I got an email from a physics major asking for some advice about graduate programs. He said it would be okay if I posted it here. Maybe you can help out!
My name is Blake Pollard, I am an undergraduate physics major at Columbia University graduating next week. I agree very much with the premise of and the need for the Azimuth Project and would like to help out. Though my passion is physics, most of my undergraduate research has been in climate and sustainability. I would really like to find a graduate program enabling me to do both physics and something useful for the environmental movement, hence I haven’t committed to a Ph.D. program in pure physics. I studied category theory a bit here at Columbia from Lauda, and took some representation theory with Khovanov, but I think (at least at this point in time) my calling in physics is geometrical algebras. I was planning on spending a year off reading on my own, trying to do some work, and making the decision between environmental, physics, or mathematics graduate studies. Your blog served me well as a guidepost in my early college years for reading good stuff, and would appreciate any advice you have on:
1) graduate programs where I could do work on both mathematical physics and the environment
2) good people/places/projects that I could participate in in the coming year.
The Azimuth Project web resources have already been helpful in finding people to reach out to, but I figured you might have something or someone popping out of your head in particular.
I have programming experience in data mining, numerical simulations, remote sensing, and just having fun programming; decent math/physics background; and really just want to find a good place where good people are working hard. Like Göttingen way back in the day. Sorry for the longish email.
Thank you in advance for your time,
Blake S. Pollard
Applied Physics 2011
In a later email he added a bit more detail:
I think most people, though, would associate my goals with doing some physical modeling/analysis of environmental systems/problems, maybe a statistical-physical hybrid. That is probably what I would do in a PhD program on the environmental side of things. But I’m more thinking of having an advisor who does research in mathematical physics, while applying myself on the side to some problem related to the environment, like Google’s 20% projects. Probably it’s a bit too inter-departmental and too flexible for there to be a formal program for this (plus I’d likely be too busy!).
It seems though the answer might be simply doing a PhD in environmental sciences and doing physics in my spare time. Just organizing my own thoughts.
Are there any good grad programs that involve a mix of mathematical or theoretical physics and environmental science? I’ll take any good answers I get and add them to the Azimuth Wiki.