Saturday, June 16, 2012

Son Of A Physicist!

Oh no, I wasn't cussing! :)

Throughout history, there have been many situations where the off-springs followed in the footsteps of their parents. The world of physics isn't an exception. There have been many notable parent-offspring physicists - the Bohrs, the Braggs, the Thomsons, etc.

Strangely enough, in my circle of physicist friends at work, I know of no one whose offspring is following in his/her footsteps. Zilch! None of the kids want to go into physics. Granted, majoring in physics is not one of the more popular line of study in college, so the odds are already stacked against it. But I would think that if there's demographic that would be more amenable to wanting to do physics, it would be from this group of people, since at least one of their parents is a physicist.

So I wonder why don't I see more of their kids going into physics? Is it because the parents are trying to get the kids to carve out their own destiny? Is it because the kids have seen the nature of the work and decided that this isn't something they want to do? Or is it due to something else?

What about you? Are you a physicist with a child/children? Any of your kids are inclined to go into physics?



las3rjock said...

My father is a medical physicist. When I was applying to colleges, my parents encouraged me to study engineering, so I didn't apply to any of the schools (e.g. Chicago) where I probably would have ended up studying physics specifically. I ended up specializing in optics, so I'm more or less in the grey area between applied physics and engineering.

Heumpje said...

I wonder about how to approach this too. You hear Feynman explaining about how his dad took him out and thaught him biology and chemistry and physics from an early age on.

My oldest is four, turning five in a couple of weeks. Wife is a primary school teacher with an interest in exact sciences (i like to think I take the credits for that)...
Pedagogical methods say you should let the kids explore what they like. I can't resist but apply soft pressure in the science direction.

I regularly take him to the lab on weekends ( sorry honey, but I really have to check this or that...). Just bought my first telescope ever and planning to take the kids out into the field.

Looking at my own youth: neither parent academically educated, grew up in free thinking ( no religion or push to follow dad's way: do what you like, but get a degree in something. Brother turned out a cook, me a physicist).

Probably, there is no easy answer.

Berserk Dad said...

I have two children, 4 and 3. The four year old has on multiple occasions said he wants to grow up to be a physicist (and an American Soldier, a Football player, etc.). Children today are learning more, much younger. I don't expect either of my children to follow in my footsteps. I want them to have a career that makes them happy and allows them to enjoy their life. I think it is a very rare instance in today's world where a child follows in either parent's footsteps. Physicist or not.

When I was a kid, my parents never pushed me to follow directly in their footsteps. Instead my father always wanted me to be an engineer - from an early age I remember him pushing me there. I rebelled against his pushing and insisted on going for physics while I was in high school. A weird thing to rebel towards I suppose. I turned down soccer scholarships to two schools that did not have physics majors, so I could study physics.