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questions [2016/04/09 16:14]
jthaler [Do you have advice for a starting theoretical physicist?]
questions [2020/06/15 14:05] (current)
jthaler
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 ==== Do you respond to generic emails asking to come to MIT? ==== ==== Do you respond to generic emails asking to come to MIT? ====
  
-Yes, but I just send stock emails. ​ Like this one, for a perspective ​Ph.D. student:+Yes, but I just send stock emails. ​ Like this one, for a prospective ​Ph.D. student:
  
   * <​code>​   * <​code>​
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 If you are looking for more advice, I found [[http://​www2.lns.mit.edu/​fisherp/​fisher-files-sequence-ii-summary.pdf|this transcript]] of a podcast by my MIT colleauge [[http://​web.mit.edu/​physics/​people/​faculty/​fisher_peter.html|Peter Fisher]] to be quite enlightening (especially the part about the fish). If you are looking for more advice, I found [[http://​www2.lns.mit.edu/​fisherp/​fisher-files-sequence-ii-summary.pdf|this transcript]] of a podcast by my MIT colleauge [[http://​web.mit.edu/​physics/​people/​faculty/​fisher_peter.html|Peter Fisher]] to be quite enlightening (especially the part about the fish).
  
-==== Do you have advice ​for getting tenure ​at a top research ​institute? ====+==== What are some things I should aim to achieve during my PhD? ==== 
 + 
 +There are as many ways to be a successful physicist as there are successful physicists. ​ That said, there are skills that are highly correlated with research success. ​ So if you are motivated by checking off boxes, here are some tasks that most (though not all) graduate students in theoretical physics complete by the end of their PhD. 
 + 
 +  * Regularly attend research seminars and colloquia 
 +  * Read the [[https://​arxiv.org/​|arXiv]] on a semi-regular basis 
 +  * Have a favorite textbook on Quantum Field Theory (which may or may not be [[http://​admin.cambridge.org/​academic/​subjects/​physics/​theoretical-physics-and-mathematical-physics/​quantum-field-theory-and-standard-model|this]]) 
 +  * Become familiar with the Review of Particle Physics from the [[http://​pdg.lbl.gov/​|Particle Data Group]] 
 +  * Attend a physics summer school 
 + 
 +  * Learn to write in [[https://​www.latex-project.org/​|LaTeX]] 
 +  * Do the majority of calculations in a paper 
 +  * Make the majority of plots in a paper 
 +  * Write the majority of text in a paper 
 +  * Submit a paper to the [[https://​arxiv.org/​|arXiv]] (bonus points if you are [[https://​arxiv.org/​abs/​0712.1037|top of the list]]) 
 +  * Submit a paper for peer review in a journal (e.g. [[https://​jhep.sissa.it/​jhep/​|JHEP]] and [[https://​journals.aps.org/​prd/​|PRD]]) 
 +  * Be a peer reviewer for a journal article (often as a favor to your PhD advisor) 
 +  * Write a paper in collaboration with someone other than your PhD advisor 
 + 
 +  * Learn to prepare slides (any format is fine; I use [[https://​www.apple.com/​keynote/​|Keynote]]) 
 +  * Give a blackboard presentation of any kind 
 +  * Present your research ​at your home institution 
 +  * Present ​journal club article in a field different from your own 
 +  * Visit another institution and give a seminar 
 +  * Give a talk about your research ​at an international conference or workshop 
 +  * Explain your research to non-physicists 
 + 
 +  * Optional: ​ [[jthaler@jthaler.net|Make suggestions]] for how to improve this list 
 + 
 + 
 +==== How do you come up with your acronyms? ==== 
 + 
 +You mean "​[[http://​abracadabra.mit.edu/​|ABRACADABRA]]"​ (A Broadband or Resonant Approach to Cosmic Axion Detection with an Amplifying B-field Ring Apparatus)? ​ Or "​[[http://​dmtpc.mit.edu/​DarkLight/​|DarkLight]]"​ (Detecting A Resonance Kinematically with Leptons Incident on a Gaseous Hydrogen Target)? ​ Or the infamous "​[[https://​arxiv.org/​abs/​1712.07124|P...B...S...]]"​ (Polynomial... Basis... for... Substructure...,​ see footnote 10), which would likely best the competition at [[https://​www.cfa.harvard.edu/​~gpetitpas/​Links/​Astroacro.html|DOOFAAS]]? ​ I write down a sentence describing the idea, take the first letters of (most) of the words, and watch my collaborators cringe. 
 + 
 + 
 +====== Teaching Questions ====== 
 + 
 +==== Have you ever let your students down? ==== 
 + 
 +During the covid pandemic in Spring 2020, we faced difficult decisions about how to assess student understanding of the material in [[http://​stellar.mit.edu/​S/​course/​8/​sp20/​8.044/​|8.044 (Statistical Mechanics)]]. ​ One student asked whether the final assignment grade could be dropped if their problem set grades were higher. ​ In response, I posted the following message to [[https://​piazza.com/​|Piazza]]:​ 
 + 
 +> We have developed the following [[https://​www.youtube.com/​watch?​v=dQw4w9WgXcQ|official policy]] about whether it might be possible to give up the final assignment grade. 
 + 
 +At the end of the semester, some students got together to make their opinions known: 
 + 
 +> W​e have collaborated on the following [[https://​youtu.be/​CcV5M7IMLt0|official evaluation]] ​of 8.044 this semester. 
 + 
 +I appreciated their candor in telling us just how they'​re feeling and making us understand. ​ Certainly, a learning experience for everyone. ​ Thank goodness we were on [[https://​facultygovernance.mit.edu/​rules-and-regulations#​2-64|emergency pass/no record grading]]. 
 + 
 +====== Personal Questions ====== 
 + 
 +==== What are your preferred pronouns? ==== 
 + 
 +He/​him/​his. 
 + 
 +I have debated many times with myself about whether I should put this information in my email signature. ​ "​Jesse"​ is a somewhat gender ambiguous name, and I don't mind (too much) when people add an extra "​i"​ by mistake. ​ It feels a bit uncomfortable to assert my gender at this point in my career when the gender ambiguity in my name (and in my past [[http://​v1.jthaler.net/​photos/​images/​2002.05.C/​dance_rig.jpg|hairstyle]]) was part of my experience growing up.  Also, physics is a rather male-dominated field, and I worry that providing my pronouns would somehow reinforce male-ness as the default for a physics professor, though I also appreciate that my reticence is probably doing so implicitly. 
 + 
 +In any case, I do like the way that providing pronouns signals an aspiration towards a more diverse and inclusive physics environment. ​ As I often tell my students: there are as many ways to be a successful physicist as there are successful physicists. ​ So while I don't currently give my preferred pronouns, my email signature does have a link to the [[https://​web.mit.edu/​physics/​about/​values.html|MIT Physics Community Values]].  ​
  
-Somehow a rumor was started that I already had tenure at MIT, probably because the rumor-monger didn't realize that MIT has an intermediate "​associate-without-tenure"​ promotion step.  So no, I don't have advice at the moment. 
  
-But nor, I suspect, will I have advice in the future, since the tenure process is surprisingly personal. ​ Apart from getting [[cv#Awards & Fellowships|various awards]], it is hard to get honest feedback about your research progress, in most cases because you yourself are the best judge of your research impact. 
  
-As a starting junior faculty member, I promised myself that I would write down all the lessons I learned so that I could help the next generation of aspiring academics. ​ So this tiny blurb is a (pathetic) attempt to satisfy that promise. ​ But at the end of the day, my advice is basically the same as the advice I gave to my [[https://​stellar.mit.edu/​S/​course/​8/​sp13/​8.06/​index.html|8.06]] students above, with the additional step that you not only need to find mentors, but also become one. 
  
  
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 ==== Why don't you have a blog? ==== ==== Why don't you have a blog? ====
  
-See above. ​ Though I do think that scientific communication to the general public is very important, so I participate in the [[http://​www.physicstheorynet.org|TheoryNet]] program to visit high school physics classes in the Boston area. +See above. ​ Though I do think that scientific communication to the general public is very important, so I participate in the [[http://​www.physicstheorynet.org|TheoryNet]] program to visit high school physics classes in the Boston area.  Also, I appear briefly in a [[http://​particlefever.com/​|particle physics documentary]].
 ==== Who chose your color scheme? ==== ==== Who chose your color scheme? ====
  
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 What?  You don't like [[orange links]]? ​ I was semi-inspired by the [[http://​www.sfjazz.org/​|SFJAZZ]] poster hanging in my office, but a certain someone refused to let me use purple. ​ Consider yourself lucky I didn't use the {{::​sfjazz2004.png?​linkonly|2004}} color scheme. What?  You don't like [[orange links]]? ​ I was semi-inspired by the [[http://​www.sfjazz.org/​|SFJAZZ]] poster hanging in my office, but a certain someone refused to let me use purple. ​ Consider yourself lucky I didn't use the {{::​sfjazz2004.png?​linkonly|2004}} color scheme.
 +
 +====== Logic Questions ======
 +
 +==== Is today opposite day? ====
 +
 +Today is and is not opposite day.  [h/t Adrian]
questions.1460218465.txt.gz · Last modified: 2016/04/09 16:14 by jthaler