Saturday, October 28, 2006

Square One

Well. Sigh.

For those of you that read this know that I am working on my PhD in physics. I work at the Fermi National Laboratory on one of the experiments called D-Zero. When I think about the sentance, "I work at the Fermi National Laboratory, the biggest physics lab in the world" (biggest for the next couple years anyways), I think that's a pretty cool sentance. Everyone I work with either has a PhD in physics or is working towards one, so the group that surrounds me is, ok they are REALLY nerdy, but pretty smart folks.

Being a grad student I don't yet to be one of the pretty smart folks. I have been working on my thesis analysis since about February and since then it's been going ok. There has been a lot of, "When are you going to be done? When are you going to have a plot? Where is it going to have a write up?" and not a lot of, "Do you understand this? Can you show me exactly what you are doing and explain it?" So I have been mosying down a path and making plots and all the numbers have been basically where they should be. "Are you going to have a central value by this week? I think so!"

That was until Tuesday when my advisor asked me something and when I answered he said, "Oh, well you can't do that" Oh really? um....pretty major flaw in what I have been doing. After looking at my code for the last few days it has become apparent that I can't use the fitting method I have been working with because there are limitations with it. I literally had to start all over yesterday, trying to get the first fit I got many months ago. With my office mate helping me it also because very evident that I am way behind in the mathematical understanding of what is happening with the physics and what it is that I am actually measuring.

I asked myself last night at dinner why did this happen. Is it all my advisors fault for not making sure I understand what I am doing and just asking for more plots? Maybe. Maybe it's like 10% his fault. But what is wrong with me that I wasn't sure in what I was doing? I just blindly went ahead with this method and told myself, I think I understand it, I kinda get it. I thought that would be good enough. OF COURSE IT'S NOT YOU IDIOT.

So I'm back at square one. New programming techniques &new mathematical methods, here I come. Hopefully with these annoyances will come a better zen like understanding though. I just have to do enough each day to not quit, because when 6ish months of work get deleted quitting seems like the easier step, and seems like what I deserve for being so out of touch with the physics. However, I haven't been fired yet, and so until that happens I am going forward....forward into what I still have no idea but forward none the less.



Full Metal Lunchbox said...

I'm sorry for your setback.  That's gotta hurt.

But fortunately you are no ordinary grad student; you just ran a sub-4 marathon.

I am convinced you can do absolutely anything.

Running Jayhawk said...


I'm with Josh on this one. If you can run that fast for 26.2 miles, you can do anything under the sun.

This is just a speedbump on the way to your PhD.

It sounds like what you could REALLY use, is a drunken afternoon at Cans.

Arcaner said...

PhD candidate in physics? Woww, i'm impressed. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can step forwards. As long, as you learn from your mistakes, you'll be fine.

Scott said...

A huge mistake in understanding usually leads to even bigger strides toward clarity and understanding. Be strong, skeptical, and keep your sense of humor.


Tim said...

Leah- Don't quit! I wasted about a year on a project that went nowhere and they still let me graduate. Plus I'm 100% sure every grad student has several moments like yours- I know I did. You'll figure it out and come up with an even better method...

Bob said...

Hang in there Leah. In my world half of what I do turns out to be good for nothing. Bid a job work and work on it and lose it by a small small amount of money. Life goes on, you will be back on track in no time. :)

Firefly's Running said...

Leah, hang in there. You are alot smarter in physics than me and can not do it. Hell, you just did AWESOME last weekend. You rock!

Thomas said...

That really sucks, but your own blog tells you how to deal with this:

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Thomas.
And like Jayhawk I'm sending you a hug.
It will get better.

Josh said...

It will be okay. You're a rockstar, so this is nothing. I don't know if you like your advisor or not, but (s)he does shoulder much more than 10 percent of the fault. Like 1/2. He didn't live up to his role of advising. I said, you'll be good. Rockstar.

Lana said...

Ugh. That sucks, Leah. So sorry. Keep moving forward, though, you'll get there. More hugs to you!!