What is quantum physics?
Quantum physics is physics at its smallest and most fundamental. It refers to how the smallest particles (smaller than atoms) behave and interact with each other, and how these interactions affect the world as a whole. The name comes from the fact that a quantum of energy is the least amount of energy possible.
Why is quantum physics relevant?
Firstly, quantum physics is interesting because of how differently physics works when things are so microscopic. One example of this is wave-particle duality. This is the idea that at the quantum level waves can act like particles and vice versa, which goes against the fundamentals of classical mechanics.
Our understanding of quantum physics could even be used to improve society. Research has shown links between quantum theory and human body processes. Thus, there’s potential for quantum theory to help us better understand and treat different illnesses and conditions. Quantum sensors can even be used in the defence industry, to help detect submarines and stealth aircraft. There’s also growing interest from tech companies in quantum computing.
What do quantum physicists do?
Quantum physicists can be found in many industries. Many work at universities or research labs, designing and conducting experiments into different aspects of quantum physics. Others work in specific industries (security, technology), applying their knowledge of quantum physics to help solve industry problems. Day to day responsibilities include: planning and performing experiments, conducting research, using computer simulations and mathematical models and analysing experimental data.
What skills do I need to be a successful quantum physicist?
You’ll need a good understanding of maths, to help understand and solve complex quantum mechanics problems. Critical thinking skills are also key to help you draw logical conclusions from your data, and find real-world applications for your results. Written and verbal communication is also vital, to help you present your findings in journals and at conferences. Particularly if you’re applying your knowledge of quantum physics to an unrelated industry, you’ll need to be able to explain everything to people with no knowledge of the subject.
How do I become a quantum physicist?
To become a quantum physicist, you’ll typically need an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s. However, master’s are expensive, so it’s a good idea to look into apprenticeship programmes. For example, the level 7 research scientist apprenticeship will give you a strong grounding in research science, via paid work experience and a fully funded qualification. Most quantum physicists working in research have a PhD.