My Experience with Remote Research

Amherst College Science Center

Hey everyone! Sorry it has taken so long from my first blog post to this one, it has been a busy summer filled with lots of cool science. For my last two blog posts, I am going to talk about my experience with remote research and then in the second one what motivates me to do physics and how participating in research has been able to give me cool experiences.

Remote research has certainly been a unique experience for me this summer and very different from the experience I had last summer with in person SURF. Just to quickly state the obvious, there are definitely some things that are lost when not having access to a lab when trying to do experimental work. I miss the hands-on aspects of working with lasers and optical components and the like, and nothing beats the satisfaction of being able to see the success of something you have created. There have been many times this summer where I have been worried I am doing something wrong or wishing that I could just check something in a lab quickly that would have been remedied with in-person lab access.

However, one positive thing about remote research is that it has forced me to do some useful things that I was not previously super comfortable with. Much of my work has been in modeling what may be a real world implementation purely using math and existing physical models. This requires me to fully understand the concepts that govern the work I am doing so that there is as little likelihood of me making a mistake as is possible. As such, I have read many scientific articles about my work which has greatly improved my skills in being able to read and understand such articles. Additionally, my skills in working with math/computation software like Mathematica have greatly improved by having to apply them to very specific non-classroom challenges. I think and hope that these skills will help me going forward in my academic career.

One other thing that is worth mentioning is how my attitude towards reading hard academic papers has changed. Even though I have now spent two months studying a relatively niche topic in physics, I still have yet to encounter a paper I even come close to understanding fully. Part of what I have learned is to be comfortable not understanding everything as long as you are able to understand some of the parts that are important to what you are doing. It is living with this discomfort that has allowed me to have some success in my work this summer. Additionally, it motivates me to continue to learn the necessary background to more interesting work in the future.

I’ll see you all next week with my last blog post of the summer!