The power of physics for Cambodia, beyond the classroom

There is a common misconception among students and parents in Cambodia that all college graduates who major in physics end up becoming physics teachers. This article aims to debunk this myth and show that physics graduates are in high demand in a rapidly developing country like Cambodia. Various studies have shown that physicists are well equipped with essential skills for solving problems using complex data sets. They are familiar with the collection, analysis and processing of data. With their solid background in physics, they are well trained in computer modeling and programming which are invaluable technical tools for all socio-economic sectors, from engineering to finance and medicine to architecture. Thus, physicists can turn countless ideas into impactful business and social projects. Physicists are also well prepared to deal with the emergence of new digital technologies due to their logical minds and powerful reasoning skills.

In 1952, immediately after the death of Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, Albert Einstein, winner of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the photoelectric effect and famous for the special and general theory of relativity – one of the most great physicists of the world, was offered to be the President of Israel. It’s no surprise that Einstein was known worldwide for his intellectual achievements in physics, and people thought he would be a great leader. Why would physics be essential for policy makers? Many, if not all, critical decisions of national leaders relate to cutting-edge technologies, for example: reliable, affordable, safe and clean energy, cybersecurity, CubeSats – i.e. mini satellites, for to name a few. Then, knowledge of physics would inform crucial decision-making processes. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, physics play a pervasive role, from the generation and aerosolization of virus-laden respiratory droplets to dispersal in the air and deposition on a solid surface. Physics has also bolstered health measures in the form of face masks, hand washing, social distancing, and speeding up vaccine design and production.

Physics for health

The two main applications of medical physics in healthcare are medical imaging / radiation therapy and health informatics / digital physics. The best-known applications of physics to medicine are the use of equipment to detect diseases, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, and emission tomography. positrons (PET). Others are the different types of radiation therapy machines used in cancer treatment. Qualified experts in medical physics are required to use radiation safely and effectively for health care purposes. Computational physics is used to manage medical data, bioinformatics, and telemedicine. During this ongoing pandemic, physical instruments such as cryo-EM (X-ray crystallography) have enabled Chinese scientists to speed up the identification of the corresponding viral spike protein. The molecule was then quickly shared via an open source platform with all scientists around the world, paving the way for the design and production of the mRNA vaccine, the first of its kind in vaccine history.

Physics for finance

The financial industry needs experts who understand math and quantitative skills, while physics graduates are comfortable working with large data sets. Additionally, investing in financial securities requires specialized expertise from physicists who understand complex mathematical models to generate profits and reduce risk. Another area where physics concepts are essential is econophysics, an emerging academic discipline that capitalizes on the unique role of physicists in solving economic problems. Their research focuses on new conceptual approaches from the physical sciences. Finally, the advent of big data opens up even more opportunities for physicists capable of dealing with complex systems. As such, physicists are highly sought after for business intelligence, quantitative finance, and stock trading.

In other words, physicists are scientifically rigorous and trained to deal with systems and their components, all of which are valuable skills for creating and analyzing financial models. While the job market and employers in Cambodia may not yet fully realize the potential of physics graduates to excel in finance, companies that are taking the first step in investing and developing this rare pool of Experts for working in finance will benefit from their transferable skills. Additionally, providing new career paths and employment opportunities to physics graduates outside the field of physics will highlight their true value in the job market, outside of the conventional options of becoming a physics teacher, researcher. or laboratory technician. Optimistically, this shift in mindset could make physics a more attractive academic path to follow in Cambodia.

Physics for smart factories in IR 4.0

Albert Einstein once said: “A theory should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”. Indeed, the word theory, for example physics, seemed impractical to practitioners despite its usefulness in predicting natural events or phenomena yet to be observed. The question of how a manager of a manufacturing company could undoubtedly increase productivity at low cost and generate higher income with attractive customer service remains difficult. Understanding the physics, which objectively explains the solution to a particular problem, could save the lives of these managers. How does physics help us understand factory management? Just 20 years ago, Moog Inc., a specialist designer and supplier of aircraft and missile components, faced a significant problem in meeting customer deadlines while losing its competitive edge in the marketplace. George Cameron, the materials manager who attended the factory physics seminar, used scientific tools to understand the underlying manufacturing problem and implemented improvements accordingly. Inspired by physics, the team decided to revamp the pads and reduce waste in the manufacturing areas, which solved their inefficiency issues. Today, physics plays a fundamental role for smart industry, including agile value networks, advanced manufacturing processes and services, human-machine synergy, and interoperable digital manufacturing platforms.

In conclusion, physics is not just about obscure theories – there are countless applications outside of the classroom. The aim of this article was to raise awareness of the importance of physics in inspiring more Cambodian students to pursue this major as part of STEM education. Without physics, industrial development is not possible. The famous expression says, “No physics, no life” because we all live in a physical world and have to understand how it works.

KUOK Fidero, PhD is the Director General of the National Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation at the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation

CHHEM Siriwat, Master in Digital Technology Management is the Director of the Center for Inclusive Digital Economy (CIDE) at the Asian Vision Institute (AVI

This article was originally published through the Center for Inclusive Digital Economy (CIDE) at the Asian Vision Institute (AVI).

  • Key words: physics, university


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