That Time of Year

jacaranda_april_2014Well, it is that time of year. The Jacarandas peaking is one of the many LA markers of the seasons for me. It means that classes will soon be over (in fact they are now) and I’ll be saying goodbye to a group of students, either because a class is over, or because students I’ve taught in earlier classes are graduating and leaving USC. Either way, it is always a time of mixed feelings, and a sense of being in transition in a number of ways. The Spring is already beginning to feel like it is rolling into Summer, and I’m clearing my desk of one set of things and making way for other things.

(Oh, and of course, the other thing that happens this year is that I seem to end up doing a post like this at around this time, right down to within a few days. It usually involves a picture of a Jacaranda tree. See here and look at the list of related posts below.)

I had an extraordinarily good group of students in my Spring class this year. As you may recall it was an undergraduate General Relativity class (see earlier posts on this by searching on that topic). We ended up having a lot of fun with the topic itself, and things were extra good because the students were very engaged, enthusiastic, and willing to dig into the material to learn more. This is an ideal combination for a class of the type I like to teach since it means that I can be flexible, and leave plenty of room for discussion and interaction.

Amazingly for a room full of smart physicists, there was no “arrogant jerk” behaviour of any sort poisoning the tone of the discussions! I’m pleased about that since I’m a firm believer that we can do great things as physicists without that sort of thing, even though it is so common at times I think that people assume it is somehow a necessary ingredient in physics! Unfortunately, I think it is really as a result of certain kinds of bad behavior that is tolerated -sometimes even celebrated- to the point where it becomes something younger generations are encouraged to emulate. (This is part of a longer set of thoughts I have on this topic, but I think I’ll stay on a positive track here.) I’m just so pleased to see such a great group of students enjoying doing physics together with none of that…attitude. Hurrah!

I wish all the best to those of the group who are graduating and going off to other things. It is an exciting time!


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5 Responses to That Time of Year

  1. Yvette says:

    My experience with the “arrogant jerk” thing is they often come into physics because they were socially inept as kids in high school but realized they were talented at this obscure things so they became arrogant as a mask. Tends to drop in the first year or two though.

    Or, you know, they’re just jerks. 😉

  2. Clifford says:

    Hi! You may be right. I hope it is that simple…!


  3. Mary Cole says:

    I read this post much too early in the morning, as not fully awake, I misread ‘arrogant jerk’ as ‘anorak jerk’.