summer before grad school?

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braindrain
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Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:23 am

summer before grad school?

Postby braindrain » Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:53 pm

Does anyone have any particular plans, ideas, suggestions for the
best way to spend the summer right before grad. school? I assume
some programs will just let you start a rotation the summer before,
but is that the best way to spend the time. Then again, a different summer
job not related to our thesis might be fun, but maybe its just better
to start on our longer term thesis areas. In anycase, I'm thinking about
it now (to take my mind off of ... waiting... ). We could always study for
the next hurdle or milestone, qualifiers, but is THAT the best use of the
time and how much would we get done before taking the actual grad. classes.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:09 am

yeah, i'm not sure myself...i just started a new quantum stat mech project this semester with a prof, so i might be tied up preparing the results for a paper through this summer. I'm planning on going into theory, and anyone doing the same will probably not have a whole lot to do if they head to their graduate institution early...definitely a different story for experimentalists, as my friend is considering heading out to brown early to get started on research. Honestly, I've lived in my home state for 22 years, and I'm planning on saying goodbye to a lot of friends and my family, so I imagine I'll probably try to milk every last experience out of this place before I head off to some strange new locale. But it definitely would be erroneous to skimp on keeping up with your physics reading, because as you say, quals are definitely going to be a hurdle. There might be some summer, REU-style opportunities available, but those are generally reserved for juniors-becoming-seniors. Honestly, I think the best advice is to stay sharp but realize that after this summer you will be walking into 6 years of intensity unlike anything you experienced during your undergrad, so enjoy yourself. After all, after the next 6 years the intensity's not going to relent, because there are postdocs and careers that will hopefully follow. With as astute and mature as most the physics majors I know are, some of them forget that they are entitled to the same sort of experiences every other 21-22 year old is entitled to, so make sure you get what you want out of this last year and don't look back once it's over with.

Oh, and I just bought Peskin and Schroeder's Introduction to QFT, and I'm going to tear into that novel once I finish up my classes this semester...looks like an awesome text

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:58 am

good question, I wondered the same thing. nice answer by schmidt.paul. I would try to have as much fun as possible that summer. Simultaneously we should keep sharp, but any outside research experiences that won't directly help us finish our phd faster seems like a waste of time (unless that's what you enjoy most). Since you'll already be admitted into grad school you have nothing else to prove except that you can finish your phd where you're going.

rjharris
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Postby rjharris » Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:14 am

Peskin and Schroeder's book is pretty marvelous. I bought it over the summer foolishly thinking i'd have time to peruse it, but that didn't happen. i'm gonna try to sit down with it this summer and take a stab at it.

i've been tempted to try to intern at the max planck institut fur astrophysik, but i don't really think it's going to happen since i havent looked at it in much detail. we'll see what happens this summer.

slee
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Postby slee » Tue Jan 30, 2007 11:39 am

i used P&S for a semester QFT course with alan guth, we got through some feynman diagrams but stopped before 1-loop and renormalization. i didn't really like the text, i found that it was a bit light on mathematical foundations and seemed to get to calculation techniques fairly quickly. even then, a lot of important stuff had to be worked out in the ridiculously long problems. a lot of the book seems entirely focused on applications and phenomena, which i find a bit puzzling in an "introductory" book; i'd rather more time be spent on exposition and explanation. but it was fairly clear on the parts i liked, so i'll try to go through it again when i have the time.

i like ryder's book for foundations, and zee's book for interesting physical insight; right now i'm trying to start on ticciati's QFT for mathematicians and it seems good so far. i haven't gotten completely through any of these, but so far it seems difficult to find an adequately (but not overly) mathematical, self-contained introductory QFT book (unlike in GR, where i find schutz to be excellent, and carroll good as well). so let me know if you guys have any other recommendations!

anyways, my academic activities this semester and summer include finishing up some research projects and getting through a lot of books, on both physics and not-physics!

inflaton
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Postby inflaton » Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:02 pm

How about Weinberg 1&2? Those are definitely my favourite, maybe not the most rigorus, but soo beautiful. But I'm still struggling on part 3, one more thing to do over the summer... Can anyone recommend a slightly different approach?
Other than that, I plan to go to a Sanskrit summer school, and maybe brush up my Greek; I know I'll regret that when the quals approach, but whatever, it's the last free summer.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:28 pm

yeah, peskin's giving a colloquium at my school some time in late feb/early march. one of my profs, a high energy QCD theory guy, recommended the P&S text as the best way to begin learning QFT, but perhaps he was just promoting one of his buddy's textbooks, since I know he is the one that knows Peskin personally. I'm going to see renormalization theory in my graduate stat mech course this semester before I see it in the QFT material, so thankfully there's a little overlap. BTW, rjharris, i think it was you who recommended the felix bloch lecture notes, i picked up a copy off of amazon, though it still hasn't gotten here yet (ordered it ~a week ago, though it was through a private dealer). Looks like an awesome little reference. Anyway, my prof assured me that no graduate program expects you to know QFT going in as a first-year grad student, but I figure anything that might help you stand out and transition a little more easily into the grad school lifestyle is probably worth pursuing...not to mention I've taken so much undergraduate and graduate QM that I'm really curious to see how it transitions into field theory, where you can start using it on modern high energy research.

slee
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Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 7:10 pm

Postby slee » Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:42 pm

i also picked up the walecka/bloch stat mech book (recommended by jackskellington, i think) from the library, and it does look pretty good.

Richter
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Postby Richter » Tue Jan 30, 2007 2:22 pm

You guys are really hardworking. Are you all going to do high energy physics? Because I do not think QFT knowledge is essential for every research branches

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Tue Jan 30, 2007 2:52 pm

I've still got my office at Kennedy Space Center until July...when they stop paying, I start leaving :P ... besides, I need money.

I'm looking forward to the fall.

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Tue Jan 30, 2007 3:00 pm

I won't be reading QFT this summer. That much I know :). But, I did want to
mention that my school has these reading classes that you can sign up
and read a textbook with any classmates that want to read the same book,
and the prof. will discuss the text. It's good for the profs. too because they get
to learn/review or whatever. So, it may be worth it to do that or look into it if you were going to read through such a difficult text by yourself. What would you do if you didn't understand something or got stuck?

I was thinking though if I knew which topic or area I will be in, it will really blow profs. away and be interesting to me too, to have a thorough knowledge of the field I'll be researching in by reading a stack of journal papers. So, when I get to grad. school I can say, 'oh, yes, I read about that in such and such paper'. But it may help to define topics or areas better and ask better questions in the research setting. But, not knowing exactly which topic would make this endeavor more difficult. That's probably what I would do if I were reading on my own. But, since that's how most research projects start anyway, I may as well start the grad. program in the summer.

Anyway, I'm still thinking on this question. It's more fun to ponder this than the 'what are my chances of getting in' game :).

I agree its our last free summer .... ever, so some fun should definitely be had.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:12 pm

QFT is also important in solid state theory, though often in a nonrelativistic sense (if memory serves me correctly), and there are analogues to relativistic QFT in solid state theory as well. One of my high energy prof's is extremely punctual in responding to emails, so he tends to be a good source if I get confused on any concepts, though I'm more of a stubborn personality who will sit and stare at a sentence for an hour until it makes sense rather than going and asking someone else...it's inefficient, but more satisfying.

braindrain, i like your idea about reading through a bunch of journal papers (would definitely be helpful if you know what school you're going to and who you believe might be your research advisor)...the problem is that, using high energy theory as an example, if you don't know even introductory QFT, you can't expect to have more than a qualitative feel for what the results of various journal articles are (I remember looking through the Randall/Sundrum papers and thinking just that!). If you can find a happy medium between texts/journals, that'd probably be your best bet. Have a feel for the higher concepts, but don't necessarily worry about knowing all of the little details, which you'll most likely pick up in your graduate coursework.

Or you can just sit around and drink beer all summer...that'd work too.

JackSkellington
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Postby JackSkellington » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:32 pm

QFTs and canonical quantization are surprisingly prevalent. I originally thought it was only in QED and relativistic incarnations of QM and high energy physics, but its also all over the place in nuclear physics (Q chromodynamics) and as schmit.paul said, in solid state physics and other condensed phases (like superfluids). We used it in AMO research on BEC's. I actually get the impression its more helpful studying these systems than 1st quantization. I seemed to hear the words "boson fields" fields a lot..... Best of all, its great for curing those pesky cases of summer boredom before grad school :D . Jk...(sort of).

I was planning on taking time off over the summer just to take a breath before Im inundated by grad school. But I think it will definitely help to stay sharp and prepare by learning some new physics. Actually, I applied to a program to teach English in Japan for a year, in which case I guess Id defer admission to where I got in. Ne body know anything about how easy/hard it is to defer?

On second thought, beer does sound temping.....

slee
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Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 7:10 pm

Postby slee » Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:58 pm

i'm going into astrophysics where qft might not be so important for most applications, but it does come into inflationary cosmology, the cmb, etc... but it's mostly for "fun," i guess.

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Tue Jan 30, 2007 11:21 pm

I'm not sure, but I think if you defer you will lose your funding and be put back in the pool when you come back of people needing funding. If a professor is supporting you he/she may decide to drop you and not wait a year for you. But, if the department supports you it might be a different story, i.e. that they will have money for you. So, you should ask about that. They may also want to know your reasons for deferral and decide whether they like the reason or not. I would think you need to make sure it doesn't put you back into a competitive pool again where you have to worry if you'll be let back in or funded. Also, did you want to go to Japan because its Japan or because its an English teaching opportunity. Because, there might be ways to go to Japan and do science. Just a thought.

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:44 am

I agree with schmit.paul. I like to bang my head against the wall to figure something out before going to ask. I think you learn a lot more doing that too. I mean, taking all the false starts must teach you something. But, a strange phenomena keeps happening and I was wondering if other people experience the same thing and can explain it. If I can't figure something out and try and work on it and still can't, the amazing thing that happens is that I'll put it aside, come back to it later and then see the solution instantly. How does the brain do that? The longer I would have sat the first time and worked, there was no way I would have arrived at the answer. It isn't even a go smell the roses thing, its just time away from a problem that does it. So, I get more work done, by doing less work :). Go figure that one out.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Wed Jan 31, 2007 1:05 am

I learned the awesome power of the 20 minute power nap about 2 years ago. If you stare at faulty logic on paper long enough, you'll put yourself in a mental loop. I have sat for a couple hours at a time just staring at a problem, backstepping, and investigating every route I thought was conceivable to try to solve it. Then, after appeasing my conscience (which would say 'you should be working on this, not laying down'), I found that I could go and work through the problem in my head with my eyes closed while my body rested. It's a method that has "shown me the light" countless times, and now that I've suffered through 2 years of rampant sleep deprivation, I'm having to do it more often. Give it a try. I think, on some level, there's something about laying down and closing your eyes that eases your nerves, intellectually speaking...if I sit at my desk staring at paper and going in circles long enough, I begin to have self doubt, even if it's over something as simple as a hw problem, but when I go lay down, the weight of the situation seems to evaporate.

Some people will tell you that the subconscious mind continues working on the problem while you "walk away," sleep, or whatever. I'm sure this is true to a point, but I also think the act of relocating and/or relaxing has the psychological effect of increasing your mental clarity and openness to more intellectual avenues...

Oh yeah, and the shower is another great place to have brilliant ideas (though sometimes I've accidentally taken something like a 30-40 minute shower before without even realizing it!).

Good topic braindrain!

Daharoni
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Postby Daharoni » Wed Jan 31, 2007 2:11 am

I second the shower... it is the best place to work out problems. I use to tape papers up to the outside of the glass or bring a dry erase marker in the shower to do problems.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Wed Jan 31, 2007 3:38 am

yeah, i suppose we are a bit at fault for not being more conservationally minded...just hard to say if the accomplishments facilitated by the long, hot showers will wind up paying nature and civilization back tenfold in the long run...too soon to tell

how's that for WAY overthinking an otherwise trivial activity?

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:45 am

Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer buys the elephant-size shower head and lives in the shower. :)

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Wed Jan 31, 2007 5:07 am

Maybe we should ask the schools we get into if they have a hot tub or jacuzzi for the students to work in :) as a criteria for going to that school assuming that works as well as the shower. We can change the image of scientists to be more like the Hollywood types :) hanging out in hot tubs discussing science and being ultimately the coolest people on the planet. That would be very funny, but I think they would withdraw their admissions offers!

Richter
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Postby Richter » Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:45 am

Where do these intriguing problems that run your brains into a mess come from? From course assignments? From research problems? Or from some textbook problems?
I am not meaning that learning QFT is of no value, but for me I would rather review my old knowledge in undergrad physics education, for example, I am planning to read Landau's series in the summer, just to consolidate my physical concepts and get some inspiration.
I guess I may take some summer courses also....

Daharoni
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Postby Daharoni » Wed Jan 31, 2007 1:50 pm

braindrain. That is actually 2 episodes of Seinfeld. Kramer decides to live in the shower.... He buys a water proof phone and installs a garbage disposal in the drain (I love the episode and it doesn't seem like such a bad idea). The other episode was when the water pressure was low in jerry's building and they can't get all the shampoo out of their hair so they buy elephant shower heads on the black market. Anyways, I love the show so much and it just reminded me of 2 great episodes.

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:53 pm

I must have remembered the episodes combined into one. In one of
them Kramer washes a lettuce in the shower and makes a salad for everyone. Then when they find out, they all end up in germaphobes-anonymous meetings. (the meetings weren't as funny as George's rage-aholics anonymous meeting - a different episode). I know Seinfeld also made fun of doctors - I can only imagine if he had made fun of scientists.

Speaking of comedy, I saw a clip shown in a talk of Jim Carrey and Stephen Hawking on Conan O'Brien. It was so funny. I would love to get hold of that clip. I think when Jim Carrey first met Stephen Hawkings in Cambridge, Hawkings ran over his feet with his wheelchair and the news article showed Carrey jumping up and down on one foot and the headline read 'That's not smart professor'. But, on Conan, Carrey in one deep breathe recites a lot of Hawking's theories, but the way Carrey says it he's like a mad scientist. Then he calls up Hawking in England on the telephone and for 10 minutes they are saying 'NO, YOU are a genius!' back and forth to each other.

devilzadvocate
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Postby devilzadvocate » Fri Feb 02, 2007 1:23 pm

even i am thinking about QFT for the summer....and weinberg is my favourite text...
btw does anyone know if weinberg's central claim- that cluster decomposition priciple along with basic QM and lorentz invariance is responsible for the existence of QFTs,
is genrally accepted?

CPT
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Postby CPT » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:23 am

Wow! All you guys seem to be so serious about preparing for grad school real early. My plans for the summer consisted mainly of just wasting time and enjoying my last free summer vacation, before grad slavery.

But now it seems I'll have to do some semi-serious stuff too, just to keep up with the Joneses. :roll:

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:24 am

I'm working, but I live in Florida, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to enjoy the beach frequently.

hyejjjj
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Postby hyejjjj » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:52 am

Yea, I plan to work... and party! :D

llsop
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Postby llsop » Fri Feb 09, 2007 12:57 pm

Planning to work F/T at a R&D company ... partly b/c I want to earn $ so I can not live at home ... partly b/c I've been wanting to work there since a couple of years ago. Though the thought of travelling is very tempting ... but expensive ...

shirazu
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Postby shirazu » Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:41 am

I was going to travel, but the partial ban of poker means I have less $ to play around with. I might intern somewhere or just sit at home. I am missing a lot of classes in my undergrad career and might study on my own or take a class at a state school if it's not too expensive.
Anybody know a good intro book for statistical physics for someone going into condensed matter experiment?

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Sat Feb 10, 2007 6:41 am

I'm taking a graduate stat mech class right now just for the hell of it and the book they are using is "Statistical Physics" by Pathria. It's a good book, maybe a little dense, but extremely rigorous, and I think it would be fine to start off with even though it is technically a graduate textbook. Walecka's transcription of Felix Bloch's "Fundamental's of Statistical Mechanics" is also a good text to start with.

slee
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Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 7:10 pm

Postby slee » Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:26 pm

actually i've started getting into greiner's "field quantization" and it seems pretty good...lots of important but tedious worked examples that other books leave to you to do (e.g., complex scalar field in P&S). i tried to start on weinberg but fell asleep reading the history lesson in chapter one...maybe some other time eh

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Thu Feb 15, 2007 2:51 am

yeah slee, that's been my biggest problem after nearly burning out last semester...i'm taking 6 classes this semester voluntarily (and enthusiastically), but despite the enthusiasm and drive I can't help but feel the aftershocks of fatigue resonating fairly often, and it's really impeding my ability to sit down and read more than 10 pages of an advanced text at a time. gotta start getting more sleep...

CPT
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Postby CPT » Thu Feb 15, 2007 4:17 am

Word!

That is the biggest problem I face with this stuff. With all the coursework and research related fatigue ( :shock: ) accumulated over this semester and the last, I'm simply unable to juggle my time efficiently now. I think a break from all this for a couple of months is the best thing to do. This summer, I'm just going to get away for a trek, and probably take my Feynman lectures with me. That is one gem of a series, and no matter how much you know, you can always read it again. That and sleep. 8)




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