I am graduating

I have been hinting for months that I am close to graduating.  Well, the time has come.  I am graduating with a Ph.D. in physics.

In the immediate future, I will be unemployed.  I am taking my time looking for a job in data science.  That means I’ll find some tech company and analyze data for them.  And before you comment on that career choice, let me just say that I know more physics students moving into data science than staying in physics.  When I do find a job I probably won’t make any announcement about it.

Given that most of my time blogging has been while I was at grad school, the impact on my blogging is unknown.  I may have more free time while unemployed, but I won’t necessarily spend that time blogging.  (Note that I often take a blogging break near Christmas, and that has nothing to do with graduating.)

Ah, one thing that might make an impact on blogging, is that I will lose journal access.  I can still get physics papers on ArXiV, but most of what I’d want to blog about would be in social sciences or humanities.  So, that’s a bit tougher.

After this post, I intended to write at least a couple more blog posts about why grad school can be such a bad experience.  It’s not too late, I’ll get around to it eventually.

If you are unwise enough to wonder what my dissertation is about, I’ll tell you.

I worked on photoemission spectroscopy of cuprate superconductors.  Photoemission spectroscopy is the technique of shining light on a material, and measuring the electrons that come out.  The technique tells us about how the electrons were behaving in the material.  A superconductor is material in a special state where electricity is conducted with zero resistance.  Cuprates are a particular class of superconductors.  Cuprates are famous for being in a superconducting state up to relatively high temperatures (but “high temperature” still means minus ~170 degrees Celsius).  Cuprates are not fully understood, and have been a longstanding mystery since they were discovered in the 80s.

Photoemission spectroscopy of cuprates sounds very specific, but it’s a well-established and competitive field of research.


  1. says

    Congrats. If you need journal access, let me know. I have another semester, and then I’ll be working for University of Colorado Denver.

    BTW: do you know Martin Huber? He’s a friend of mine.

  2. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says


    And I hope you find post-doc work in a good place quickly.


    Keep in mind, I majored in history. One of my hobbies is palaeontology. I only survived chemistry in high school by treating it as algebra (I was good at maths). So, that said, are cuprates made with copper?

  3. says

    I am not seeking a postdoc position. I am leaving academia.

    Every cuprate has layers of CuO2, the layer where superconductivity originates. There are also layers of other elements, but which elements depends on the particular compound.

  4. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says


    Sorry. That was me writing out of ignorance. What I meant was, now that you have your doctorate, I hope you find a good place to use it (in or out of academia). Despite Mom and my father-in-law having PhDs, and my father-in-law having worked at Carnegie Mellon DTM, MIT, and Woods Hole, I am very ignorant of the correct terminology when it comes to academia. Sorry.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    After a few postdoc years and another few unwell years, I ended up doing APL programming in the data division of Reuters. During the first department meeting after I started, my supervisor introduced me, and upon hearing of my physics background, the crowd applauded enthusiastically. Embarrassing and confusing, since there were no other ex-physicists there. I hope you’re as well received, wherever you end up!

  6. Bob Munck says

    Siggy, my university gives alums internet access to their journal subscriptions; maybe yours does too. (Btw, my advisor was a guy named Leon Cooper. However, I went over to the Dark Side — computer science.)

  7. Jenora Feuer says


    (I vaguely recall that one of the issues with cuprate superconductors was that they tended to be rather brittle, more ceramic-like than metal-like, which made them unsuitable for significant lengths of wiring. Not to mention issues with the superconducting effects breaking down under high magnetic fields. Or am I misremembering things? Of course, even -170C means you can work at liquid nitrogen temperatures, which is comparatively easy to accomplish.)

    @Rob Grigjanis:
    Wow, APL. That was actually the first computer language I ever learned, back in the mid-1970s, (My uncle worked for Computing Services at the local university, and used to bring over a thermal paper IBM terminal with an acoustic-coupled modem on the back so I could connect to the mainframe on campus.) You don’t hear people talking about it much these days.

  8. says

    @Jenora Feuer,

    Yes it is true that cuprates tend to be brittle, which limits their practical applications. It wasn’t an issue for me though. We worked with samples of ~1 mm in size. Cuprates have a higher critical magnetic field than most conventional superconductors, so that’s not an issue. We worked with liquid helium rather than liquid nitrogen, because it’s useful to have temperatures far below the critical temperature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *