My first research job offer. Sort of.

I was at a departmental welcome barbecue (yes, physicists can have social events!) and I wound up talking to Chan Kee Jung, a professor here at Stony Brook who’s well known in the world of neutrino physics (he headed up the experiment that first showed evidence of neutrino oscillation, but that’s another story). When I first saw him, however, I had no idea who it was, because as far as I could tell, it was just some big, stocky Korean with a pony tail, a Hawaiian shirt and a hotdog in each hand, talking to a handful of physics students about why a follow-through is important if you want to punch someone.

I crashed the conversation and discovered that Dr. Jung teaches a course called “The physics of sports” for nonscience students at Stony Brook. As the rest of the students wandered off to have another go at the mango salsa, he and I wound up having a one on one conversation, during which we talked about everything from the spin of tennis balls to the sweet spot of a baseball bat (thank you, COMAP competition!) I also found out we cheer for a lot of the same teams in college basketball.

Next thing I know, Dr. Jung was asking me to be a TA for his Physics of Sports class (I get the impression that the guy who’s supposed to do it didn’t know much about sports). I told him I’d look into it and see if it would work with my schedule (I’ve since found out it won’t) and I decided to try to steer the conversation towards his current neutrino research, which is a really cool project called T2K, in which a neutrino beam detected on one sideof Japan is detected and studied 300 miles away, on the other side. We had a fun conversation about that, too, and then suddenly, he was suggesting that I should join his research group and come with them to Japan this summer.

I have to say, I was pretty flattered, except for the obvious fact that his favorite thing about me was that I liked Duke and knew the rules of soccer. So it seems the sad fact is this: after all the time I’ve spent honing my interview skills and my professional persona so that I can appear like a promising job applicant, it turns out the real trick is to get your future employer a beer and a couple of Brooklyn-style hotdogs, and start chatting him up about his favorite sports teams.


About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

One Response to My first research job offer. Sort of.

  1. Pingback: ∫ Things I learned while teaching undergraduates: Tennis Ball Topspin Edition « WLOG blog

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