Nuclear Physicist Career Information
What a Nuclear Physicist does
Nuclear physicists study the smallest particles known to man - atoms and their component sub atomic particles. You will be carrying out research to find out more about them. This could mean small laboratory experiments or colliding single atoms in giant accelerators tens of miles in diameter. If you think you are going to be cooped in a small lab, think again. As a Nuclear Physicist, your work may even take you on orbiting space stations to study effects of lack of gravity on atoms.
This is just the pure research aspect of nuclear physicists. There is also a practical side to them. As a Nuclear Physicist, you will be involved in the development of nuclear reactors. Here it will be your theories and calculations that will be put to test by the engineers and other technicians. As a Nuclear Physicist, you will coordinate and supervise the construction of the reactors. From time to time you will be required to develop new equipment and processes to make the nuclear power plant more effective and safer.
In a nuclear research facility you could be involved in numerous projects. As a Nuclear Physicist, you could for instance be responsible for upgrading the radioactive material to weapons grade levels so that it can be made into a nuclear bomb. You could be testing out new isotopes (basic elements whose nuclei have been modified) to see whether they are effective against a particular form of cancer.
Then there are the other applications of nuclear processes like carbon dating, nuclear irradiation etc. As a Nuclear Physicist, you will be making a lot of use of Mathematics as well as computers. Most of the times the environment you will be working will be potentially hazardous. Safety becomes a very immediate concern and most often than not you will be wearing protective clothing and using robots and other mechanical devices to get the risky jobs done.
As a nuclear physicist, you will be employed in:
Government research organisations such as the BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, and other research centers under Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India.
Defence Research organisations like DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation)
Colleges and universities
Nuclear medicine departments of hospitals, medical research organisations and pharmaceutical companies
Nuclear power companies like Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. and organisations involved in nuclear fuel and raw materials like Uranium Corporation of India Ltd., Heavy Water Board and Indian Rare Earths Limited.
The outlook for nuclear physicists looks average, and employment numbers are likely to remain stable over the next two to three years.
However, there are some good employment opportunities for physics graduates abroad. NASA's famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a strong liking for Indian Physicists and one of the major projects in progress is the development of nuclear powered space vehicles.
Most students who pursue postgraduate studies in Nuclear physics abroad are usually absorbed by the local industry and government agencies.
Abilities & Traits Required
As a Nuclear Physicist, you must have:
• Good research, problem-solving and mathematical skills
• Good written and oral communication skills
• Sound knowledge of computers
• A love for study and experimentation
• Above average abstract reasoning skill
Nuclear physicists should have some technical ability, because often they must build and adapt their own equipment. Good planning and organisational skills are just as important as is an eye for detail. As a Nuclear Physicist, you must be self-motivated, accurate, patient and dedicated, as you may need to spend long hours observing the results of experiments. You also need to be creative and imaginative.
For entry into this field, you will require a BE/BTech/ME/MTech in any of the following subjects:
Mechanical, Chemical, civil, metallurgy, electrical, computers, instrumentation, engineering physics.
Alternatively, you could also go in for MSc in physics, chemistry, applied physics, medical physics, biomedical science, environmental science or radiation.
Even professional with MBBS degrees can enter this field.
Government jobs pay you in the range of Rs 25000 - 45000. With experience and successful projects under your belt it could reach up Rs 45000 - 55000. After your MSc, if you join in as a teacher, you will be paid about Rs 20000 - 45000 a month.
Jobs in private firms are marginally higher but they usually enquire some amount of work experience.