Why do you try to hide your secret desire to be a high-energy particle physicist?
Heh. Seriously, honestly, I have no desire whatsoever to be a high-energy particle physicist. I wish I had a somewhat better understanding of particle physics, becuase that way I would have an easier time reading a lot of news stories and Cosmic Variance comment threads, but particle physics is not for me, for a variety of reasons.
The main reason is really that I like doing table-top physics. I like knowing that all of my apparatus is in one place, and under my direct control. I don’t have to wait for beam time, I don’t have to bend my schedule to anyone else’s. I do what experiments I want to, when I want to.
Also, I know the apparatus in my lab inside and out. Everything that’s there is something that I either put together myself, or watched a student put together under my supervision. If I want to change something, I can go in an change it, with maybe a quick look in the lab notebook to refresh my memory of what’s what. There are no huge complex systems that were built and maintained by somebody else.
I’m also happy with the scale of the problems I deal with. I have a good concrete picture of the physics of atoms and molecules, and it’s something that undergraduates can easily get their heads around. At the same time, there are some incredibly cool things going on in AMO physics– I think quantum information experiments are at least as cool as the search for the Higgs. I’m generally unmoved by fundamentalist arguments (i.e. “Particle physics seeks to answer the most fundamental questions of nature…” and all that rot).
Finally, I have an uneasy relationship with computers. I can program a bit, but it’s not my strongest suit. Experimental particle physics seems to be all about computing, really– you write code to sift through mind-bogglingly huge datasets to find the half-dozen events that you care about. I’d go nuts.
(I realize I’m implicitly excluding theoretical physics from this. That’s because I like having a job that pays my bills.)
So, no, I don’t have any secret desire to be a high-energy particle physicist. Experimental AMO is the right place for me.