Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Many of you may be familiar with some of the "rumor mills" that exist in the physics community such as the Astrophysics Job Rumor Wiki and the Theoretical Particle Physics Job Rumor Mill, to name just a few. Ever since I applied for grad school last fall, I have understood why such rumor mills exist. Decisions are made slowly in the world of academia and physicists are impatient. Our futures hang on the decisions that are being made and we can hardly stand the wait.

While I understood why rumor mills exist last year as I was waiting to hear from Cornell (they turned me down, but it took them until the last week of March to do it), I had never actually understood the secret world of physics rumors until this week.

First, a little background is required. This year I applied for the Department of Energy's Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (CSGF). This is a 4 year graduate fellowship program for people doing any type of computational research - and it's a pretty sweet little deal. When I applied, I didn't believe I had much of a shot. After all, if Cornell didn't think I was that qualified, why should the DoE? And no, I'm not still holding on to bitter feelings about Cornell...

Anyway, I applied. Decisions were expected to be announced in mid-March.

On Sunday (March 2), I got a phone call. It seems that a grad student I work with had talked to another grad student in the department who had heard from one of the professors in the department who heard that the DoE had contacted the department. One version of the rumor, which I find more credible, claims that DoE was setting up a CSGF administrator (all universities with CSGF holders are required to have a program administrator and Colorado currently doesn't have one), which implies that someone in my department got one of the CSGF's. The second version of the rumor was that the DoE had contacted the department because someone in the department had been awarded a CSGF but they were having trouble contacting that person. This version makes little sense as the application requires you give them two addresses, two phone numbers, and an e-mail address, but it is a little more dramatic.

The really great part is that only two people from my department, myself and Sam Skillman (who Joe worked with at Los Alamos), applied. Now both my research group and Sam's are buzzing with rumors about getting the CSGF. Maybe we both got one. Maybe the DoE was just checking out the department. Maybe the DoE never really contacted the department. Maybe the entire federal government is looking for me, just hoping to throw buckets of money at me, and maybe Cornell is with them, hoping to apologize for taking their sweet time in rejecting me.

You can see how these rumors get carried away. I personally don't know what to think - but I have decided that I am just going to wait and see what happens. If I do get it - wonderful. If not, maybe Sam will. It is completely beyond my control, and so I just need to wait. But oh those vicious rumors...

1 comment:

  1. Nick, I hope the grant comes through for you. I had no idea Sam was at Colorado. Tell him hi for me.

    Yeah, rumors can get out of hand, especially when feelings are hurt: ie... rumor is they are thinking of hiring X but instead Y is hired and so feelings get hurt.


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