Our son is keen to pursue physics at the UG level. What are the universities to which he should try and how?

Studying physics today has a totally different connotation and opportunities to yesteryear. In addition to traditional industries like aerospace and defense, education, engineering, oil and gas, science and technology, today there is considerable demand for physics graduates from hedge funds and banking industry.

This is primarily due to the use of quantitative models by banks and hedge funds to determine how markets respond to external factors. On account of their strong math back ground and problem solving abilities, physicists learn to think from first principles and being well trained in programming and simulation are ideal candidates to work as quantitative analysts. Today over 20 per cent of physics graduates work in this industry.

Beyond the finance community the more conventional role of physics graduate relates to research and development, scientific writing, automotive or aerospace engineering, astrophysics, biophysics, nanotechnology, particle physics and meteorology. Renewable energy, technology of solar cells, nuclear power, are some of the more recent fields of work for physicists.

A pure physics degree would typically cover subjects like quantum physics, geology, principles of relativity, among others. The choice of specialisation can be made depending on personal interest and career goals.

For getting admitted to the top schools in USA it is advisable your son does an internship at a research lab or at university, which will help develop teamwork, leadership and communication skills. In addition to the internship he would be required to demonstrate leadership qualities, write SAT 1 and SAT 2 exams and brace himself to complete the common application and essay writing. For this it is highly advisable he talks to his counsellor for guidance.

Excellent undergraduate programmes can be found worldwide in different streams of physics. In the US, University of California, Berkeley, offers a comprehensive programme, which doesn’t require dissertation exams, but relies more on research skills of the student. It offers topics like molecular and optical physics, condensed matter and astrophysics. Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes in a hands-on approach. Other illustrious names would include CIT, Cornell, Stanford, Chicago and Harvard.

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Across the Atlantic, Imperial and Cambridge offer a formidable degree course in physics which also provides research opportunities. The University of Edinburgh, the affiliated Institute for Astronomy is one of the most prominent centres of astronomical research focusing on cosmology and active galaxies. On the eastern side of the globe, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, offers a BSc in physics and applied physics. In Australia, Australian National University leads the physics studies. It also has the largest optical observatory in the country, the Sliding Spring Observatory.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.