Generals Impending

I briefly thought of doing a review or another longer post this month, but I realized that studying for my generals will require too much of my time and concentration to allow for that. Instead, I'll keep this post as an update about my upcoming generals. My generals will have two parts: the first is a standard research seminar where I get to talk about some of the stuff that I've done over the last year and more, while the second is an oral exam where the three committee members get to ask me more fundamental questions. The oral exam is tricky to prepare for because those questions could in principle be about anything; that said, from what I understand, the committee members tend to ask about things related to my research topics, my coursework, or other basic things that they expect someone in my field to understand, so I basically have to study a broad range of material and hope for the best. The research seminar is a little better, because I have a better sense of my own research than at least two out of the three committee members (the excluded member being my advisor); I just have to make sure that I know what I'm talking about (and on that same note that I don't start making stuff up), so this will require me to go a little broad but more deep into the fundamentals underlying my research.

I said in a post from two months ago that I'm working on projects involving nanoscale wetting as well as more accurate modeling of the optical response of electrons in nanoscale metal structures. Right now, I'm not so sure about the future of the second project, because there still seems to be a lot of controversy about how to properly account for boundary effects in finite metal systems, and our group is not really in the business of making those [more fundamental] decisions; instead, we'd like to use a more well-established model of optical response and hope to show some new and interesting results using novel techniques in computational electromagnetics. Given that, my research seminar is almost exclusively going to focus on the first project, which is a much better-posed and better-developed problem and has consequently led to very interesting results. (I can't really give more details until we put out a publication.)

Anyway, at this point I'm waiting to be over with generals, while studying hard for them as the days count down. I promise that I'll have a more typical post next month, after I finish both parts of generals.

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