Sunday, 12 August 2012

So what do you do?

It's fair to say that most of my friends are not physicists or even scientists. When you do a PhD in something, usually what you are working on is so specialised that it's pretty difficult to explain it to someone who isn't in your field, or even subfield! For example, even though I have done a physics degree and now PhD, I only have superficial knowledge of topics like astrophysics, particle physics, string theory, etc. I even balk at the thought of having to do any serious theoretical calculations in my own field! However, I can (and have) built an experimental setup to cool things to nearly absolute zero. Give me some lasers and atoms, and maybe I can do something interesting with them! PhD Comics sums up the PHD conundrum nicely:

When you are in my situation, it's quite difficult to explain to people what it is you actually do. I can say I "play with lasers" and "study very cold gases", but sometimes I wonder if that makes people think of things like cats chasing laser pointers in a freezer. So, bit by bit, I'm going to talk about what my project was all about and explain the topics in layman terms. Stay tuned!

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