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He Is Really Good At… June 4, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in university.
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The end of the year is always busy at a university. Other than all the committees that suddenly realize the year is almost over and they had better get together and do something, many students and advisors pack in their defenses in the last several weeks.

I’ve been to several over the past month — all quite good. But three stick out in my mind. First was a physics one. Michael Endres was working with David Kaplan and gave a great defense. Usually, when the advisor introduces the student giving the talk, they will give one or two anecdotes about the student. David was no different. He started out with “And, Michael has been exceptionally good at killing all of my good ideas…” The problem was the way he said it: it took a while to figure out that he wasn’t holding a grudge.

Later the same day I saw the general exam for Can Kozcaz (Can is pronounced John). On topological string theory. Ouch. His advisor is Amer Iqbal, from the math department. A colleague of Amer’s from the math department came along as well – Charles Doran. After Can would answer a question (usually quite well), Amer would add some detail. Then Charles would kick in something. Quickly the two of them would be lost in a detailed discussion of some fact of string theory. Can and the rest of us would sit quietly and listen.🙂

Finally, I was the external representative for Ryan Torn in Atmospheric Sciences, who was advised by Gregory Hakim. Hakim and I met on some random university committee and both of us were looking for external representatives for students of ours. Every Ph.D. committee requires an external representative – this is to make sure there is nothing untoward going on and to give the student someone outside the department to talk to if need be (of the 5 or so I’ve been on, this has never been an issue). This defense was cool because of the topic. I know very little about climate modeling – and Ryan’s whole topic was on modeling various weather events and the stability of the modeling. It was very cool to see techniques we use in physics being used in other sciences as well — like ensemble testing. Ryan was also a great speaker — so it made it possible for me to understand most of what he was talking about. One thing I found out, btw, is that a great deal of the most accurate weather information that is input to these models comes from balloons. They are released, travel up until they pop — transmitting information all the way. Seems so old school… BTW, the anecdote that Greg told… straight from a Sinfeld episode — the doctors at a rental car agency — Ryan was the ass man, apparently. Ryan’s expression was priceless when he realized what anecdote Greg was going to tell to the room full of 50 of his colleagues and (if I remember correctly) mother.

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