Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm Going to Freeze to Death in Poland

I'm heading off to Poland for World Mountain Running Championships on Wednesday.  Based on the pictures I've seen, the course looks beautiful.  Here are some pictures taken by an Italian Mountain Running website ( and some more taken by what I believe is the race organization (

Anyways, I'll write more about it when I get out there.  The US Mountain Running Team usually does a great job of getting out updates, especially on race day, so check them out next Sunday.  It's hard to write about a race before anything has happened.  So I'll write about living in AZ and doing grad school instead.

I started graduate studies in physics at Arizona State University in Tempe as soon as I got back from Sierre-Zinal.  They have the first year grad students taking courses in Classical and Continuum Mechanics and Statistical and Thermal Physics.  So from the looks of it, good times with Lagrangians and partition functions, and then better times with even crazier stuff.

We are also starting our preliminary research...soon.  Probably while I'm in Poland.  So that will give me something else to catch up on when I get back.  The big problem with starting research, of course, is that everybody's research sounds really interesting when they write an abstract about it.  So the key right now is to read between the lines to figure out a) what I'm good at, and b) what kind of stuff I want to spend the next 50 years of my life studying.  Okay, I guess I won't be doing the exact same thing for 50 years, but what I research to get a PhD will have affects on what I research with a PhD.  Oh, speaking of which, within 4-6 years, apparently I will be Dr. Glenn Randall.  So then I'll be able to do surgeries and physicals on subatomic particles.  I won't tell the joke about grabbing the down quarks and saying "cough."

I've also been TAing, which is really nice.  This has consisted of me working with small (compared to their 196 person class size) groups to go through problems to ensure they have the concepts down, as well as helping out undergraduates who need help with their homework.  I've decided graduate school is a successive process of being the dumbest person in the room.  I think whenever I become something other than the dumbest person in the room, they're going to move me to a different, smarter room.  I would say that process will stop after I get a PhD, but I'm not convinced.  The exception to that rule, however, is teaching undergraduates.  To them, I am a superhero when it comes to physics, especially if I'm explaining something dealing with their homework.  And to think, I was one of them once, making some of the same mistakes.

I have also been running.  Often indoors.  Because it gets absurdly hot in the Phoenix area from June-September.  In fact, the low temperatures in Tempe are about 20 degrees (F) hotter than the high temperatures in Krynica-Zdroj, Poland, where World Mountain Running Championships will be.  Note to self, pack warm clothing.  But the weather is cooling down, and if I wake up early enough, I can actually run outside.  Plus, there are trails and (small) mountains aplenty around Phoenix.  And if I want flat, I can run on completely flat, right out my apartment door.

But I should probably get back to the homework that I'm procrastinating by writing this.

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