Every so often we get a question that goes more or less like

I'm a masters/bachelor/highschool student and I really like physics and I'm really interested in (some broad physics field)/(all of physics) and I have to do a research project / would like to start a PhD in that field. What are some important/interesting/open problems in that area?

For an example, see e.g. Beginner projects in NMR quantum computing.

These, together with most other physics careers questions, have generally been considered off-topic, with some of the more general of them being migrated or otherwise redirected to academia.se. I agree that they should be considered off-topic on the main site: they are always too specific to be of use to future visitors, they significantly diminish the S:N ratio, and they are fundamentally unanswerable.

(Why? because implicit in these questions is a highly subjective appraisal of which topics are interesting or not. The difficulty of finding good open highschool/bachelor's/masters/PhD-level research topics aside, if you're looking to ask a question like that, ask yourself whether any of us is likely to really know what will make you 'tick' when working on a research project.)

However: it does feel a bit like a shame that we are turning these questions down without really offering the posters any place to turn. So, therefore, I'd like to set up this thread to

(a) see if we can come up with some space to help people with these sort of questions (which does feel unlikely to me), or at least

(b) collect some helpful ways of facing this quandary, so we can refer posters to places where they can start working towards this choice.

Apologies if this is sounding more and more like an academia.se question. What are people's thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a good idea; though I feel we may have issues with localized-ness as "good research topics" change pretty quickly. $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2013 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


We do always have the chat room, where such questions are perfectly appropriate.

Other than that, Physics Forums and reddit's /r/Physics are both somewhat looser about their scope, so that such "soft" questions would likely be welcome there.

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    $\begingroup$ It's important to note here that chat requires reputation ≥20, and is therefore inaccessible to first-entry users. So: if you're wondering how you can ask about this, answer a couple of questions! $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2013 at 15:42

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