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.