Semester is over - some news after being away during two weeks

in StemSocial2 months ago

As it is now two weeks that I didn’t write anything here, I guess that I am due for some explanations. First, let me clarify that I won’t disappear without warnings for 18 months like I did a couple of years ago (as a reminder, I didn’t plan this; it just happened). This time the situation is indeed a bit different and with calmer boundary conditions.

The last two weeks were in fact very intense in terms of university duties and travels (yeah, traveling is now an option again ;) ). Consequently, I found neither the time nor the energy for the extra miles related to an online presence. My body is not what it used to be anymore (I guess this is just what getting older means…).

As I have an upcoming long flight across the pond, I can probably safely say that a next physics post should be released tomorrow, shortly followed by the fourth episode of our citizen science particle physics project on Hive.

In the meantime, here is a short write-up about what I have done during these two weeks, and some details about the plans for the upcoming days. If by any chance you want to guess where I am, you can find a clue in the picture below (I agree this is not very secret and hidden). If you don’t want to guess, it is sufficient to read this short post further.

Finally, feel free to use the comment section of this blog to ask me anything, especially concerning the topics you want me to address in the next couple of months. I will be especially pleased to deal with those requests (if they lie within my domain of expertise).


[Credits: @lemouth]


The last week of the semester!


Two weeks ago started the last week of the semester. This resulted in an intense increase of my university duties. Unlike in many other countries, professors in the French system do not have teaching assistants to deal with the creation of exam subjects, marking, exercise classes, etc. This is all done by ourselves, and it does take time.

As a side note, this is fine and by no means a complaint. Somewhat, I live in France for so many years and there are advantages and disadvantages of the local academic system (as usual, there is no free lunch). I am definitely happy with the bright and the dark side of the system. Otherwise it is clear that I won’t be living in France anymore.

To come back to describe how busy my week was, I had first to deal with 10-15 oral presentations of first-year students discussing topics in relativity (@yaziris: the Pound-Rebka talks were great), cold atom physics, high-energy physics, mechanics, etc. This was the final evaluation of their one-month-long project that needed to include an explicit computation and some bibliographical research. At the end, the full exercise was super interesting, and I am proud to say all students did amazingly well. It was just very exhausting as the presentations lasted for 7-8 consecutive hours!

In addition, I had to deal with my usual teaching duties, that were reduced to 4 hours in class this week. This included some live experiments with magnets (two weeks later, one of my fingers is still suffering from a stupid accident), and the supervision of student teamworks on the topic of electromagnetic induction. I like very much this way of illustrating lectures through real-time experiments and ‘forcing’ students to work together and collaborate.


[Credits: @lemouth]

Active learning is in my opinion the way to go with the current generation of students. This however requires some preparation, and for weird reason I am always pushed for time for these… (as for mostly anything else). Consequently, I ended the semester exhausted and almost burned out… again… I never learn apparently :D

Finally, I could also ‘celebrate’ the end of the week ended with a mid-term exam, whose 43 transcripts were marked during my flight to the US. Marking is always a good way to spend a 6-7 hours long flight…


Machine learning in Boston (USA)


The current week, that is about to end in a few hours, was dedicated to a trip to Boston. The aim of this trip was to meet MIT researchers working on machine learning techniques and methods. For many years, I have some ideas about how to explore theories beyond the Standard Model of particle physics more efficiently with the help of such methods.

The cornerstone of the approach I have in mind is to account in a novel manner for the results of the numerous analyses on-going at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. We cannot ignore these analyses and associated data. However, including them in a model exploration process often consists of the bottleneck in terms of computing time.

I know for some time already that another researcher currently at MIT shares this idea too. I took the opportunity to fly there to meet him (I could do that as teaching was over). This meeting was a good opportunity to sit down and start investigating what we could do in a not too far future. During the trip, I unexpectedly met another colleague, so that the visit gave a boost to one of my dark matter projects as a bonus.

I may discuss these subjects one of these days, in my posts. We will see when. :)


[Credits: geralt (Pixabay)]


And now what’s next (on chain)?


I am about to fly back to Paris in a couple of hours, and I thus slowly prepare the next blogs I will post here.

First of all, my last blog was about composite models and how to find them. This was not a matter of randomness, and I definitely plan to further discuss composite models for the next few weeks.

I will focus on recent publications of mine discussing composite dark matter (I may write this one while I will be above the pond in a few hours) and options to track down light new composite particles at future colliders.

In addition, the third episode of my citizen science project on Hive is now over for like a week, and we are thus due for the fourth episode. It will concern the analysis of top-antitop production and decay at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and will be dedicated to physics (and not to the necessary technical and painful installation of any software).

I hope that @agreste, @eniolw, @gentleshaid, @isnochys, @mengene (is everything all right? I didn’t see your third report), @metabs, @servelle and @travelingmercies are ready! By the way, anyone interested in joining this project can still do it. There is no deadline of what so ever. More information is available from all blogs posted with the #citizenscience tag (mine and the reports of the participants to the project).

That’s all for today! Before leaving, here is a picture I took from the plane while landing in Virginia (I didn’t book a direct flight to Paris).

See you very soon for some physics, and feel free to suggest anything for the next topic you would like to see me addressing.


[Credits: @lemouth]

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Just tell us the truth: someone kidnapped your productivity clones and now you have to do everything yourself until you find them!

Shit happens, somehow :D

More seriously, I think this is just aging. I hope I won't turn into vinegar...

No, just good ol' wine!

I hope so (although I am unsure I want to be drunk :D )

Thank you for this glimpse of life behind the @lemouth online presence. What a demanding schedule. It's hard to fit everything in, but as you say, as we get older we really do have respect our physical limits, or our bodies will punish us. Then we end up being even less productive.

Your visit to MIT reinforces the idea that online communication is great, but not a substitute for physical interaction. It is wonderful you were able to discuss matters close to your field of expertise with another colleague. Remaining open to the unexpected (a particle physicist should be good at this😀) may lead to new ideas, new creative approaches.

Looking forward to your blogs this week. You were missed :)

Regards.

My body actually stroke me again. I was offline yesterday as I needed to rest to recover from the long journey back from Boston (I got flight delays of all kinds). Now I am back at the office and slowly catch up with everything. It is however very unlikely I will post anything this week... I will however try (the next posts are far from being ready)!

Your visit to MIT reinforces the idea that online communication is great, but not a substitute for physical interaction. It is wonderful you were able to discuss matters close to your field of expertise with another colleague. Remaining open to the unexpected (a particle physicist should be good at this😀) may lead to new ideas, new creative approaches.

I fully agree. Meeting people in reality has a great advantage and allows us to produce much more and advance much faster. I however won't be able to travel as much as I used to do. I don't have those strengths anymore, and I want to spend more time with the family. I guess the planet and the family will be happier with this decision ;)

Cheers!

I want to spend more time with the family.

🌟🌟🌟

Welcome sir, though I know it wasn't easy at all. Taking care of university student and making out time for a research work in Boston.

Is a nice one sir, welcome once again

Thanks for passing by. Life is indeed everything, but easy ;)

Good to hear all that. This is the good kind of busy, and hopefully the only kind you'll have to deal with.

I knew about most of those things were to take place including your trip to MIT, just didn't know all of them were at once (or one right after the other).

Glad you're doing well (and flying :D ), and welcome back!

Having indeed all those events close with each other made it complicated. I am now still in recovery mode, the flight back and its delay exhausted me. I am definitely getting old :D

Greetings my dear @lemouth, I note that these two weeks were very productive for you from the academic and research, no doubt, university education deserves that we devote time to generate a meaningful teaching-learning process, I am sure that with your research you can reinforce the theoretical knowledge of your area of expertise.

See you later my friend, I hope you can make your dark matter project a reality, have a great week.

Greetings as well, and thanks for stopping by. The dark matter project will happen for sure. It has now been resurrected and we work hard to try to get a paper out within a month or two :)

Cheers!

I would love to read your next post on physics.
It might just be too advance for me but lets see. 🙂

!1UP

I usually try to write these posts in an accessible way. I may however fail. I always hope readers to let me know when this happens, so that I could fix things :)

For this time, I am afraid you may have to wait for next Monday to see the post. The journey back to Europe was really exhausting (flight delays and so on) and the post is not ready. But please stay tuned ;)

Cheers!

No pressure. I am willing to wait. 🙂

It is good you're back. Looking forward to the next project tasks!

It is fully done... in my head. Now I need to write, but this will be for later this week :)

Sounds like you had so much work to but also had fun doing them.
Welcome back.

Thanks! Yes. Sometimes there is a peak at work and it is hard to deal with everything else. This happened during the last two weeks ;)

Good luck on your next projects

Thank you very much!

Knowing you to be really active here, I have been really bothered about your absence but then I thought again that you may just be busy with other activities outside of the space, feels really good to have you back here.

Sometimes it is just hard to continue being both available on-chain and outside in the real world. After having decoupled yesterday to relax a bit, I am now fully back :)

Feels really good to have you back around.....

Please give me a day or two and I will reconnect with other authors :)

I thought as much, your onchain absence made me wonder🤗.
Welcome back.

Thanks a lot! No worry. It was just a peak of things to do at work, and thus not much time for anything else. I am sure you know the feeling ;)

My activities in the past week have been a bit reduced as well. I am fully back on and ready for the #citizenscience upcoming task. It's good tp have you back.

I was happy when I read you solved all the issues. On my side, I was a bit so so yesterday and the day before after the trip, so that everything is delayed a bit. Please be ready for next week! :)

It's fine. Health comes first above everything else. Take as much time as you will need. We don't have a deadline, right!

I onboarded a user that might actually be interested in the ongoing project - @hdigitals. he just published his intro post. Let's welcome him first before introducing the project to him.

No, there is no deadline but I would like us to finish one day. By the way, thanks for the reference to the user. I will have a look to his blog tonight.

Glad to know that you get to enjoy again one of the perks of being in the academe —traveling! :) Looking forward to the next tasks. Hopefully, I'll be able to read in advance on the physics concept of what we're doing just to have an idea, and ask questions too when I get confused 😅

Feel free to ask any question. I am really there to help. I needed two more days to recover from the trip, but here we go again. I will probably resume posting from next week onward.

Cheers!

Many thanks for this piece @lemouth. The first image reminds me of my time at the MIT in the Fall of 2017, yes Boston is a great place and reminiscent of some European cities in its building architecture. The the only difference I can think of as of now is that the streets/roads are bigger than some places I have visited in Europe (at least I know of Trieste in Italy).

Another aspect of your article that resonates with me is the fact that a Professor in the French system do not get to be assisted in teaching and marking activities. This is what is obtainable in most of the Nigerian Universities, but it’s worse because of the student to lecturer ratio. To put this in perspective, 2 Professors may be teaching a 700-900 class and they are expected to create and mark assignments, create mid semester exam, final exams and mark. This doesn’t stop there, there are some other administrative assignments that could be given to administrative staff, but the system will rather have Professors to take charge of that too….. I envy the American system a lot (in a good way)!

Thank you so much for this piece once again.

Thanks for passing by and your very engaging comment!

Many thanks for this piece @lemouth. The first image reminds me of my time at the MIT in the Fall of 2017, yes Boston is a great place and reminiscent of some European cities in its building architecture. The the only difference I can think of as of now is that the streets/roads are bigger than some places I have visited in Europe (at least I know of Trieste in Italy).

I agree. Cars have a much bigger role in America than in Europe, and all cities (and even smaller towns and villages) are built with this in mind. One difference with respect to 2017 (I guess here; please confirm) is that bikes are now quite spread in Boston. There is a very nice bike sharing system that allows you to bike mostly anywhere. However, finding a free bike return spot at MIT is often complicated... It is a crowded area... ;)

This is what is obtainable in most of the Nigerian Universities, but it’s worse because of the student to lecturer ratio. To put this in perspective, 2 Professors may be teaching a 700-900 class and they are expected to create and mark assignments, create mid semester exam, final exams and mark.

The situation is a bit better here, with this respect. For very big courses attended by hundreds of students, there is a full team of professors and PhD students (they teach without being the teaching assistant of anyone in particular) that can share the burden. That softens the task a bit, and everyone may end marking 50-60 assignment sheets, taking care of a small groups of students during exercise and lab classes, etc.

This doesn’t stop there, there are some other administrative assignments that could be given to administrative staff, but the system will rather have Professors to take charge of that too….. I envy the American system a lot (in a good way)!

I agree that administration plays a huge part in the job, and this is probably the case all around the globe. I can definitely feel this as a vice-dean for the bachelor studies in physics here at Sorbonne. I however get a small reduction of my teaching load. Whereas it does not cover all the time spent in administration, it helps a bit.

As I said in the blog, there are many differences with other systems, that include both better items and worse ones. For instance, the French system comes with an excellent social security (healthcare) and (mostly) free education for everyone. You can get jobs quite early in the career, the salaries are not huge but very sufficient relative to the living costs in France, etc. On the other hand, there is very few personal grants (which can be taken either as an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the point of view).

From what you said, Nigeria seems to have all the cons of the French system but without having its pros. This is also my guess from past discussions with @gentleshaid. I wish one day the situation will ameliorate in your country, and that a solution to the current problems will be found soon!

One difference with respect to 2017 (I guess here; please confirm) is that bikes are now quite spread in Boston.

Yes, there was the bike hiring system at that time (very nice looking bikes, I must say), but to be honest I didn't understand how the operation was...I would rather be a Charlie on the Boston Bus and Train, and since I was a Fellow at the MIT, this was free for me. The only condition that I must be with my MIT ID to enjoy these facilities.

As I said in the blog, there are many differences with other systems, that include both better items and worse ones. For instance, the French system comes with an excellent social security (healthcare) and (mostly) free education for everyone. You can get jobs quite early in the career, the salaries are not huge but very sufficient relative to the living costs in France, etc. On the other hand, there is very few personal grants (which can be taken either as an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the point of view).

I envy this in a good way too. Although we do have an health care insurance system, I can only categorize it as basic. Even the health care sector cannot in any ways be compared to a developed country like France. Jobs in recent time is becoming harder to get in the academic system, even with PhD qualification. I guess the economy wasn’t robust enough to absorb the shock of the pandemic….this may be said of many countries of the world though.
On personal/research grants this is next to nonexistent- As an academic staff I write for grant outside the shore of my country. Although, there is a government agency that is trying all it could to get research grants across boards.

From what you said, Nigeria seems to have all the cons of the French system but without having its pros. This is also my guess from past discussions with @gentleshaid. I wish one day the situation will ameliorate in your country, and that a solution to the current problems will be found soon!

Don’t get me started on the cons!
I hope we are able to get together and solve the issues confronting us as a nation. I know for a fact that CHANGE needs to start with everyone of us and our perspective about the country and out it should be run. Every micro community must learn to do its best and this can snowball into something bigger.

Thanks for your time, it was great reading your reply!

Thanks for coming back to me with all these details. I really enjoy the conversation. It is nice to compare countries and systems.

At least this is similar for me:

On personal/research grants this is next to nonexistent- As an academic staff I write for grant outside the shore of my country. Although, there is a government agency that is trying all it could to get research grants across boards.

Such a long time spent in writing long applications. I would prefer using this time for research... but well, this is how it is. We need to play with the rules of the system we are in, or change the system, or move away from it if possible. For this last option, the job market is however quite reduced. This is true in most fields, with the exception of some emerging ones. I hence see so many promising PhD students in particle physics leaving for the private sector right after the PhD. Somehow, this is a good move as there is not enough jobs for them in academia, and the private sector pays better. But at the end, we train students hardly, and then they fly away... I would love to train someone who will manage to stay on board and collaborate with me for the next decades. We will see if one day it will work... :)

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Thanks for the support. By the way, have you tried to embark with our citizen science project?

Wow... I must say that this past weeks for you was really demanding, but Am glad you came back strong, vibrant and ready to share your knowledge here with us.

I must say that I wish I will be able to clearly understand your posts this period, I will put in more effort and concentration to understand some of your technical terms, so that I will be able to comprehend easily as this is actually not my field. You guys are really geniuses in this physics stuff unlike people like us. Welcome back once more, anticipating your posts.

Wow... I must say that this past weeks for you was really demanding, but Am glad you came back strong, vibrant and ready to share your knowledge here with us.

Yes, this was indeed a lot in a very short period of time. I am now enjoying a small workshop in Lyon (in France) before going back to Paris to rest (at least in terms of travels).

I must say that I wish I will be able to clearly understand your posts this period, I will put in more effort and concentration to understand some of your technical terms, so that I will be able to comprehend easily as this is actually not my field. You guys are really geniuses in this physics stuff unlike people like us. Welcome back once more, anticipating your posts.

I will do my best to make them understandable. If I fail, please let me know and I will help in clarifying what needs to be clarified.

Cheers!

Ok I will definitely. Thanks a lot.


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