Monday, 20 April 2015

Free food + more at Ångströmlaboratoriet

Well, the sun is finally coming back to Uppsala! I couldn't believe it yesterday when it was still beautiful and sunny outside, and I checked my watch and it was 19:00! It's getting me excited for the actual summer time. Last weekend I also caught a rare glimpse of the sun in the Netherlands, where I had gone to visit for a belated Easter with my family and for my girlfriend's birthday.

This past week was another research lunch, this time hosted by the Nuclear Physics division. Research lunches are great events that the physics department puts on once per month. Each lunch is hosted by a different research division (they are all listed on the left side of the department's homepage). Basically researchers from the hosting division come and share a free lunch with bachelor and master students in physics. This is a great chance to meet potential project or thesis supervisors. Typically there is also a 5 minute introduction about what the division does, and each researcher talks for about 1 minute about their own research.

I really like the lunches because I like to hear about what all is going on at the university, and I often use them to ask about academic careers in general. There are always international people present who may have done PhDs and post-docs in various countries, so it's nice for me to get a bit of a handle on what my next steps will be. Also, it's a free meal, so everyone is always happy to go, whether they're interested in that division or not!

By the way, this seems like a good time to mention that there is actually quite a lot of free food available at Ångström. There are often people from various organizations in the lobby who will give you coffee or cookies in exchange for a Like on Facebook or even just to get you to take a brochure. More nutritious free meals are occasionally offered in the weekly update emails from UTN, the Union of Engineering and Science Students, who some sometimes want to talk to panels of students over lunch.

I'll end this off with a quick thought from this past research lunch. People sometimes ask what the "point" of doing theoretical physics is, which is apparently something that had also crossed the mind of Stefan Leupold, the theoretician who gave the introduction of the Nuclear Physics division (and who taught me quantum field theory). I sometimes struggle to verbalize why we want to answer the deepest questions about the universe because it's so hard for me to imagine anyone not wanting to do that. Stefan summed this up very succinctly: "Our research is not application driven (well, maybe in 100 years, but that's not the point). It's curiosity driven. We are simply curious about the way nature works." I think I'll start using that myself.

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