Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Summer research

Posted by Arjendu on August 10, 2010

One of the weird things about this summer (apart from the feeling of having suddenly woken up and found myself in the Deanery) is how well my students are doing on our research projects. I have been lucky enough to have had access to some great research students over the years, and some summers in particular research has hummed. This year is the best yet by far.

There are various reasons that is true. One is the sheer quality of the students. I have had 4 working with me over the summer: Andrew McClung (about to leave for Innsbruck, as I’ve said, on a Fullbright), Qi Li (a rising senior), Dustin Anderson (a rising junior), and Shao Min Tan (a rising junior who spent half the summer with me, and the other half touring with her music ensemble in Korea, and elsewhere, but I am not quite sure where). All of them stood out in the classes where I have taught them, and I was very pleased when they joined me. A good second reason for their productivity is that I’ve had them in my group for almost the entire year at this point, along with Ryan Babbush (who chose to go to Argentina on an NSF-funded program) — they know the projects and the goals and some of the techniques very well indeed by now; we spent the year building up to the summer, in some ways. The third reason is that they have differing strengths and personalities that complement each other well, including excellent analytical and mathematical ability and training, computational dexterity and familiarity, literature search/reading/and translation ability …

Mix together all of this, sporadic meetings with me as needed, various meals together at our local Mexican eatery, a 3 day long visit from my collaborator Arie Kapulkin, a large community of fellow summer researchers on campus as background, a brand new computer for simulations … and somehow it gels into a pretty self-sustaining group. But most of this has been true in the past — except perhaps the size of my group during the school year, and the fact that I chose to do everything as a group rather than through individual meetings. So perhaps that was the magic ingredient this time.

At the end, despite the fact that I did not spend a lot of time with them, a lot of work got done.  In particular, I’ve mentioned before the excellent work that Andrew McClung had done; we recently submitted for publication a much improved version of his DAMOP poster; the arxiv version can be found here. I’ve also spent much of today working (in between keeping my inbox clean and the blog updated) on the early early early draft version of what Qi Li spoke about at DAMOP.

I can only cross my fingers and hope that I can maintain this stroke of fortune with student research. I do know it’s going to get harder to recruit students without being in front of the classroom.


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