Home | Jeremy Côté
Bits, ink, particles, and words.
In my final year of undergrad, I had a plan: go to the university near my house, begin my master’s degree, and eventually do a PhD. It was nice, simple, and straightforward. Not having a ton of people around me applying for graduate school, I wasn’t aware of how big a deal the choice of institution was, nor the fact that some people apply to ten or more schools (often for those looking to go in the US). In my case, I had someone at the local university agree to supervise me, and that was that.
Oh, and as a long-shot chance, I applied to a theoretical physics program in Waterloo, Ontario. I knew I would most certainly not get in, but it was free to apply so I wrote up my application quickly and sent it off, not thinking much about it.
Which is why I was very surprised to hear back from them at the beginning of March, asking for an interview.
If I’m having an argument, I tend to use phrases that include the word “you” or “they”. What I’m doing is projecting what I think a person is feeling into my own words. In essence, I’m taking what I think is important in their disagreement and only addressing that.
As a physicist, mathematics is the language I speak. It’s what I use to discuss physics, and I’m familiar with many of the tools that mathematicians learn. The tools range from the fields of calculus, probability, statistics, linear algebra, differential equations, graph theory, and many others. In particular, solving differential equations is like the bread and butter of physics, so I’m versed in this area. Knowing how to untangle the Schrödinger equation or the field equations in general relativity is a skill that physicists pick up during their education.
Let me share a scenario that I’ve been in a lot, and I want you to think about if you’ve had a similar experience.
I’m listening to an explanation of someone who is “above” me in their academic career. This tends to be a professor, researcher, or maybe even my supervisor. They are explaining some technical detail of an idea. Every so often, they look my way and end their sentence in a way that asks if I’m following.
Almost always, I nod. Even if I’m not really following anymore.