Building Momentum

Building Momentum

These past two months have been pretty crazy because it was effectively the playoffs for proposal season (NSF, DARPA, NIST, etc…). For you football fans out there, you can probably appreciate this analogy: I’ve had five completions in 3 weeks and now I’m sitting back and hoping for some nice YAC. That, combined with the time I spent with my students last semester is finally starting to gain traction on its own. The students working in my group don’t have any specific classes that train them to work on my specific research area so I’m left with the task of tutoring and training them in the lab on procedures and whatnot. Basically, my summer and first semester was spent training and acquiring equipment. And I can officially say:

My group haz momentum!

Yesterday, I was in the lab working on a few things and showing my student some new tips/tricks and it was like a switch was flipped. In the past, my students basically milled around like lemmings, waiting for me to show them stuff. But yesterday, I worked on one thing while two students worked on something separate and a third student worked on yet something different. And then the uncanny happened. Rather than pestering me for answers, they started to discuss the problem among themselves and came to a workable solution without having to ask me. Now, granted I was within earshot and would be able to right the ship if it started to capsize but it was a really nice and warm-fuzzy feeling.

I think this is really cool because a lot of people thought I was crazy for taking on 4 grad students almost immediately (and I have several UGs too). I’ll admit that it probably wasn’t the most sensible thing to do. However, those students gave my group a lot of mass m. And it took a huge, not-quite-so-infinitesimal impulse from me over a period of months to get some velocity v. However, now that I have some m and v, I have a small amount of momentum p that can hopefully snowball into some great results pretty soon. I know I’ve said before that drowning in 18 feet is the same as drowning in 27 feet of water, so if I’m able to swim in academia with more piled on at the start, it can really help me in the long run.

Back to the momentum analogy, I started out with a high m but no v, which meant no p. But, with a good enough impulse, getting some v into the equation combined with the higher starting m leads to more p. Plus, we might put together a few conference proceedings for posters to add some hard deadlines milestones to work towards which would be very cool as well.

[Physics4kids photo credit]

1 comment

Nice analogy (and well done in gaining that momentum!); it sounds not only like your team has velocity, but also that the vector of that velocity is pointing in the desired direction. I guess you could say that when your v was zero, it was the resultant of a Brownian cloud of students; you’ve ordered their motion through a slow and steady impulse.

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