I’m in the final semester of my MS in Applied Physics from Norway and I’m not sure how to proceed with my career post-graduation. I really want to do a PhD in quantum computing (preferably solid state quantum computing at Oxford), and I have some paths in front of me, but things are a bit unclear to me on how to proceed. Would really appreciate some input from you guys.
So I have an offer of a 9 month – 1 year internship where I’ll work as a research assistant for a theory physics group based in the University of Oxford. Apparently I’ll be paid at around £35k per annum brutto. While this does sound good at first sight, the problem is though that I think the job will 90% be about coding sub-routines into C. The description does say that I’d get to “learn about computational physics and programming”, however, when I asked the postdoc in charge of the project, he flat out told me that a software engineer with no background in physics or mathematics to speak of could do the job.. This, along with the unusually high salary for an internship, I think essentially means that I’ll be working as a full-time programmer, possibly code-monkey, helping them write up their software… I feel that, for me, this won’t particularly valuable as far as physics grad schools are concerned, (unless they allow me to participate in some research and get my name on a paper – I will ask them). Or what do you think, am I being too cynical?
Further, I interviewed for a Quantum Computing DPhil at Oxford and, after informal post-interview chats, I feel like I have a very, very high probability of a DPhil offer from this group, but with an uncertain funding situation. I might get funding from the University of Oxford, or I might not, but honestly I doubt I’ll get it because Norwegians are usually considered as overseas students, and funding for overseas is very competitive. Anyway, I’m going to ask for an internship in case of no funding for DPhil, but I’m not sure if they can fund one that’s longer than a couple of months…
So if I get funding for the Quantum computing DPhil, or a reasonable internship offer, I will obviously take this route, but I don’t think I will.. So in case I fail at that, as far as I see I have two choices:
(1) Do the programming internship, hope it looks good on the CV and apply to Oxford DPhil, and that time hope for a funded offer. Thing is that since I’m Norwegian, I’m considered “overseas” as far as tuition is concerned (which makes funding difficult), however if I work in the UK for a year, I can get “worker” status and thus be eligible for Home/EU tuition according to the rules at UKCISA, which makes funding much more likely.
However, I feel like this internship won’t teach me much physics, but rather just menial coding…
(2) Stay in my current uni for one extra semester while taking heavy-weight physics courses and working as a teaching assistant, while applying for less competitive PhDs all over Europe.
What do you guys think? Do you think I should take the internship with the hope that it strengthens my CV for grad school applications next year, or not take it and instead spend the time trying to find PhD programs immediately?
Really appreciate if somebody could share their thoughts with, I’m having a hard time deciding what to do. My gut feeling says stay in uni for one semester more and use that time to find less competitive PhDs than those in Oxford.