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Old 04-12-2009, 04:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Scientists of KATG

I'm making this thread because I've been curious about fans within KATG that might be scientists or are on their way to becoming one. Part of the reason I want to know is because I am currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate studying physics. I'm finishing my second year and have intentions of seeking a Ph.D. on the subject by going to graduate school.

Another reason is that Keith and Chemda have expressed how much they enjoy hearing that they have listeners who have earned doctorates, and if all goes well, I'll be one of them. So here is a chance to let them know.

Lastly, I guess I just want to hear what you guys have to say on the matter: going through school, how it was after, are you happy doing what you are doing, and so on. I guess what I'm getting at, is that I tend to doubt myself and what I am doing with my life and want to hear what you guys think. I am under a lot of pressure for a wide variety of reasons; grades, work, money etc. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy physics, but for example I doubt that I am smart enough and if I am not, then I might just be wasting time and money.
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Old 04-12-2009, 05:58 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I figure I may as well get the ball rolling and say a bit about myself.

My name is Francisco and I was born in Quito, Ecuador (South America). I came to the Unites States when I was 8. I speak both Spanish and English, although my Spanish has taken a hit since I don't speak it very often now. I've moved around several times but now I go college in Austin as I mentioned above. In retrospect, I guess I've always leaned towards studying physics even if I didn't know it till a few years ago. Having studied several topics within physics gives me the sense that I understand the world a little different now then I did before. Not only in how it works, but also in how I can try to understand it through what little I know of it. I imagine it may be how someone in the film industry sees movies. They'll spend time not only thinking about what was shown to them on-screen, but also wondering about all the effort that went into making it; the cinematography, the editing, the score, even the lighting which the audience might not ever think about.

For better, or for worse, I am stubborn as a mule; to the point that my first grade teacher pointed it out to me despite not knowing what the word 'stubborn' meant until I asked my mom about it (and consequently gave her a good laugh). It's bad in the sense that, for example, I have a hard time letting go of an argument even if getting my point across ends up being to my own detriment. But it's helpful in the sense that it pushes me to meet the standards I set for myself. For example, it's 6:00 A.M. right now, but I will not go to sleep until I study for a subject which I hate, Biology, for an exam I don't have for another four days.

As mentioned before, I enjoy physics to the point that I can't see myself doing anything else. However, I constantly tell myself this, because any time I don't, I am probably telling myself how delusional it is for me to think I could be smart enough to be a physicist. That's is not to say I don't do well in the subject; I've managed to gain A's and B's so far. But still, the doubt is there, and it does not go away.

Being a physics major doesn't leave much time for many other things. And what time is left, is usually taken up by working with a research group I've joined this past year. Weekends are no longer a time of relaxation, but more of a time of prolonged guilt over what I should have done already. Social events are not so much college parties, as they are times when people get together for a purpose other than studying.

But the question still remains, would I do it all over again? I think so far the answer is clear; yes I would. Despite the amount of time and effort it takes from me, I still enjoy it at the end of the day.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:12 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm doing a degree in computer science at the moment, though it's probably not what you're talking about.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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My first degree was in chemistry.....but the #1 thing I learned is that I hate chemistry. I have never done anything related to that degree. I stare at IC's all day now.
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Old 04-12-2009, 07:08 AM   #5 (permalink)
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i study aerospace engineering in Italy. kinda cool but i'm not nerdy enough so it's taking me a little longer
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chespirito View Post
As mentioned before, I enjoy physics to the point that I can't see myself doing anything else. However, I constantly tell myself this, because any time I don't, I am probably telling myself how delusional it is for me to think I could be smart enough to be a physicist. That's is not to say I don't do well in the subject; I've managed to gain A's and B's so far. But still, the doubt is there, and it does not go away.

Being a physics major doesn't leave much time for many other things. And what time is left, is usually taken up by working with a research group I've joined this past year. Weekends are no longer a time of relaxation, but more of a time of prolonged guilt over what I should have done already. Social events are not so much college parties, as they are times when people get together for a purpose other than studying.
Hey Francisco,

UT's an amazing school, I studied there as a high-schooler, and for two years, before getting a chance to move to the coast.

I don't have time to dish out the usual shpeal that I give undergrads, but Terrence Tao has a nice list of essays and links to career advice in Science:

Career advice What’s new

Read all of it.

I'm a biomedical engineer (studied Computer Science/Engineering and Biology), but I find physics fascinating to a level that it completes my soul. Only creating things out of wire, brings me greater joy.

Self-doubt is healthy; even the greatest Scientists have moments of critical introspection, but trust your intuitions. You're in an intensely competitive field. You have ~200 years of knowledge to ingest before being able to push the field further. That alone, kept me away.

Visit as many labs as you can. Find the smartest, most creative group, and see how you fit in. Try to feel constantly challenged; have smart friends. Start applying your knowledge as soon as possible. No need to wait for a class assignment. Pick up some graduate textbooks and try pushing your way through them.

If you have trouble with Math, pick up some popular mathematics books:

- The Prime Obsession
- Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula
- e: The Story of a Number
- An Imaginary Tale: The Story of "i"

Get a sense of the history of Science, and the pursuit that you're now a part of.

Oh yeah, and grab some vegan nonsense at the Wheatsville Co-Op and spend a day trolling Half Price Books.

EDIT: One more last bit, try to find meaning in everything you do. Many professors and advisers have already cast their die; it's up to you to determine whether or not what you are doing is important.

I'm sure Forbin can give you some advice. IIRC, he's a physicist.
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Last edited by dzagama; 04-12-2009 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 04-12-2009, 02:13 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I identify problems, make an educated guess at solutions, and test my guess in order to learn. I publish my findings in respectable journals to advance my peers. Over the last 15 years I have changed the way many in my field create their technical designs.
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Old 04-12-2009, 02:20 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I identify problems, make an educated guess at solutions, and test my guess in order to learn. I publish my findings in respectable journals to advance my peers. Over the last 15 years I have changed the way many in my field create their technical designs.
Actually, this is a great way to get into the research spirit.

Grab a journal, or find a cool research project online, read the abstract, and try to figure out how you would solve the same problem without reading the procedure.

It's incredibly satisfying coming up with solutions on your own.

/sluuuuuurp

Last edited by dzagama; 04-12-2009 at 05:03 PM.
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Old 04-12-2009, 03:45 PM   #9 (permalink)
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One time I made a volcano with baking soda and stuff.
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Old 04-12-2009, 04:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm sure Forbin can give you some advice. IIRC, he's a physicist.
I thought my ears were burning.

Yes, my PhD was in atomic and plasma physics. Without going into too much detail about who I am, I've kind of moved careers, I now work on the biophysics of protein folding. I'm also director of a microscopy core and have about 30 publications, including a text book, so I've been around a bit.

So, that covers who I am, I'll post some advice on Monday when I have a moment.

Last edited by Forbin; 04-13-2009 at 10:24 AM.
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