From Phase Walks to Undergraduate Research

This week I put together a couple of brief descriptions for possible research projects for final-year undergraduate and/or Masters students in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, and I was reminded of the value of projects like this when I found this paper on the arXiv:

In fact the `Phase Walk Analysis’ developed here is based on an original idea I had for an undergraduate summer research project when I was at Nottingham University and have mentioned before on this blog. The student who did the project with me was Andrew Stannard (who is now at King’s College, London) and the work led to a paper that was published in a refereed journal in 2005 and has now been cited 21 times by various authors including the Planck Team.

Although Andrew is now working in a completely different area (Condensed Matter Physics), I like to think this taste of research was of at least some assistance in developing his career. Above all, though, it relates to something I read in the Times Higher by astronomer, Nobel Prize winner, and Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, namely that the idea that many politicians seem to have of separating teaching from research in universities is at best misguided and at worst threatens the very idea of a university.

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12 Responses to “From Phase Walks to Undergraduate Research”

  1. “the idea that many politicians seem to have of separating teaching from research in universities is at best misguided and at worst threatens the very idea of a university”

    Feynman was offered a job at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, which he declined on the grounds that it had no teaching commitment. They then offered him a joint appointment with Princeton University, which would allow him to teach. He then, in his Far Rockaway accent, told them to get lost. 🙂

    Of course, not everyone is good at both teaching and research. Einstein, for example, was not a good teacher. There are excellent teachers who are not good at research. But these, and those who are good at both, should all work at the same place.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Nobel week coming up; physics on Tuesday.

    • Yes, I have informed the Committee of the Nobel Foundation of my new Irish mobile phone number.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        But apart from you, who do you consider the favourite?

      • I’m not sure if they are favourites but I’d like to see it go to Yakir Aharonov and Michael Berry.

        Given how trendy Quantum Technology is these days, however, it might go to, e.g., Peter Zoller.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Aharonov and Berry would be for quantum phase. Too late for David Bohm, who published the Aharonov-Bohm paper, but in any case they had unknowingly been scooped by 10 years. I shall read the earlier Ehrenberg-Siday paper and see just how similar it is. Too late also for RG Chambers, who verified it experimentally.

        One year, the Nobel should be divided between the surviving people who worked on Bell stuff and its experimental verification. Anton Zeilinger would be a good bet if so.

      • “One year, the Nobel should be divided between the surviving people who worked on Bell stuff and its experimental verification. Anton Zeilinger would be a good bet if so.”

        My thoughts exactly.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        What is wrong with the BBC? The Nobel Prize for medicine was announced this morning and there is no mention of it on bbc.co.uk ‘s science frontpage (only a mention of one of this uyear’s IgNobels from a fortnight ago).

      • telescoper Says:

        There is this article, published 4 hours ago but it seems not to be accessible from the top:

        https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45704322

      • SET MODE/CYNIC

        They are just getting ready for Brexit, after which no-one will care what happens in the rest of the world.

        SET MODE/NORMAL

        If the BBC hasn’t reported it, who has? It was in the main German news outlets at most minutes after the official announcement.

        In any case, good choice!

  3. As usual, the diatribes claiming that the Nobel Prizes are harming science begin. Even if I don’t agree with someone, I expect them to get the facts straight: “Worse, regulations later imposed by the Nobel prize committee increased the injustices – in particular, the rule that states that no more than three people can win an individual science Nobel.” Actually, Nobel specified just one person, and the rule was later changed to allow it to be split.

  4. […] and molecular systems. Fittingly, given the scale-independent nature of some of these patterns, Andy’s research career started in astronomy (with the aforementioned Peter […]

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