Thursday, June 28, 2018By:
Disclaimer: Honest and personal evaluation of what it means to study Physics.
Physics, like vegemite: you love it or hate it. It’s hard to be indifferent. It’s the kind of love you have to work for. It doesn’t come when you walk across the stage, and can finally call yourself a “Physicist”. It doesn’t come when you realize that you, an upper-level Physics major, is actually explaining a problem that you struggled with to a freshman. It’s a culmination of patience, empathy, community, and some pain, as many relationships are.
It’s a very on-again, off-again kinda thing. You never really know, even after filing the paperwork to be a declared “Physics Major” if it’s going to work. You doubt every step of the way.
“Oh, I didn’t do well on my E&M final even though I studied for a million hours? Well, I guess I have to change my major.”
“You got A on the second multiple-choice question, and 9.82 m/s^2 on the free response? Crap.”
(Word to the wise, never talk about exams after you take them. They are done and over and not worth your thought anymore. Until you get it back…)
And “Why did you choose Physics?” is always a complicated question. Yah, sure. Say it’s because you’re you interested in the universe, or you had a great high school physics teacher (if you’re lucky). But, in a way, Physics chooses you. You have to take the first step, but much like riding a roller coaster, it will take you along for the ride. You just have to hold on. Really really tightly.
Why am I talking about Physics and personifying it as a partner or animating it as a roller coaster? Because that seems to have been a general theme among the conversations we have had. No one seems to ever be super certain about their degree in Physics. Like, does the paper I received really mean that I earned this degree? I remember before we started walking across the stage at graduation, President Hass said, “By the recommendation of the faculty, you have completed the requirements to graduate.” I was like, “For real? I know a few people that would disagree…”
But, let me say this. Every single one of my fellow interns works hard, is patient, is empathetic, has built a community for themselves and others (including this internship program), and has suffered through Differential Equations, problems that require multiple separation-by-parts, wave function collapse, the ether, etc. We all deserve to be here with our partial to full Bachelors of Science in Physics degrees.