Group Feedback from Locus Dependence Discussion

Group 1: The Lowest Group


  • What are the advantages of the PUI environment?
    • Depends on the specifics of location: type of institution, geographic location, tenure and promotion requirements. And those can change.
    • Also depends on where you are in career, junior or senior; tenured or untenured
    • Generally, less stress from external sources of judgement, more drive by internal goals. Especially when it comes to grants
    • People choose to go to PUIs, not a fall back
    • Can follow interests outside of mainstream, hot topics; allowed to go to crackpot conferences
    • Some of us feel external pressure creeping up, especially at grants
    • Maybe more PUIs have pre-tenure leave?
    • At some schools zero pressure for grants and/or publication so you can do anything, any topic, any reading you have time for.
    • Most PUIs hire a theorist, not a specialist in a topic
    • PUIs more nurturing, less competition between faculty
    • There is a general skepticism in the R-1 community about foundational/fundamental research, but there can be respite at PUIs, and maybe this allowed QI and other topics to have such success at PUIs
    • Space to follow dream, even if unpopular or crazy
    • Summarized as: FREEDOM
  • What positive experiences have we had at our PUIs?
    • Allowed for successes in scholarship; discovered secret history of ideas.
    • Freedom to explore interdisciplinary interests (although be careful!)
    • Simple problems developed with undergraduate, simple questions they asked, lead to new ideas, new applications,
    • Some students have really helped with research; former students are still collaborators
    • It is important to identify good resources
    • To be continued...
  • What are we going to do in the future?
    • Virtual Journal Clubs?
  • What can Anacapa do to facilitate our research success?
    • To be completed....

Group 2: Optimal Group

  • Research topics
    • Can spend more time studying non-"popular" topics
    • More freedom to change subfields
    • Can take research risks with risking student funding (i.e. grad student and post doc funding)
    • Don't have to raise our own salary via grants
    • Environment not as cutthroat, so research can be more fun!
    • If research leads to a clearer explanation, then we can publish in AJP (American Journal of Physics) or EJP (European Journal of Physics, equivalent to AJP), this allows us to look for deeper understanding instead of the always looking for something new
    • Able to revisit foundations of a theory and carefully rethink them
    • Research at PUI's not necessarily result in a paper, sometimes student posters and presentations may count (toward reviews and tenure)
    • Checking old results or conjectures advance our knowledge incrementally (and you may find something interesting)
  • Benefits from teaching frequently
    • Teaching courses more often gives us more exposure to general physics ideas which can lead to non-standard approaches in our research
    • Able to recruit students from courses
    • Can meet students in smaller classes (and get to know them more quickly)
  • Working with undergraduates
    • Use simpler models can lead to generalized view of the topic
    • More computation to involve student earlier
  • Advantages to being an experimentalist at a PUI
    • Theorists don't need large labs, some subfields have most of their papers on the arXiv
    • Not all theorists need giant clusters
    • Don't have limitations that the experimentalists have (e.g. equipment, money, etc)
  • Departments at PUI's
    • Are smaller than R1 departments and we can have a more significant impact on our department
  • Words of Wisdoms
    • Remember to balance interdisciplinary (a buzz word, it is hard and can backfire) and disciplinary work
    • Balance short-term and long-term projects
    • Divide long-term project into successive short-term projects (e.g. divide into student projects)
  • Independent people thrive at PUI's (we are able to steer our own boat)

Group 3: Top Group

  • Advantages to being at a PUI
    • Typically we have the freedom to choose our research field and freedom to explore new fields.
    • There is less pressure to produce regular research results and obtain grant funding.
    • We can more readily involve students in our research.
    • We can have a significant impact on students' education.

  • Challenges to being at a PUI
    • Maintaining the quality of our research, especially if you are the lone theorist in the department.
    • Working with undergraduates of varying levels of preparation pose challenges and potentially significant time commitments.
    • Some people commented increased pressure to involve students in their research.
    • Recruiting students to physics is a challenge, this affects the research agendas of some faculty.

  • Research environment at a PUI
    • Some people commented increased pressure to involve students (undergraduates and masters) in research. The pressure is coming from both the department and higher level administration.
    • What does research even mean at a PUI? The definitions/understanding vary widely from close to R1 like to low level student involvement. On student research one view is to aim for "engagement" of students, producing publishable results shouldn't be the goal and is often not realistic or possible.
    • It is advisable to choose research projects that are related to your interests and are manageable.
    • Remind students of REU's, the experience can help them and you.
    • For attracting students to your research it helps if you can obtain summer support.

  • Teaching environment at a PUI
    • Faculty can work closely with students help them mature as scientists.
    • The teaching load can be very heavy.
    • Physicists at PUI's typically interact with faculty outside their discipline. Many find this intellectually stimulating and it can lead to new opportunities for scholarship - teaching and research. Some also noted that this can be distracting.

  • General comments
    • The Anacapa Society should develop a statement on the importance of theoretical physics to the university and its climate of intellectual discourse and research.
    • People noted that although theorists do not bring in significant grant money to a department or university they do bring prestige and rigor to the teaching and research missions.
    • Interdisciplinary research/scholarship is a current topic on campus. People had multiple thoughts on this issue regarding the importance of interdisciplinary research/scholarship to their careers.