Tuesday, December 31, 2013

March Meeting Timeslot


I just got confirmation that I registered correctly.  My March Meeting time is at 11:15 am on the Monday of the conference during the DFT extravaganza!

I poured over the email they sent and see everything is in order.  Now, I have to work hard and make sure I can get results before the meeting.  We're trapped on one little snag.  Miles sent me an email over the break saying he was pushing DMRG to infinity and beyond!

I'm pushing everything related to getting over this bump to the top of my list.  Tomorrow, I'm working on that alternative route that Kieron foist upon me.  I estimate that I need to get this thing done before the end of the month since the conference is fast approaching.  Hopefully it goes much faster.  The rest of what I need to do amounts to running some calculations that Lucas defined very well for me.

Ok, it's montage music time!  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Working Hard(ly)

Dear Diary,

It's vacation time, and I've taken the unusual step of not checking my email during the first few days.  You know, all 500 of them (!).  I've decided to postpone a little longer because, and this is true, most of the things that people are reminding me that I forgot are totally my fault and actually necessary but I can't do any of them.

As it would just so happen, the graduate student luck has followed me back to Pennsylvania where, and this is also true, if you get up early enough in the morning, your nose dribblies will freeze as you breathe in.  This is not an occurance greeted warmly!  My parents' computer from 13 years ago is now so old that I have convinced them that an update from Windows to Linux is in their best interest.  It's right up my alley to install it with my unix know-how!  The problem is not that the computer can not handle it; rather, I've run into a bunch of tiny snags!

At first, I made them a live USB, but the computer wouldn't boot from it.  Then I tried using a CD, but we didn't have a writeable CD over 700MB.  Then I tried doing a minimal Live CD, but it wouldn't detect the wireless connection and the ethernet cable was about one meter too short.  I had it stretched all the way from the basement!  The whole thing has felt like how research goes: get a good idea and watch it fail--repeatedly...now, I'm thinking we should just spend $60 on Ebay or work on something else (just like research!).

To make matters worse, Kieron wanted some pictures I made, but lacking any access to a computer with a unix terminal, it might have to wait until the 29th when I go through my (new tally:) 514 emails.  There is a program made just for these circumstances called Putty which works on Windows machines, but I can't log into the modeling facility.  Maybe they block every IP address from outside a 500 mile radius or my computer can detect that I'm a graduate student doing things at the last minute and wants to mess with me or (most likely) it's crashed and I'll have to manually reboot it.  I wouldn't be surprised if my computer has gained artificial intelligence is playing jokes.  I also can't remember anybody else's computer name, so that's on me.

Anyway, the break is welcome. I've been so relaxed I can't do basic math or spell very well any more.  It's my first real break in a hard eight months, and I'm totally exhausted.  Hopefully, I can get some of my focus, patience, and creativity back if I take it easy.  It's hard to stay away, though, and I might read some things tomorrow.  Anyway, happy Kweznus, Diary!

[Editor's note: "Kwenus" is actually spelled C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The 2014 March Meeting

Dear diary,

Justin and I finally decided to make travel plans and hotel arrangements for the 2014 March Meeting.  We went onto the internet and found some very cheap airfare especially since its from the nearby airport and not LAX.  I paid for both of us (he's broke!).

Then we got another very cheap hotel room (with two beds!) that isn't too far from the conference center.  Quite a good haul, we thought!

To get reimbursed for the travel funds, I emailed Jenny, our super-duper faculty assistant.  She helped me send her the right information including the receipts from the conference registration fee, airline fare, and hotel cost.  Right now, I can only get the first two, so I'll have to make sure I save enough to get by until after March.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Final Countdown

Diary!  Dearest!

Li made some models for us and now we're going to compare!  He sent back the energies his models predicted and I compared them with what I ran.

But I can't tell you how it turned out!

Instead, to keep everything double blind, I'm sending him my remaining data (the stuff he hasn't seen), so he can make graphs of his own.  Since I just sent Kieron my graphs, Li will show up with hopefully the matching graphs tomorrow!

Utter excitement!  I'm going to go home now and see if I can't sit still more than a few minutes in anticipation!

I couldn't even update my notes about this.  They'll so stunned (or disappointed!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

John's Dance Performance Review: A+

Dear Diary,

John is performing in some dance shows tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 2 and 8 pm.  He let me sit in on the dress rehearsal Wednesday night and I really enjoyed it!

I went to the Claire Trevor Dance theater and stood in line while everyone was seated. It was a different crowd then I see on this side of campus, some people even smelled nice. Nobody knew what an electron was. A brave few were wearing short shorts (which was confusing because I was cold* in a jacket).

The actual performance is divvied up into separate pieces with a subset of the dancers.  The first seemed to be an exercise in direction.  Performers are often given directions in terms of moving spatially on the stage (to stage left or stage right or upstage or downstage), but the opening piece seemed to dabble in coordinating in stage time having performers all offset themselves temporally like the instrument tracks on The Beatles' Blue Jay Way.

If the first piece represents a spread of a individual performers circulating around a central theme, the second piece is more centrally focused on placing a performer either individually or with an ensemble of other performs in that central theme and letting the ensemble push them to a very intense peak...or just letting the dancers patience and hard work communicate.

One of the most articulate, poignant pieces of dance I have seen appears here.  I will let the performance speak for itself, but needless to say it's worth paying close attention to it. You'll know which one I'm talking about.

The pieces cover a broad range of thematic elements from very precise personifications of out of body concepts (growth, delicacy, etc.) to more abstract communications through dance.  John finally appears where a trio of handsome, super toned dudes is required, so it's an obvious fit.  This pieces seemed to be an ode to the sort of power from the human personality and body that peppers lots of Greek mythology.  This was one of many times that I really noticed the lighting playing a perfectly natural role in the dancer's performance, but really every piece seems tuned in both costume, lighting, and smoke machines.

One piece in act two in particular was a delight. It managed to enlarge my perception of the stage spatially.  Dancers in the piece that I'm talking about are constantly exchanging themselves over a relatively small area;  I imagine the piece has the same effect as a school of fish would on a predator and pleasantly forced my focus on the wide variety of dances everywhere.  This might be construed as a slight against the performance, but it's not. Instead, it's a very effective technique that the dancers performed well.

I would caution that this might have something to do with where I was sitting (meaning, the middle and slightly stage right).  In retrospect, I would have like to have sat at the back for the first act since a lot of the performances stack the players from front to back on the stage and I may have missed the back end players.  However, the second act lends itself to a seat that it right up front to catch the textural interchanging that I've been talking about.  It might be worth thinking about that briefly before you head to the performance.

John returns for another piece that surely required an acrobatically intense training. I don't want to spoil anything, but it's good.

The final piece seemingly returns to the adventures in stage time that were present in the first piece and here the lighting almost acts like another performer.  I thought I caught thematic threads from all the previous pieces sewn up nicely in this ultimate piece.  Even the lighting plays a powerful role in this last piece; the performers artistically threw themselves and the kitchen sink in this one to cap off a great show.  The director keeps the surprises coming frequently with strength.  You might even want to go twice.



Guest written by John.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In the Double Blind

Dear Diary,

I finally got the data to run after hitting a few snags.  The cluster really does wonders with computing time!  I was able to run about 200 runs overnight by writing shell scripts to automate the submission to the queue.  Before, I'd just run it on my computer and it took about a week or more depending on the system.

From the sampling of data, I took ten sets and sent them to Li to make this quasi-double blind.  He'll take the data and try to reproduce the curve I have made with the whole data set.  We'll see what happens!

Now, I suppose that Li could waltz on into my office with a package of dark chocolate imported from Belgium and suggest that I hand over all the data before I'm supposed to, but there's all this scientific integrity thing. Drat.

Kieron also asked me for a Christmas present.  I am to determine the entire plan for the remainder of my time here.  However short (!).  This should be fun!  I can tell him all about the big plans I have!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Post Thanksgiving Rush

Dear Diary,

Thanksgiving just ended.  I had a lot to eat and didn't do much work (don't tell Kieron!).  It was good for my focus to take a short break.

Professor Burke has become my enabler, sort of, by continuing to hook me up with great projects. Namely, I have to run some data for Li.  I started running the necessary components on the computing cluster but messed up a small file issue, so I fixed that today and will send it soon (it doesn't take very long to run on the cluster).

The catch is that I have to arrange this so it's single blind.  Li can't know the whole data set, and I need to feed it to him piece meal.  It should be exciting!  I'll keep you posted!

Before the end of the calendar year (i.e. winter vacation), I'm going to try and work fast to get a few pesky tasks completed.  I should get to it...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

E tu, Macro?

Dear Diary,

Oh, Lucas!  You left me with an unfinished paper (thank you, sort of).   Normally, I would be thrilled to help you get another publication, but you have so many macros in your Latex documents to make things so much simpler to type up.  I'm from the school of type everything out long hand!

So, I made a new figure and then tried to implement it into the tex file.  You know

\caption{Figures.  It's a figure. \label{fig:itsa}}

but then it didn't compile!  I tried and tried (I even removed the above to see if it worked and it did!) until I removed a different figure and somehow it compiled!  It turns out that one of the macros later on was busted and this mysteriously revealed itself when I added a new figure.

So, there!  Don't use macros!  They only make your life easier!  I should go tell Justin to stop using macros to make changing symbols easier if he wants a switch and just go do everything by hand every time he makes a switch!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don't pull the eject button!

Dear Diary,

I had to run my first meeting in place of Kieron.  Really, I found it was easy.  I let everyone else do most of the talking.  The group wisdom is usually best here and kept the pressure off me.

We were going over abstracts for the American Physical Society meeting in March.  I put up mine first because I'm the newest, and it went over well!  It only took 45 minutes to iron out the kinks and make sure we broke everything down didactically!  I think everyone else's benefitted from it because it didn't take as long!  I actually think we're going to have a golden set of abstracts for the APS.

Guo is sitting in with us for a few weeks since he's new to the program and pointed out that I didn't add any firm conclusions. I could add a few points to the content; however, I don't have any yet...I'll have to work hard so I'll have something to say in Colorado!  I showed it to Kieron beforehand, and he could only say good things about how broad the abstract is.  Huzzah!

When I finally submitted, I had to cut it even further because the new affiliations for Miles and Lucas (especially Lucas') put me over the limit.  APS gives you a little line that you can't go under, so beware.  I can write as much as I want with you, though, diary!

Oh, Lucas!  I finally fit your dervatives!  Yay!  I'll add them to the paper in an appropriate place.  Don't pull the eject button too soon and submit, Lucas!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Obey your Master(.bib)

Dear Diary,

Wow!  I never knew I could be that productive!  I just successfully eradicated all traces of malfeasance in the group's Master.bib file by spending two hours straight parsing errors!

Master.bib is the Bibtex file that the group uses to enact it's evil plot to collect every reference that's ever been referenced! (Current unique references: 2344)   Maybe I already explained this to you, diary, I can't remember because my head hurts...

Anyway, it appears that much more head hurting occurred in previous generations of Burke students.  The file wouldn't compile for a myriad of reasons:

1)  "%" signs must be listed as "\%" for Latex to work
2)  Oh, Lucas!  You can't press return in the middle of an abstract! Latex thinks it's a new line!
3)  Curly parentheses are critical
4)  The numbers 1998 and 24 are completely different.  Even scarier: Latex knows the difference between a year and a TV show.  I have to make sure I keep that straight and not lose track of the date!  Oh no! It's daylight savings time apparently!

Anyway, it's done.  Enjoy, everyone.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Conference Blog (Day 2: Bad Astronomy and Day 3)

Dear Diary,

I'm heading back south now after leaving hte conference.  It went really well!

Last night, I saw a talk by the Bad Astronomer who runs a blog called Bad Astronomy.  He was really funny and entertaining.  Apparently, the only reason the earth was saved in Armageddon was because Michael Bay was directing!  Afterward, I got a picture with him.

He talked about how asteroids can get really close to earth sometimes and that can be dangerous.  However, if we could spot them years in advance and park a satellite near them, then the gravity from the satellite would change it's course enough to cause a miss.  Hooray!  Apparently, if you make it pass by earth in the right way, the resulting perturbed orbit will cause the asteroid to come back and hit us a few years later.  Yikes!

I think this means we should make a movie where NASA is defunded by the bad guys and Bruce Willis has to go into space, change the course of an asteroid heading towards earth, and then go back to earth and restore NASA's funding.  Yippie Kay-yay!

We then went to bed.  While heading back to the hotel, I noticed that Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, had some influence on the campus because there's a lot of allusions to Charlie Brown and company around.  The residence halls are also named after famous wines: Zinfandel, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Tuscany, etc., but residence are not allowed wine!  Well, you know what they say about people who live in glass bottle houses...

The next day, we finished up the talks with some really riveting physics.  The last talk was by a student at Santa Clara University who looked at organic solar cells doped with glycerine to see if one could make a longer lasting cell.  My interest was piqued and I asked about some anomalous features of their data (the efficiency went up for 10 minutes and then we down for until 600 minutes due to oxidation).

Unfortunately, I missed Kevin's talk.  One should always be there for group mates.  I got the rooms confused, stupidly...Kieron will probably chide me about this...I'll have to do better next time.

Afterward, Kevin and I went home but dropped a UCSC student off at a BART station.  He was really interesting to talk to...we covered quite a bit of ground and even discussed this morning's Higgs boson lecture!  Some students from CSULA went off to see the countryside and what all this wine growing is about.  I think it's a good practice to see the surrounding area if you go to a conference in a new area.  You wouldn't get reimbursed for those expenses, but I think it's worth it to see a new geography. But both Kevin and I have pressing issues to attend.  Otherwise, maybe we'd have gone wine tasting!

Well, what a conference.  Next year, I'll have to go again when it's held in Reno, NV!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Conference blog (afternoon Day 2)

Dear Diary,

Then we broke out into parallel sessions where each speaker gets 10 minutes of time and two minutes of questions.  I sat through some astronomy presentations given by a student from my undergraduate institution.  He did well.  I also saw some rock solid physics from other places including where I did my Master's.  I don't like transitioning between rooms too frequently because I don't like disrupting the talks, but I left once the jargon got thick.  So, I camped out the material's physics room.

It's my turn to speak!  In retrospect, I probably put too much into the slides and this made me go too fast, but I was on time and expressed the points that I wanted to make.  Unfortunately, I got no questions.  There is a prize for best speaking at this conference, but I'm content to just present good work and see what other people are doing.

I even saw some DFT talks!  I'll have to translate my notes to report back to the group later.  After the parallel sessions, I headed to dinner and got to talk with a lot of professors from CSU Long Beach and CSU Fresno.  A professor from Cal Poly even said hello!

Conference Blog (morning of Day 2)

Dear Diary,

This morning's plenary speaker from UC Davis gave an incredible talk about how frustration is minimized in protein folding.  If you didn't have such a principle, then you'd have to solve something like 10^600 scenarios.  Unfortunately, there are some diseases (like prion's disease) where you get thermodynamically unlucky and build harmful beta tissue in your brain.  I overheard after that someone actually knew of one of these cases but the doctors had a hard time explaining why this was occurring; it was nice to see that physics put their mind at ease.

I bothered the speaker afterward by saying hi for Justin  (he was a student of his).  A friend of mine interested in biophysics also cornered the speaker to ask about the program. I took notes on the speaker's presentations so I can share it with the group when I get back.

The next talk was an overview of novel effects in type II superconductors and topological states by a professor from Stanford.  Apparently, a graduate student in the lab tried to propose to his girlfriend by writing an "S" by dragging the superconducting vortices around with an atomic force microscope's tip covered in a magnetic material.  Before he did so, he went to a conference and got some harsh comments because it looked too much like the number "5", and to make things worse, his proposal was not successful! But he salvaged the situation by changing it to "SU" in dedication to the university.  Apparently research can affect your personal life!

The speaker was looking to see if you can find fractional vortices and concluded that you can't (i.e. whether the flux quantization's charge is 2e or not e--that is the question).  I asked her if she'd looked at these effects near the critical temperature where pairing was weaker--she did on the under-doped side of the dome.  Then I went to lunch with her and another physicist and we talked all about superconductors and how a high Hirsch-index can be found with them!  Yay!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Conference Blog (Day 1)

Dear Diary,

I'm at a conference!  I have a really cool roomate from UC Merced.  He is presenting Saturday and we actually both know a guy in his lab!

I also got to talk with some other Master's students from CSULA and told them all about Irvine's condensed matter program!  This was done at a Halloween party with a laser show and music.  The author of the Bad Astronomy blog is going to give a talk tomorrow night.  He wore a hazard suit and DJ'd!

Wow, I didn't plan on getting Halloween candy, but this sure is a treat!  Ok, I have to get to sleep so that tomorrow I can be alert for the talks.  Goodnight!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Far West Regional APS Meeting (Part III)

Dear Diary,

Yikes.  I felt like I did not do my best presentation during the group meeting.  I succeeded in getting nervous throughout the first third of the presentation.  Hopefully, that's the end of being nervous.

The group had really good suggestions.  I need to express in plain language the intent of my talk right at the beginning instead of implying it.  People had trouble knowing what to expect.  If given a scaffold at the beginning, diary, the audience will be able to build the presentation with you during the talk.

And I spent all week on preparing for the conference (as well as other minor duties)!  It's tough work preparing and I want to make sure everything is in order...well, without spending months on it.  I better get moving on everything once I get back, and I need to remember to take some conference notes, report on what I see, and talk to three professors.

Oh no, Lucas!  I told Lucas I couldn't get the derivatives fit this week like he wanted but that didn't happen!  He moved off to a post-doc taking his expertise with him.  Worst of all, now when I have a meeting with Kieron, I don't have my Lucas crutch! Yikes!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Far West APS Meeting (Part II)

Dear Diary,

I found some fellow second year students who sat through a practice run of my talk.  It only cost me some treats (three pitchers and two baskets of curly fries) when we get together this next Wednesday!

Unfortunately, I did not give my best performance (read: "straight garbalage").  I always find it's difficult giving a presentation the first time because you become responsible for what is coming out of your mouth. But that first time is so necessary; it makes you want to never so poorly again!  Also, the faces of my confused comrades is permanently etched in my memory. Once I started talking, their terrified expressions of confusion gave me the best advice that can be given:  just don't do any of that next time!  I should have played it off as a trick... Happy Halloween!

A lot of my introduction was rushed and I believe that undermined the rest of the content.  Further, my video loaded slowly forcing me over my time (never good!).  That technical difficulty is brutal and must be mastered.

I got some very legitimate, serious questions (ex: "What the hell?!") and a few kudos (ex: "I'm sure the drinks will be great!").  In all, I feel it will very positively affect my performance come this Tuesday (when I present for the group) and Friday (when I present to strangers who super don't know me!) if I iron out the kinks.  It's on my shoulders to make sure it gets better, so I'll double my practice and make sure it makes sense as I sound the words out loud!

I should get back to working on it, diary!  I'll tell you how it goes!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Far West APS Meeting

Dear Diary,

We're going to conference!  The American Physical Society (APS) has several sections and we happen to be in the Far West division including Nevada, California, and Hawaii!

Each year, the section holds a regional meeting which is quite student friendly.  Lots of talks are given (no posters!) and lots of informative plenary sessions are given.  This year, there's even a Halloween reception bash the day before!

Myself and Kevin, the undergraduate, are heading up to the conference to give presentations.  I've already written mine and am practicing each night after my office mates go home to avoid disturbing them. I've tried to keep it to one slide per minute (the talks are only 10 minutes long) and I keep reshuffling items based on what makes sense in how I think through the presentation.

I contracted some other first year graduate students (with accumulated pub time afterward!) to critique my talk before giving it to the group on Tuesday.  Hopefully, this all whips my presentation into polished shape before the conference next Friday!

The hardest part will be to plan out what to wear.  Will it be the purple dress shirt or the blue one?  I suppose I could with a red shirt and dinner jacket or keep it business cazh--or ultra cazh.

I should also get a haircut...now to plan my costume...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Curriculum Vitae

Coup Blog, Day 2:

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke wanted to check our CVs.  He had us all put them up the projector so we could see how to improve them.

The other group members had colors, great formatting, and well chosen items.  They all said mine was crazy vintage--like it was from 50 years ago!

A few tips that we gleaned from looking at everyone's CV:

1)  Avoid information from high school
2)  Put wordy statements of research into another document
3)  Include group duties.  Like you, diary!
4)  Only include publications that are fully published or submitted
5)  Include links as a pdf and colors and pretty fonts
6)  List the people you supervised if they are below you in level
7)  List dollar amounts on prizes (at least for American opportunities)
8)  Make it so people want to hire you
9)  Little knobs can be useful (ex: undergraduate research)...so mentioning an activity might pique the reader's interest

Professor Burke said he needs these in case he's ambushed and needs to turn in someone for the reward!  I'll have to keep mine up to date and make it nice looking so I can get the benefit!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's a Coup (d'etat)!

Coup Diary, Day 1:


Today the militant wing of the group deposed Raphael and installed me as the new group manager.  I'm now in charge of the internet services, meeting notes, internal media, and everything else in this little democracy.  Only Justin (computer manager) and Aurora (spymaster) have any duties at the moment--though just about everything will change in a few weeks.

All I can promise my fellow group members is that everyone will be treated fairly.  Together we can expunge the devices of unproductivity and ensure that everyone is working to enhance the group's function.  To give anything less would be to submit to our common enemy, and if we obey those decrees given to us, then we will be victorious. To have more, we must produce more.  To produce more, we must know more.

...The strange thing is that when Raphael handed over the cookie purchasing duties and presentation markers/cables, he had a big grin on his face.  It was almost like he wanted to get rid of his job.  I need to go lie down before this power trip goes to my head...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jersey Shorse

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke treated us to dinner at his house last night.  He graciously provided us with a full meal and lavish deserts.  I'm still full and, thankfully, was not one of the main courses.  I forgot to take a picture of everyone, though, so I might be toast at tomorrow's group meeting.

Oh yeah, we even played a game where you substitute horse for a word in a television show!

A new postdoc has joined us.  Paul is coming to work on semi-classical projects with us.  He and his family seem really nice!  As soon as I figure out what his email is, I'll add him to Burke Blog Plus so he can get all the latest inside Burke knowledge.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Never Sleep In

Dear Diary,

For the first time in a while, I was going to sleep in this morning.  Big mistake!  I thought it might be nice to ease back into things.  However, the residence hall where I live decided that 8:15 am would be an ideal time for a fire drill (read: 'arson alarm' since they planned it).

But I have my weekly meeting with Professor Burke at 9 am.  What's a graduate student to do?! (Hint: advisor > arson alarm)

It seems like something out of the ordinary happens to me approximately every five days (plus or minus four) around here.  So, I was prepared.  I put in some of my enormous purple ear plugs and set off on the five minute walk to work.  A conversation with one of the staff herding people to a registration table went something like this:

"Head to the registration!" he said waving.
"Good morning!" I said.
Pointing, he says, "go over there!"
"Yes, it's a beautiful day!"
He looks exasperated and mutters something. I point to my ear plugs, put on my confused expressions, and then wander into work.  He'll never know what was going through my head!

In truth, the fire alarms periodically go off in my complex anyway--be it from an undergraduate overcooking something, an undergraduate smoking, an undergraduate pulling the fire alarm, an undergraduate being an undergraduate, a graduate student getting extra sleep/relaxing/getting work done, etc.  So, I'm truly desensitized to it by now.  Some nights I wonder if I can get to sleep if someone doesn't set off their alarm.  It's like counting sheep at this point.

It's a good thing I didn't go swimming this morning or else I wouldn't have been able to get back into my room and change.  I'm going to go and brush my teeth in the bathroom and purchase a croissant for breakfast.  C'est la vie!

Monday, October 7, 2013

More 1984

Dear Diary,

I'm back!  I have to get going on all my chores, research, and ABC of DFT duties.  Professor Burke asked me to set up a dropbox system on the university's EEE online websharing something something.

To do this, I logged onto EEE, saw that the boss had added me as an administrator and got to work.  To make a drop box, you just need to

1)  click on the course you're administrating under 'MyEEE'
2)  click on 'Dropbox'
3)  since we wanted one dropbox for each assignment, I clicked 'create a new dropbox' and followed the instructions

I even made three groups for each subsection:  Weenie DFT (the first few chapters of the ABCs), Tweenie DFT (the next few chapters of DFT...and Twilight fanfiction?!), and Advanced DFT (hard-core, 1999 mode physics).  I'm in the first two because I wanted to review the first few chapters from this last spring.  Now that I've got my feet wet, it might be good to take a fresh look at everything.  Li is joining me too, and Justin is teaching.

After adding everyone into groups, I apportioned the dropboxes and set a Wednesday (Tweenie)/Thursday (Weenie, Advanced) at 7am deadline. Students can upload their assignments by logging onto EEE after clicking on 'Dropbox.'  It should show right up with an intimidating message about the due date!

For now, I'll let students upload late homeworks but they'll be marked late.  They thought of everything--even shame!  The instructors (Justin, Raphael, and Professor Burke) can modify that if they want...well, except for me.  I couldn't simultaneously be an administrator and add myself as a student, so apparently mixing those roles together makes me a tyrannical hypocrite.  It appears our computer software is forcing me to make a power grab!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The bewitching hour(s)

Dear Diary,

I swear this is true:  It is impossible to get any work done during the week.  It is also impossible to get work done during the weekend.

The only time that actual productive work gets done?  A mystical second wind appears to give you a magical boost 5:30-7:30 pm on Friday evenings and Tuesdays around 9 am (this is when you fix what you messed up between 5:30-7:30 pm on the previous Friday).  Any other time is notoriously unproductive; it's as reliable as the sun rises.

Lucas had me fit an LDA functional for a few weeks now, and I finally got reasonable looking numbers.  Sure, there's a big discrepancy between using the numbers from the Kohn-Sham opposed to the LDA, but that's what Tuesdays at 9 am are for!

Paint has literally been drying faster than I've been able to work through this, but I feel like it's a big milestone in this little mini-project.  Now that we have the functional nearly fit, I can start running the programs that depend on those numbers and get to work on the next perplexing mini-issue.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My little secret

Dear Diary,

I've been keeping a secret from you. I failed my first qualification exam but SHH! Don't tell anyone!

Here, they don't give you your score, so it's really not possible to tell how I did on it, but they do tell you if you either passed, failed, or should get out of graduate school.  This second time, I passed after studying the previous exams and problems from the courses for several weeks.  It was such a relief that I missed this morning's seminar on the imposter syndrome!

But there's lots of work to be done...now I have to see what classes I'm taking...and work with physicists...and not earn nearly as much money as everyone else I know who has a job...and work with professor Burke for however many years he sees fit...and write this blog...

Oh God.  I've made a huge mistake passing the exam--it's too late!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We don't need no education

Dear Diary,

Whew!  What a day!  With Professor Burke away, I had to cover his math preparation course.  When I walked in, the students couldn't even tell that there was someone different teaching them (or was it Professor Burke the whole time and I'm at the conference?!).

A few days ago, Professor loosely mentioned to me that I should book the conference room in order to have a place for those young students to take their quizzes and sit.  I went over to the chemistry office and signed out the conference room, writing my name down in the book, and getting the key.

Before the lecture, I had to familiarize myself with all the course material.  So, I made solutions for all the quizzes they were about to take (on differential equations, basic complex analysis, and linear vector spaces) and read key passages of the book ("Basic Training in Mathematics" by R. Shankar...a big name in applying Quantum Field Theory methods to condensed matter systems...Happy 80th birthday year, Shankar!).  Unfortunately, as soon as I walked in the door, they asked me a question I hadn't reviewed!

So, I had to improvise a bit, but it worked out well.  30 minutes later, they were taking their quizzes.  Hopefully now they'll pass the differential equations quiz, but I have to find out since I need to grade and send the scores to the boss before the end of today!  I even answered one question about Hessians, huzzah!  The students seem to be a little worn down...but they're sure learning a lot!

Oh, and I made sure to return the key so someone else can use it.

Room Cleaning

Dear Diary,

Everyone went out of town to UCLA (or is that just in a different part of the same town?) for a conference on semi-classics.  Professor Burke sure finds a lot of these conferences to go to!

Since everyone is out of the office, I figured I'd do a little cleaning and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!  I think it's a keyboard!  It's FILTHY!  The keyboard for the mac computer in the corner looks like an orphan boy from the street in 19th century England.  Something must be done post-haste!

Mysteriously, the return key is completely clean.

I unplugged the computer and took it to the bathroom for a soapy, water filled cleaning.  It's now squeaky clean.  So long as I don't plug it back in for a few hours (a day?) it should work perfectly according to several Youtube videos and prior experience.  Now, when we have guests, they should have the vintage clean feel of an immaculate keyboard.  Did I just see it sparkle cleanliness in the fluorescent lights?  I think so!

Unfortunately, I didn't notice this yesterday.  With apologies to Attila and Professor Gross!

[Editor's note: One can also rectify dirty mouse wheels on the Apple computers by unplugging it, dropped some water in the wheel and working the dirt out.]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Office Space: I came through and I shall return

Dear Diary,

As I feared, I have a new desk.  I knew that the old desk was fleeting. Now my beloved wall calendar (I didn't even get to see what the picture is for August and September is almost upon us!) is forever stuck in July.

John wound up moving in, but I took his desk and switched the contact information on the website so Professor Burke can still find us.  The easiest part of the move was switching computers because I didn't have to.  I already had an account on this one.

Truthfully, I'm not sure what to do with all the extra desk space.  I've kept all of my books and things in approximately the same amount of space as before (approximately 1 by .5 meters) for fear that the rest of the table space is an illusion and can't be trusted.  I heard that at zoos, they only put a very small drop at the edge of giraffe cages and this is sufficient to prevent them from leaving.  You see, diary, the giraffes are so tall that they perceive even a small change in the landscape elevation as a large drop.  How exactly this applies to graduate students is a mystery since we do not have any extraordinary talents to take advantage of.  However, I seem to be psychologically unable to use the entire table space!  Tricksome zookeeper mischief is surely afoot!

Most importantly, I no longer have constant access to Lucas.  I will have to write down my questions and make the most efficient use of my meeting time with him.  Maybe I can even work through some of my questions by reading literature or group notes.  This could cut down on the amount of time that I bug him (but I will still need to bug him!).

Moral of the story:  Always turn your wall calendar to the next page at the beginning of the month.  You never know when you'll see your last day!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Butch Cassidy and Sundiary Kid

Dear Diary,

We're on the run!  Estamos bandidos Yanquis. Lucas sent me a copy of his thesis for publication on the website, but the library won't let you publish theses on your own until they have fully processed it and put it on their website.  Sorry, Lucas!  You'll have to wait a few months...It is good work, though, and should be shared with the entire world.

WORLD:  You'll have to wait too!  In the meantime, diary, we'll have to be wary of crossing the library.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lucas Defends


Lucas defended his thesis today to a packed classroom of assorted department members.  He was measured, focused, and took all of our suggestions from the presentation preview.  He also wore pleated pants (something I can not make work!).

Right now we're headed out to lunch with the newly minted doctor.  Congratulations Lucas!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cayley-Hamilton Tricks

Diary, OMG!

There's a super slick trick to find the inverse of a matrix.  Consider a 2 x 2 matrix and write out the characteristic polynomial.  For example, consider a matrix A

column 1:  2  1
column 2:  0  1

with characteristic polynomial in x:


But the Cayley Hamilton theorem says that we can replace the variable x by the matrix A.  So,


And multiplying on the left by the inverse gives


WHICH IS MIND BLOWING!  Where has this trick been all my mathematical life?!  It's on the same short cutting plane as Gaussian Elimination to solve systems of equations or finding out that Leif Ericson actually discovered America before Columbus!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Professor Burke asked me to put together the rule book for the group in a Latex document about how to manage your material on the group server.  I'll have more on that later.

While doing so, he dropped this: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of tiny minds" which is a dynamite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  After reading the entire essay, Self-Reliance, I now see that a lot of Professor Burke's insistence on being independent in your research has an intellectual brother in Emerson's writing.

Because I know you're a hipster, Diary, and wouldn't like me quoting the well known stuff, I'll give you my three favorite snippets:

"If I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil"
"Your goodness must have some edge to it, —else it is none."
"As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds"

Man, I feel like that last one everyday.  The worst part about this essay as that no matter how much I am attracted to it, I can never pick it up as my personal creed.  The whole point of it is to not blindly believe in anything...that means I can't even believe the people who are not blindly believing in anything!  So meta!

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say `I think,' `I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere.

Real subversive stuff! Till next time, Diary!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Imposter Syndrome

Dear Diary,

I've been feeling down lately.  Things aren't going my way.  I feel like I can't work to the level that I feel comfortable with.  I fear to know how bright and capable my colleagues think I am.

Oh wow!  What's this?!  It's a seminar for people who have "Imposter's Syndrome"?  Well, it seems like they've caught me.  I should go on September 19 to see how to be more confident about how others think of my work.

Hmm...can I even respectably go to this lecture if others know that I'm seeking help to be more confident?  This could backfire...but the website says that even women at Caltech have confidence issues.  And young girls in families tend to be typed into different social roles over their siblings.  Apparently, when a woman uses her '...intuitive perceptiveness and charm to gain approval...she feels that this praise is based on her charm and not on ability.'

Ok, I'm sold; this sounds like it could help me out.  There, I clicked the RSVP!  It's too late to turn my back on success now!

[Editor's note: Dr. Valerie Young author of "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women" will be giving a lecture on September 19 on this topic.


Friday, August 2, 2013

When you ride like lightning, you're gonna crash like thunder

Dear Diary,

I received some good research advice today and wanted to share it.

It is tempting to approach physics by making a lot of intuitive guesses.  The danger is, if you go too fast, your answer might be wrong or only right in certain cases.  The assumptions that you make may come back to bite you if you don't understand them or if nature doesn't agree.

Professor Burke wants to emphasize that the things we do demand the opposite.  You must go slowly and understand each step of the way.  A key point is to understand the style and assumptions of your derivation...not just the answer.

I should keep this mind while I continue studying: play it safe, take your time, and be transparent.  Check everything.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Having a Master's Degree is Beneficial (?)


Ever wonder how to stay in graduate school when there aren't any more classes to take?  Well, I asked and got a good answer today.  One must take research units.  Since Professor Burke is only  listed under the chemistry department's available research units, I should take those.

We also discussed the finer points of having a master's degree and a doctoral degree.  You see, diary, the master's degree in the American graduate lexicon is a fall back degree and there are only certain situations where it is useful.  If you're headed to Germany, it's Tuesday, and it's less than 12 degrees Celsius local temperature, it's not useful to have a master's degree.  If you're headed to Norway, don't have the doctoral degree in hand, and enjoy hot-tubbing, it's useful to have a master's degree.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Conferencing People is Easy

Dear Diary,

This week was busy (again).  I've encountered some hang ups on the research.  Namely, it isn't finished yet.  Lucas and I are mulling over how to a fit an energy correlation functional properly. Until we figure it out, I'm keeping my little computer humming with other calculations and my notes tidy.

One scary prospect that was revealed at this week's meeting was that you have to talk to at least three people when you go to conferences (!) as a house rule.  Professor Burke, Lucas, Raphael, and Justin all presented conference notes and insights from recent conferences they've attended (another house rule).  I'll have to be thoroughly paying attention and try not to lose focus during talks, diary!

I have notoriously bad luck with asking questions at conferences.  I once saw a talk that referenced 'flux trapping' and I was curious for more information.  The presenter, afterward, waived me off when I asked him if he could explain a bit more, but I was persistent and smiley and wanted a reference so he walked away saying only 'Blamire.'  Victory!  The other presenter I queried was working on things that I maybe could have used, but her talk was so popular that, even though I was the first one in line for a question, a deluge of post-docs and professors kept interrupting until I got too hungry and left politely for dinner.

Getting straight answers to three questions is going to require a lot of guile, diary.  Lucas and Justin seemed to ask their questions by staying smiley and polite-like.  I suppose one way to do this is to speak with the graduate students and work your way up to the professors.  In the meantime, I'll have to look up unknown words as I see them so I can understand presenters at the next conference.  Maybe I can keep a friendly attitude and get lucky at the next conference!

[Editor's note: a student attending a conference must speak with 3 professors]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Web Updates

Dear Diary,

Whew! What a week.  I wanted to come up for a breath of fresh air and let you know what was going on, Diary.

I got to update the website!  A group alumni, Attila Cangi submitted a paper with E.K.U. Gross and Professor Burke to Physical Review A. I had to update the bibtex file for the website, add the pdf to the master respository, and pick a pretty picture from the paper.  I went with a swanky function diagram even though all the submitted figures were worthy candidates!

Professor Burke came back, but Lucas left for the week.  You know, you almost never see Lucas and Professor Burke in the same place at the same time...I have a list of questions to ask Professor Burke about the website updates, and I bet he'll want to see all the progress I've made on the research!  Hopefully individual meetings will start up soon!

Remembering back to the Burkely Quarterly submission, I see that I have not heard back.  Sometimes reviewers take a while to process the information you've thrown at them and get behind on reviewing.  So, maybe a gentle, courteous query to the editor would let me know what's going on.

Oh, and Diary, one person is following us!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Return of the Super Lucas

Dear Diary,

Dr. Lucas came back today!  Just like he said he would!

I gave him a quick review of what I've managed to do over the past few days (graphs, numbers, etc.).  Afterwards, he went onto his computer, fixed the inversions, DMRG, and our local computing cluster during my lunch break with surgical precision.  The project is now way ahead!

About that computer running slowly:  There was some hullabaloo about how slowly the main computing cluster was running this morning. Detective Lucas, Ph. D. did some grade A sleuthing and found the culprit was a Matlab program not running in the queue (always queue!). We identified the original suspect since his digital fingerprints were all over the file (exposed by the 'top' command).  This guy was a former summer member of the group, but his alibi was airtight! As it turns out, it was John the whole time! Yay, Lucas!

Lucas then went over to Ms. Jenny Du with all the souvenir receipts from his trip. One thing to keep in mind if we travel, Diary, is that you can get reimbursed for the miles you drive.  So I'll have to keep a log of that (with receipts!).

Lucas lucked into a neato trick to access a file.  He had a bunch of folders in a directory with only one that had "redo" at the end of it.  He typed cd *redo and it worked!  If the folder isn't unique, then it goes to the first one on the list...Ok, so maybe that's not that interesting.  The way I originally understood the problem and solution was completely thrilling, but I didn't have it right until Lucas helped me out!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ghost Offices

Hi Diary,

Everyone around here seems to have taken an early weekend.

I'm continuing to run some things for the project.  I gave a project description to the group at last Tuesday's meeting and it went well.  I didn't know everything about the project and everybody's questions were helpful in showing me where I need to study further.

At one point, I was asked what Random Phase Approximation is.  I knew where it came from in quantum field theory but not in DFT.  Everybody wanted an explanation of quantum field theory but it didn't go over well.  Especially the part about the mattress.

One important note, diary, is to check in with your supervisor (in my case Lucas) periodically about what you're doing on the project.  Lucas and I had an email exchange where it looked like I'd gotten off track, but it turns out that I was doing exactly what we agreed on.  It's good to know I haven't been wasting too much time.

Oops!  It looks like it's the Fourth of July.  Maybe I'll try to find a spot on the beach so I can see the fireworks.  If it's clear, then all the fireworks from north of Long Beach to San Diego can be seen and it seems like each town down the coast has a display.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Burkely Quarterly

Yo, Diary.

What a week!  I put you together, made a folder for new people, and wrote my weeklies.  That is, pulling my daily notes ('dailies') into one weekly bundle!

I also submitted to the Burkely Quarterly (/pbe/gamma/elib/tex/proj/[initials]/1page)!  I formatted everything down to one page, got some people to look over it, and even put some nice little frames on the figures.  Hopefully the reviewers like it as much as I do!

Raphael wants me to give the group presentation next Tuesday.  Yikes!  I barely have anything done.  Unfortunately, I can't use you again, Diary.  I want to have something new each time I present so it looks like I'm making progress.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Dear Diary,

Justin and Lucas are headed to a conference soon!  I happened to eavesdrop on their conversation about how to print posters.  I went ahead and added a poster template to the beginning's students sample folder on pbe.

Bon voyage, bros!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I have 1,984 fingers


Very exciting day. I made a calendar that will track all of my working hours, vacation time, and whereabouts.  For classified reasons, Professor Burke would like to know where we are at all times.

I went on to my Google calendar through my UC Irvine email address and created a calendar with all my life's details.

First, I Logged in to Gmail
Then I went to `Calendar'
Clicked on `Settings' (upper right)
Clicked on `Calendar' (again) and `Edit Shared Settings'
Then I added the group emails to the email list

Any vacation time to countries that don't extradite to the US should be added to the calendar (Edward Snowden is in big trouble with his bosses for not doing so!).  I also added my dentist appointment in a week.  The standard nine to five working hours seemed to be a good start, but I want to work up to getting in around 7 and leaving at 6 (or later).

I'm going to go and get lunch right now, but I wrote on the calendar that I'll only take 40 minutes, so I better get going.  Later diary!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Meeting people is easy

Dear Diary,

John ran the meeting today while Professor Burke was out (or is it the other way around?!).

We started by introducing everyone to the new summer interns.  Jessica is going to be a senior in high school but doesn't think she has anything interesting to say; however, she does have an identical twin sister (so maybe her identical twin sister has nothing interesting to say?!).  Isabel is a junior in college and was raised in Shanghai.  Tarik is a senior in high school and captain of the improv Comedy Sports team.

For the record, my position on improv comedy favors Improv Olympic over Upright Citizens Brigade, but maybe we'll be treated to a pan left/pan right, a game of superheros, or a long form before the summer is finished!

Li also gave a stellar presentation, and I got to talk about you, diary!

I can't wait to get to know everyone and pump out some high quality physics.  It was great to meet everyone!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back in the saddle again

Good Morning, Diary!

I'm back from a refreshing vacation and my head is totally clear.  I have so much work to do, though!  I'd better get moving on finishing up a few loose ends.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Dear Diary,

I'm taking a small vacation to British Colombia for a break now that the quarter has ended.  I'm looking to recharge my batteries after a taxing quarter but also really want to keep working on the research.  I know that I'll be motivated when I get back and hopefully I can get things done today that I've let slide during the quarter.

Namely, I hope to organize my notes and calculate a few things for Miles and Lucas.

Professor Burke allows three weeks of vacation not including Christmas.  These can not roll over into the next academic year. Luckily, I was prodigious enough to write up all my notes and make some pretty graphs before leaving today, so I won't feel too guilty about taking some of that time now.  I haven't felt like myself recently, so maybe a vacation will help me get into a good researching mode in the summer.

I'll be back when physics is fun again.

Friday, June 14, 2013

State of the Union

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke gave a state of the union address today.  Chiefly, he was promoted.

We talked about a plan to make plans over the next five years.  Professor Burke wants to branch out a bit and do some things that would be useful for the DFT community.

He said he was very proud of everyone and that we should continue to do good work.  Wow, diary, I have some big group shoes to fill!  I should keep on working on the projects I've been given and hope that I can work up to the group standard.

Author order


I had an interesting conversation with Lucas today.  We're moving along with the paper and will soon need to write and submit it.

But what should the author order look like?  Apparently, this depends on the type of physics you are practicing.  Astronomers tend to go alphabetically as do particle physicists.  In condensed matter, the main investigator (Professor Burke) goes last while the guy who did all the menial labor goes first.  That's me!

What we couldn't agree on is who gets the the contact information (a little star indicating who to email with questions).  I was of the opinion that it should be Professor Burke, but Lucas has been giving it to himself.  I have noticed that on other papers that Professor Burke seems to give this to someone else.  I'll have to see when I get the paper written who gets what markings next to their name.

And I'll have to be on my toes if someone emails me about the project!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Walter Kohn!

Dear Diary,

We've all been given an assignment to create a one page, journal style article on a tidbit from our research to submit to the Burkely Quarterly.  I have decided to do this on a small project that Lucas has given me.  I don't think it's anything new, but I enjoyed thinking about it.  It will make a nice one page read for the in-group reviewer and a great exercise to practice submitting a paper to an established journal.

I put a template for the assignment in the new person folder on pbe.

Our group meeting today was full of useful information.  Professor Burke got promoted and wants to take us to dinner. John isn't invited since he hasn't paid Kieron back for a breakfast yet.  The new people must wait some time to prove themselves.  Aurora isn't available since she leaves on Friday.  Lucas is gone on Wednesday, and Raphael isn't back yet.  Miles is also leaving soon for the Canadian perimeter. Despite all of this, Professor Burke will be eating dinner tonight.

Miles gave a really good final synopsis of the work that he and Lucas have done so far.  There are a few snags in the code that wants to work out before leaving.

Professor Burke also told us all about Walter Kohn's 90th birthday celebration.  There were a lot of famous physicists there and Professor Burke wants us to pull a big surprise for him and all his friends when he is 90.

Oh, and diary, you're going online.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Presentation Tips

Dear Diary,

Raphael gave a practice talk at today's meeting.  Professor Burke has decided to hood Lucas at the coming graduation, so Raphael will be substituting for Professor Burke at the conference.

Or will Raphael be at the Graduation and Professor Burke at the conference?!

Professor Burke called on me afterwards to give constructive criticism and pitted me against Raphael Hunger Games style.  The odds were certainly not in my favor, but I had fortunately been taking notes and had a few comments:

1.  Avoid acronyms
2.  Make sure items are large enough to be seen from the background
3.  Use a sans seriff font to avoid curly characters
4.  Don't shift around
5.  Have a sense of humor, but don't be funny (no xkcd cartoons)
6.  Practice the first few slides a lot of time to avoid hiccuping in the beginning
7.  Practice often
8.  Smile!

and that was about it.  Number 5 was controversial because while xkcd cartoons are amateurish, putting Spock and evil Spock onto a slide in a careful way is classy.

Raphael managed to avoid all of these and gave a great presentation.  Hopefully I can sharpen my skills up to his level quickly!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Less time programming, more time lunching

Dear Diary,

In order to make things more mechanical and avoid my clumsy human error, I made some shell scripts to run the programs for different parameter values.  Everything now works after one click and I don't have to reset everything by hand each time I want to rerun the program.

You see, all the terminal commands that you would normally put into the terminal can be loaded in a text file (extension: .sh) that begins with #!/bin/sh so that when you run the file.sh (by typing ./file.sh), the commands are run in order in the terminal.  You see, diary, technology has made life better.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Meet the new guys

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke is taking on summer interns for reasons unclear.  In principle, they'll get some work experience.  In practice, they might try to take my job.  I've decided that everyday I will come in early and leave later than everyone to make sure that no one takes my desk or my wall calendar.

This will also allow me time to work on some things on my project.

Lucas was really nice in explaining some things from his notes today.  I learned what a Wigner crystal is!  It's a solid where background positive charges localize electrons.  Lucas used it to derive a low density limit expression for what everything should look like.  I can't wait to tell the boys back in the astronomy office that I got to work with a theoretical Wigner crystal.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Building Keys

Dear Diary,

I paid a visit to the Chemistry office to get keys today.  The secretary prefers to deal with keys between 1pm and 3pm, so I had to plan that out.  Professor Burke signed a form and sent an email to make sure I was legit.  I also fortunately had the one time $25 deposit.

Monday, May 27, 2013

My First Journal Club and Seniority Battles

 Dear Diary,

At group meeting today, the chores were re-alloted.  So were the desks.  The selections were determined by seniority.  For the record, the order was

Professor Burke

I assume that undergraduate Kevin is somewhere in the middle, but he didn't come to the meeting.

Professor Burke decided to keep his office and Lucas took Stephano's desk. Everyone else passed on Lucas' old desk, so I now occupy a small corner desk with a lovely photo of a tropical beach on an American Lung Association calendar. Next month: The Grand Canyon! I also scored a sweet peg-board for important looking notes.

As soon as the new post-doc arrives, we will be shuffling the desks again.  I'll have to find a way to make sure that he doesn't want my desk because clearly it's the best one and the envy of everyone in the group.

A second seniority draft was held for computing resources.  People tend to get rid of their older, noisier computers for newer, quieter computers.  Li wanted something running a Mac operating system and some shuffling occurred sending Justin's machine to Li, Raphael's to Justin, and Raphael getting a new computer.

Professor Burke reassigned chores.  It looks like someone has to take John and Lucas's old jobs, so I'll be both the new group meeting note taker and web manager!  Lucas' job will be hard to perform since he has the refined dry wit and humor of a cartoon in the New Yorker.  I'm worried that they'll soon learn my humor of choice is physical comedy and that it won't translate onto the page.  John has given me stern warnings to always be funny which I suppose includes continuing to post mathematically themed cat pictures on the website.  I'll also have to learn how to program a website...

We then had a journal club where people brought in papers to share by giving a short presentation.  Everyone should always have a backup, peer-reviewed paper handy, so I've decided to carry a printout in my back pocket and put a copy on the pbe server under /elib/tex just in case there's a sneak-Journal Club attack.

Professor Burke finished by telling us how rotten the academic job market is, how professors never have time for anything fun, and the likelihood that we'll all have to become dancers after the sequester takes away all our funding.  The good news is he was able to clear out his unread email messages over the Memorial Day vacation.  Hooray!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Professor Burke, I presume?


Professor Burke stopped me in the hallway during my meeting with Lucas because he's looking for someone to pretend to be him at functions where he's double booked.

It's sort of like the movie Dave where a guy impersonates the president.

In particular, the department throws tours in the spring so that prospective students can survey the department and avoid making the biggest mistake of their physics careers.  Professor Burke wants someone to present a poster on the research that we're doing.  Thinking back on all the conversations we've had, I'm trying to see if I've been talking to Professor Burke or a body double.  In the future, I'll have to be on my toes about this.  I think one time Aurora sat in for Professor Burke at a group meeting.

He was also dismayed that I got a haircut (due to excessive friz), because I don't look quite like Dr. Who as much anymore, and he wanted a photograph.  I'll have to start using conditioner and grow it out again.  So, I need to start bringing in a jacket, scarf, and the current iteration of my good-looking female side kick with whom I have a strictly platonic adventurship with from time and space to time and space.  I am to leave my TARDIS and daleks at home.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Working towards As while learning C(++)


Classes have really been eating into my research time.  I successfully ran the codes that Lucas told me about.  I've decided to pick up on code while I learn what it means to maximize my working time.  They say that it's better to start working on something right away than read a lot of literature first.  That's because you can be productive while you pick up the finer points of the research.

The group likes to use C++, but my background is in Fortran.  There seem to be a lot of online sampler programs and books in the library that I want to use to learn C++.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is LDA?

Dear Diary,

I learned about another way to use DFT today called the Local Density Approximation.

Normally quantum mechanics works by solving a Hamiltonian for a wave function and then determining all the properties from that wave function.  If you take the modulus of the wave function, you can find the density of the electrons in the system.

Now, Density Functional Theory relies on having the density and plugging that into something called a functional which takes a function (here, our density) to a number.  If you write down an approximation to a functional using only powers of the density (and not the derivatives), then you're using a Local Density Approximation (LDA).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Notes and Computers

Dear Diary,

The group Computer Whiz has set me up with several computers.  First, there is a computer that he works on.  I am to run all the code for that on this computer.  Second, there is a software hub on the internet named GitHub that the group uses to make available its software.  There are also several big computers to run larger codes that I can use if I make something that big.

Now, there is also a server called pbe (PBE is a functional that Professor Burke made with two of his friends...we'll have to talk about that later, diary!) that is public for everyone in the group.  So, work that I create needs to be on that server.  Professor Burke says that if I'm hit by a bus, then the next, younger, brighter, and more machine-like student should be able to pick up my current research in a snap.

I have my own personal folder under the home directory marked by my username.  I've formatted it so I can find things easily in there.  I also need to make sure that a copy of all the work is under /home/pbe/gamma where everyone else's stuff is.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What is Hartree Fock?

Dear Diary,

Today we learned in the ABC of DFT about Hartree Fock. 

Finding the wave function for all electrons is difficult because the electrons push on each through a Coulomb force.  It would be advantageous to calculate the wave function of one electron with the others stationary and then calculate the rest of the electrons sequentially.  Once you go around the set of electrons a few times, then things will stop changing and you have a good approximation as to where the electrons should be.  One way to do this is by writing the wave function as a Slater determinant.

Density Functional Theory is all about approximations, and there are a lot of them, so I'll try to keep you in the loop, diary.

My first project

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke wants me to take a warm up project to start off with.  His prized student Lucas and post-doc Miles are comparing what Density Functional theory looks like in 1D against the highly accurate DMRG.  The end goal is to find lessons on how to apply DFT in three dimensions with these comparisons.

One project, which seems to be lurking around in pieces on the group server is an investigation with expellium (exponential interaction + jellium) where the regular Coulomb interaction has been replaced by an exponential interaction.  I am to find all the pieces of this project and formulate a paper on it before August.

As a part of a weekly, individual meeting with Professor Burke, I should type up an individual meeting note and send it to him.  I included a sample of my first note in the new person folder on pbe for new students.  It's located inside the Beginner's Guide.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I joined the group!

Dear Diary,

I finally got a chance to accept Professor Burke's offer.  I can't help but wonder if I've played right into his plans.  He said as soon as a desk opens up, I could move into the building with the rest of the group.

He also wants me to take the ABC of DFT introductory course.  He's written a book over the past few years with his students to introduce the topic.  The Chemistry department offers the course as a class for credit, so I'll take some units and show up for all the meetings.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I'm in the group!


Professor Burke took a poll of everyone in the group and offered me the last spot on the group.  I guess I didn't make everyone angry!  I'm very keen to accept and will tell him that tomorrow.

Right now, the quarter is taking up a lot of my time, and I should probably concentrate on the classes since they're only a few weeks long.  I only get once chance to do well in my classes, but I'll make sure I put in a lot of effort over the summer to produce high quality research.

Maybe I can sneak in some research anyway...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Introductory Research Presentation

Dear Diary,

I gave my research presentation today to the group and it started as a disastor.  I misread the email that was announcing the meeting and showed up 18 minutes late (which I thought would be 12 minutes early).

After that, everything went ok.  I filled up the 30 minutes with what I'd done for my Master's degree, took some questions, and half of the people from the beginning were still there at the end!

Professor Burke will get back to me in a few days with a decision.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Decision to Join

Dear Diary, 

I can't help but be interested in what this group does.  Lots of people say that it's old physics and that I should only do it if I really want to, but I can't help but be interested by it.  I'm afraid I'll have to try to get into the group.

I told the Group Manager that I want to schedule the talk. The next meeting is in two weeks, so I'll have some time to prepare a 30 minute introductory mini-lecture on my previous research.

Monday, March 4, 2013

First Group Meeting

Dear Diary,

I went to my first group meeting today and got to meet everyone.  All of Professor Burke's students are really nice, but I don't know any of their names. I've decided to keep a low profile since graduate students are meant to be seen and not heard.

One of the post-docs, Miles, gave the first of a few talks on the renowned Density Matrix Renormalization Group (DMRG).  Apparently the method is a computational way to renormalize density matrices in a group and a really slick way to calculate things in one dimension.  I took good notes and will see if I can figure out what they mean as I go forward.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What is DFT?

Dear Diary,

I suppose I should give some details about the group and Professor Burke so we can all get to know each other.

We chatted about the group's focus which is using Density Functional Theory to investigate fundamental physics.  There is also the small concern of how to use DFT accurately.

As an example, there was a new airplane with a cutting edge lithium battery that had to be grounded because the batteries are prone to catching fire.  One of the ways to guess how batteries (and other things) will function (how much charge will be stored, etc.) is to use Density Functional Theory. This happens even before you make it.  Professor Burke makes a living making refining the technique and helping to make more accurate predictions.

Sounds exciting!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Diary: Day 1

Dear Diary,

I met with Professor Kieron Burke today to talk about joining his group.  He immediately was very kind in offering me coffee. However, diary, I only drink tea. This was nearly a deal breaker.

He'll be away for a month, and that gives me some time to get to know his group and what they do in more detail.

I am supposed to keep this diary until otherwise.  Future students might even read it to see how to join Professor Burke's group!  Looks like we'll be best friends, diary, but we better keep it useful for whoever's next.