Archive for the ‘Physics’ Category

Mike Hinton: PhD Candidate

July 31, 2009

Hey everyone.  You may recall several months ago, in May, when I said I would be undergoing an exam that would take about a month.  It was ultimately delayed and I instead went through it during July.  The last week of it was probably the most miserable of my life, but now I can say I am a PhD candidate for Physics.  If all goes well, I will have my degree in approximately two years from now.  It is an indescribable feeling to have accomplished this, since failing would have forced me to make some serious changes in my life… like get a real job!

antiferroFor the few who are actually curious, my project was on a recently discovered new type of superconductor called Iron-pnictides (the “p” is silent).  Pnictide is  just a fancy name for the elements in the nitrogen column on the periodic table.  I had to describe how neutron diffraction was used to find the magnetic structures in these compounds, since you can’t “feel” the magnetism like you do with a normal iron magnet. This is because when you add the magnetism from the individual iron atoms together, there is no net magnetism left since they align in opposite directions (see figure).  This is called antiferromagnetism, and as far as I know, neutron diffraction is the only way to find out if something is antiferromagnetic.

So, that’s where I am now.  Much happier than I was just 1 week ago.  Now I can get back to more entertaining things in life, like planning for my wedding, working on my house and yard, keeping up with economics, and writing this blog.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get this far.

2nd to Last PhD Hurtle

April 24, 2009

atomI probably won’t be posting a whole lot for the next month.  This is caused by the do-or-die project I will be engaging in.  It’s called the General Exam and it is a written paper and oral exam, kind of like a mini thesis defense that physics students must complete to be official PhD candidates.  It’s an intense experience, and as hard as it is for me, I will have to concentrate on basically nothing but this project until I pass.  I have to be done before the start of June because my professor will be in Paris for the whole month.  I’m already nervous, if I don’t pass they are going to give me my Masters and send me on my way, but that is an unlikely outcome.  Luckily, I have become an important asset to my professor and he has helped me understand better what is expected of me during the presentation.

On a happier note, it looks like I will finally have my first authored pubication as a colaborator in this pretty neat paper.  I’ll summorize and link to it if and when it is published.

What’s Up – 1 April 2009

April 1, 2009

dancingSo, I have a friend who has offered to give Alice and I ballroom dancing lessons so we can be prepared for our wedding. This is very nice of her because otherwise I can’t see us going through with it. We’ll be able to pick the song we want to dance to and learn a couple of the traditional dances (waltz, foxtrot, ect.).

GrossLast night Alice and I saw a 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics, David J. Gross, give a long talk on particle physics and string theory. I don’t remember when I first heard about string theory.  Apparently, some form of it’s been around for 41 years, though I think the present theory started much later. I think elementary particle physics was what got me interested in physics the first place, and I still have a fascination with it even if the excitement it caused didn’t last me all the way through grad school. I do still enjoy what I do on a day to day basis, and can’t think of a better way to ride out what is likely to be the worst economy of my lifetime (fingers crossed).