The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all. It has a worldwide membership of around 40,000 comprising physicists from all sectors, as well as those with an interest in physics. Find out more about the Institute of Physics.
Physical scientists study non-living systems to increase the understanding of how the physical world works. Disciplines include astronomy, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, materials science, meteorology and physics.
Scientific research involves designing and conducting experiments to collect observable physical evidence of natural phenomena. This information is analysed to develop practical applications in the creation of new materials and devices. Theoretical researchers use thought experiments to increase knowledge of their subject.
Academic research is increasingly collaborative across all scientific fields and the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research means that much of the work involves spending a significant amount of time on joint projects.
The exact nature of the work depends on whether you are employed in industry or in an academic research setting, but in either case, the work is usually laboratory based. Typical tasks include:
All physical scientists must be aware of relevant developments made by other researchers. This may involve keeping up to date through web-based research, reading specialist literature and attending scientific presentations and discussions. You will also need to disseminate any new findings at departmental meetings as well as national and international conferences and by writing papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals.
If you work in industrial research and development, you will probably be allocated specific projects. In smaller organisations, you may be involved in all stages of production, from concept to delivery to the customer.
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