It Begins

By Mark Trodden | August 28, 2007 7:17 pm

Our semester started yesterday, and so, as you might imagine, the last week or so has been taken up with prepping for my class and trying to finish up some papers that will inevitably get less time in the coming weeks. I’m particularly looking forward to class this semester, since I’m teaching the introductory graduate General Relativity class. For my money, G.R. is the one of the most beautiful subjects to teach or study (I’m also quite fond of graduate mathematical methods) and I’m anticipating a lot of fun as well as quite a lot of work, since the class is pretty large this year (about 12 people for now, with three or four of them auditing).

I don’t usually follow a text in my classes, preferring to give the students a range of reference material and then to try to present a relatively self-contained course on the subject matter. This class will be no exception, although since some guy recently wrote a new book that closely follows the way I’m used to thinking about G.R., I will follow that far more than I usually follow any single text.

Another thing that has been taking up some time in the frantic last week or so is the upcoming third season of Café Scientifique Syracuse. When we started this two years ago there were four organizers. Two of these have recently left the area, and so my remaining co-founder, geologist Scott Samson, and I have been busily recruiting some new organizational blood from Syracuse’s science departments. We’ve also changed the venue – moving to a place I particularly like – a cocktail and wine bar called Ohm Lounge.

The first meeting of the Fall takes place in a week, on Tuesday September 4th, and my colleague Mark Bowick – string theorist turned soft condensed matter theorist is presenting, with a talk titled “Soft and Squishy Matter at Science’s Cutting Edge”. Mark gives great talks like this, with no slides (as Café Scientifique was originally envisioned) but plenty of hands-on demonstrations of the physics he’s describing.

Well, back to work. I don’t teach tomorrow, so should have some time for research, although there’s another first in the afternoon – the first faculty meeting of the semester!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Academia, Science and Society
  • gfl

    I love Sean’s book – but last year switched to Hartle’s Gravity for my class. Although, the current seven lectures a week (in GR, High Energy and MatLab) is crippling. Role on next week (and thank goodness we get next friday off, George Bush is in town).

    Typically, how many lecutres/courses do peole give over the year?

  • Mark

    Hartle’s book is great, but the level is too low for a graduate class. If I was teaching an upper level undergraduate class in G.R. then I would definitely use it, and it is a good secondary reference, with other books, for a graduate class.

    At a typical research university, physics faculty to teach one class per semester. So that’s two courses per year.

  • Michael D

    Mark – I’ve got my GR honours exam on Monday. My lecturer has stuck to Kenyon as a text, but i’ve complemented it with Sean’s book.

    When your students are coming up to their exams/finals – what one piece of advice would you offer them?

    I’m not looking for a magic answer, by the way, just perhaps a certain way of approaching, thinking about the material as a whole.

    (Other’s who teach or have taken a class in GR feel free to chime in…)


  • Scott

    Mark, why would you differentiate between an intro GR class for grads and undergrads. They are both intro courses( I could understand if the undergrad class was a survey class maybe). Do you expect most students to take a differential geometry class in their senior year?

  • Mark

    It really is to do with the level of rigor and the amount of mathematics. There are ways to teach GR without getting into differential geometry at all. But at the graduate level, I think the students are ready for more details, even in an introductor course.

    Also, just technically, in our taxonomy of courses, it is a graduate course.

  • Brad

    Ah geez! I’ve been reading this blog for months, and never realized that you were here in Syracuse! What a small world!

    Ohm Lounge. Also one of my favorite haunts. I’m there every Tuesday night from 9:00-11:00. Nice to hear that the level of discourse is taking an upturn!


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Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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