Just a quick school update

Tomorrow (Monday the 30th) is my first day of classes here at Stony Brook. Now, I only have one class, as it turns out, but it also promises to be a really good one.

People always say that, especially as a graduate student, you shouldn’t necessarily take a course because of the topic, or because you feel like you “have to,”  but because of the professor. They say you should ask around the department, find out who the coolest teachers are, and then just sign up for whatever they’re teaching. Well, here’s one such guy:

This is Peter Van Nieuwenhuizen, who admittedly looked better back when this picture was taken. On the other hand, since then he’s gone on to win the Dirac Prize for Physics, so I guess I’ll forgive him. Turns out that in 1976 he and two collaborators constructed the first extension of Einstein’s theory of relativity to include Supersymmetry, an theoretical idea in particle physics that, if true, would help resolve several of the biggest problems with our knowledge of the universe to date. “Supergravity” was one of the first big steps towards unifying gravity and quantum mechanics. The theory as proposed by Van Nieuwenhuizen doesn’t quite work to describe the real world, but it was absolutely an essential step in the development of physics as it stands today.

Alright, so they guys’s kind of a rockstar at theoretical physics, and is obviously no slouch at mathematics either. But oh wait, he’s also won a handful of graduate teaching awards. I get it, I should look to see what he’s teaching and sign up. Well it turns out he’s teaching graduate classical mechanics this semester, which I’m required to take anyway. How perfect.

So, that’s where I’ll be tomorrow morning at 9:30. I’ll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE: Call me crazy, but doesn’t Dr. Van Nieuwenhuizen kind of look a lot like Tom Cech?

Okay, maybe not that much. Still, I’m now of the opinion that the ability to do prize-worthy science depends largely on your ability to wear large glasses, grow long, wavy hair, wear sweaters over collared shirts with the top button undone, and stare unsmilingly at a black and white camera without looking like Béla Lugosi.

I’ll have to work on several of those things.


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.

2 Responses to Just a quick school update

  1. Moominmamma says:

    You can do the glasses, the shirt, the sweater, the hair, and the stare. Looks like the only thing between you and a big physics prize is that beard.

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