Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Umbrella of Physics

I haven't had a drink with a little umbrella in it yet, but I did make it to Jacksonville this afternoon just in time for some of the final talks in the Society of Physics Students session.

Now, I like to think that since I have a masters degree in physics I should be able to follow most of the undergraduate research talks, but with topics like "Magnetic Field Reduction in Photomultipliers with the use of Bucking Coil" and "Using MCNP for Compton Scattering Calculations with BGO Scintillators," I am again reminded of just how LARGE the field of physics is.

(The students did a great job! and good for them for taking on some challenging and jargon-heavy subjects)

A PhD, after all, doesn't make one an expert in physics - it makes one an expert in a well-defined area of physics. The same can be said for other fields of course - ask any graduate student the topic of his or her dissertation and you'll realize how specialized things get at the top.

There is definitely a need for specialization in the world, but meetings like this remind me that there is also a need for generalization. After all, without that middle layer it'd be pretty hard to get public support and funding for "Optical Spectroscopy of Defects in Yttrium Orthovanadate Crystals" or "Hamiltonian Constraint Analysis of Vector Theories with Spontaneous Lorentz Violation." Or at least that's what I tell myself :)

No comments: