the best fitting college using big data. That doesn’t sound like a very physic-y basis for a company, but since analyzing data is one of the things we physicists love to do, it actually was a good fit for my skills.
One of the cons of being a physicist is that we don’t get to interact with people the way some other jobs do. For example, a doctor gets to see patients all day long and interact with other health care professionals. My typical day has me interacting with my rather small research team and teaching in front of a classroom, but I don’t get to hear people’s stories and interact with people in a deeply personal way.
conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.