Tuesday, December 31, 2013

March Meeting Timeslot

Diary,

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!

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
John
Lucas
Aurora
Raphael
Justin
Li
Me

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?

Diary,

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(++)

Diary,

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!

Diary,

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.