Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Since the beginning of 2015, I've been the honorary cookie person for the group. My job is to bring tasty treats to the group meetings to compliment the delicious coffee that Kieron makes.

Every so often, we collect money from everyone to pay for the cookies, and our funds are running low. We'll have to get some more cash during the group meeting today. Wanting to make this a smooth process, I dove into the recesses of our old minutes from previous group meetings to find out the rates each person pays ($5 for grad students, $20 for profs etc).

Using my mad UNIX skills, I started grepping around for the word "cookie" and oh me oh my did I find something marvelous. The following is the output I received after typing "grep cookies *.tex" into our minutes subdirectory:

130528.tex:Raphael - group leader - cookies, journal club, toner
130723.tex:Special guest:  Steve White and delicious purple cookies courtesy of Eunji Sim.
130723.tex:Cookie money is to be collected so we can continue to have cookies.  The pricing will remain
130723.tex:Kevin also has to pay but wonders if not eating the cookies means he can get out of it. There is a cookie mandate, however.  The tax collector is Raphael for those who still need to pay. No visitors are charged.
130917.tex:There are no cookies today.  Lucas misses them especially.
130924.tex:Cookies come extra fancy today with only three gourmet cookies per plastic tray.  They disappear quickly.
131015.tex:%Tuesday duties:  calendar, cookies, meetings, emails...
131022.tex:Justin bring cookies!  Stefan joins us!  Everyone has lunch!
131022.tex:I ate a bacon cookie!  It was delicious and it made me delirious!
131112.tex:Many jokes about smart cookies are made.
140121.tex:Li:  Today we have soft cookies.\\
140121.tex:Kieron: it's not a real cookie if it's a soft cookie.
140422.tex:Justin:  Are cookies ever accomplished?\\
140603.tex:The cookies are slightly stale and in low supply.  Raphael was doing so good as temporary group manager.  Was.
140708.tex:Kieron just stole Tony's cookie.  Justin laughed hard -- maybe unreasonably hard. 
140708.tex:Li suggests that in the future Tony licks all his cookies before he sets them down.
140826.tex:with the cookies.  But it was only Peter, Dhonyong, and Attila which was not
140922.tex:Aurora will get cookies.
140923.tex:Aurora will get cookies.
150414.tex:Dave is the new cookie guy because Aurora is set to disappear at some point.
150414.tex:Also, cookies are supplies and he is the supply guy.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Going Thermal

One of the downsides of not writing frequently is that this entry is going to clash in tone quite a bit with my last update.

Research is going awesome! I finally have a version of my derivation that looks (vaguely almost sorta kinda) presentable and my code for the thermal version of the calculation is up and running. I'm getting pretty plots and things are looking pretty good. I might be able to start testing different response functions soon. Which would be super cool.

I was completely and totally overwhelmed by my project up until a few weeks ago. Something suddenly clicked. I finally saw how all the pieces I was working with fit together and my results started to make sense to me. I'm beginning to even understand what comes next, which is a pretty cool feeling. The ABCs of DFT is also going really well, and one of the most exciting effects of the class has been a general increase in my understanding of many parts of my research, as well as what other people in the group are doing.

On the downside, I shaved my beard off because I was curious and now I look like I'm 12.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Winter is coming...

Well okay; "winter" as far as OC is concerned. And actually, come to think of it, that reference doesn't really apply to what I'm writing about, but whatever. I'm committed now (because I miss GoT and really want the next season to come out already).

This quarter was tough. Like, seriously tough. I realized earlier this week that my expectations of theory research were completely and totally incorrect. More to the point, I went about this first project almost entirely the wrong way, taking to the problem like a bull in a china shop. Which, in case you're curious, didn't work too well.

I've recently started getting into lock picking (just as a hobby; no plans to recreate Oceans 11 any time soon) and what I enjoy most about it is how deliberate one has to be to get through a 6 pinner with security pins. You can't just jam two ends of a paperclip into the lock and expect the thing to open. It takes time, finesse, and patience.

Theory is a lot like that. I'm sure that as I learn more, things will go maybe a little smoother, but the fact is, there is always going to be something new in any problem worth researching just by the nature of how research works. I often tell people that theoretical chemistry is neat because it lies at the intersection of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The past week or so has made me realize that I was regurgitating this lip service without realizing what it actually means.

I wish I'd gotten more done this quarter, but working through this has been really valuable. It's a cliché, but I almost feel like I've learned to crawl over these past few weeks.

Now it's time to try and stand up.

Friday, November 20, 2015

That moment

when you hit "shift+enter" on a mathematica notebook and the fraction you've been waiting to see for over 2 months pops out and you make this face:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All Aboard the Strugglebus!

Sometimes research doesn't go well. Other times, it really doesn't go well. And sometimes, it's a veritable dumpsterfire. I've slid through all three of these stages this quarter and my project doesn't seem to be relenting any time soon.

The most frustrating part of it all is that, just by looking at the integral I'm wrestling with, I know I should be able to compute it. I know the answer, I know the integrand is well behaved (in most places at least), and I know for sure that people have done it before. But calculating this thing is like baking a soufflé: if anything is done even slightly incorrectly, you're gonna have one floppy, deflated pastry. And nobody wants that.

One thing I have learned from all this struggling however is that I have a good support system. I've of course been complaining to my family and friends whenever I've gotten the chance, but I've also received help from various group members, both previous and current. The integral is inadvertently teaching me an enormous amount of many-body physics, UEG stuff, a dash of perturbation theory, and more than I'd care to know about Fourier transforms so even struggles are, I suppose, time well spent (though often it doesn't feel like it). Regardless of the future research I do with this thing, it's been a hell of a teaching tool.

I just hope that the finite-temperature form isn't too much worse...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dumpster Fire

This week is the coolest week ever.

1. Our DFT midterm was given to us on Sunday. It's due next Monday. It looks like fun.
2. NSF is due Friday.
3. My research project is currently just trying to integrate a stupid two dimensional function. And I can't do it. Oh and I've been doing this for almost a month.
4. I destroyed my leg during a long run on Sunday so I can't relieve stress.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Writing, writing, and more writing!

First off, I should apologize to my faithful audience for my absence. I know I said I'd write up a little thing about Spain and whatnot, but research, NSFing, and DFT class have been all-consuming and it's felt wrong to take time away from those things for blogging. But! Blogging is important so here I am. Writing a blog post.

Which is fitting in some respects because recently, all I've been doing is writing. The NSF GRFP stuff is due in 11 days (hoooooooly moly) and I've been frantically polishing and rewriting and polishing and fixing and editing and pruning nonstop it seems. It's a lot of fun though. I've always enjoyed writing and I really have to put a different hat on when I'm writing sciency stuff. This stream of consciousness style I write in for this blog is really how I prefer to write, but that doesn't jive when you only have two pages and (presumably) an exhausted reader who probably wants to go home. Conciseness is key and I'm way too flowery in my writing.

Luckily, Kieron is really good at taking long sentences and turning them into a handful of words. Justin has been invaluable as well in fixing my word choice. It's nice having people to help you out! Then again that's been my experience in this group since I first got here.

Research has been progressing more slowly recently, though that's thanks to Apple's new operating system which un-taught my computer how to compile fortran and TeX, and my general lack of knowledge concerning physics-y stuff. DFT class has been a blast though, particularly since a lot of what we're learning is more about how to think about quantum mechanics. Which is weird. Quantum stuff is weird.