2012-2013 Academic Year

by landonlehman

I realized that I am done with 1 academic year of graduate school.  Just like when I finished undergrad, it feels like I should know more than I do.  Here is a brief recap of the past year:

Fall Semester 2012

  • Classes I took: Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics I, and Math Methods were the three main courses.  I also took 3 “introductory” courses: Intro. to Astrophysics, Intro. to Atomic Physics, and Intro. to Condensed Matter.  Each of the introductory courses only lasted 6 weeks (1/3 of a semester).
  • I thought I might do research in theoretical astrophysics, so I learned some of the basics of Fortran and read a bit about neutron stars and their equations of state.  I ended up writing a program that would take an equation of state and, given a central density, calculate the mass and radius of a neutron star.

Spring Semester 2013

  • Classes I took: Experimental Methods, Quantum Mechanics II, and Electromagnetism I.  Again I took 3 introductory courses: Intro. to Particle Physics, Intro. to Nuclear Physics, and Intro. to Biophysics.
  • Experimental Methods is the last lab course I will ever have to take in my academic career, and I truly hope that I will never have to teach a lab course.  It is hard to convey the strength of my feelings on this issue :).  Lab courses are a huge time-sink for me, and I never feel like I actually learn that much useful physics.
  • Intro. to Biophysics was an incredibly interesting course.  We learned about many interesting topics, such as epidemics and allometric scaling.  Since it was just an intro course, there wasn’t time to go into a lot of depth on these things, but I have the notes saved and hope to study them and perhaps read more about these areas when I have time.  Allometric scaling in particular was fascinating.
  • I switched research areas from astrophysics to particle theory.  I didn’t do much research-wise, but I did skim a lot of random papers from the arxiv.  I also started very slowly reading Weinberg’s Lectures on Quantum Mechanics.  At this point I am only just starting chapter 4 (out of 11).  Weinberg is a very dense writer and it can sometimes take a while to figure out just how a particular argument works.

After the semester ended, I read a bit in Weinberg’s Cosmology (I spent quite a bit of time in the Appendix that reviews general relativity).  Right now I am reading some papers on collider phenomenology and statistics of Higgs measurements recommended by my advisor.  I am also trying to keep making progress in Weinberg’s QM and read a bit here and there from Landau’s Mechanics (just to stay fresh and provide a change of pace).