Exciting Science

When I was a budding graduate student looking for a supervisor and a research direction to pursue, I had little idea of the scientific landscape. I had a bit of research experience as an undergraduate, but not much. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I began by looking at the websites of several researchers, trying to see if anything excited me. I spoke to some of them about how I was thinking about joining…

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Timing

The best way to speed up your code is to figure out which parts are running the slowest. If you spend two hours halving the speed of part A in your code, but part A only takes up two seconds of a minute computation, you’ve shaved off one second. On the other hand, if you spend a few hours halving part B which contributes to the other fifty-eight seconds, then your computation time is only…

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The Journey to Completion

As a scientist, the usual “proof of work” is the paper1, a small artifact that encapsulates the essence of a problem and its resolution (or at least, progress the scientist makes). But the process of going from an initial idea to a finished paper is less clear for outsiders. My goal here is to shed some light on the topic of projects, and all the work that goes into a paper. This is similar in…

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The Language of Science

When communicating a new idea to someone, use the language they’re familiar with. Seems reasonable, but as soon as you go out into the world, you see plenty of examples where this doesn’t happen. In this essay, I want to describe what happens when we commit this error in the realm of science. Grab a physicist, and force them to sit through a mathematics seminar. Assuming they know the basics of the topic to follow…

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Finding the Story

Science is a game of exploration, but it’s also a game of communication. If you make a groundbreaking discovery but you lack the skills to communicate it, your discovery won’t amount to much. I suspect most scientists will agree with this sentiment. Communication is important if we want our results to diffuse into the broader community. We also need to communicate when applying for grants and scholarships, or otherwise selling the value of our work.…

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A Quantum Summer

After spending a long time on my PhD projects during the past year, I wanted to break away from them and work on something new. That’s why I applied to the Los Alamos Quantum Computer Summer School (I’ll call it QCSS now). The summer school was in its fourth edition, and was virtual like the one last year. First, some preliminaries. Despite the name, QCSS is not really a summer school. It’s closer to a…

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Let’s hear more from the women who leave academia (Part 2)

After the publication of my previous post, I received an email from Dr Sian Grigg, who decided to leave academia following the completion of her PhD. Read on below to hear her story. Dear Kaitlin Thanks for thinking of us who did not continue! I have often thought about this question and still wonder, after 15 years, whether I should have tried harder to pursue a career in academia. And whether I might now try…

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