Wednesday, August 09, 2000

Weirdness



Things around here have been getting a little weird lately.

First off, J's new boy seems to have broken up with her, so now I'm trying to figure out if she's back with me because I'm what she wanted all along or because I'm rebound rebound. So I've pretty much thrown up my hands and decided to enjoy her company in the moment and not hurt my head too much thinking about it.

Secondly, it looks like I'll be flying to California soon after all, but as someone else.

And lastly, (wait for it...) my x-girlfriend's boyfriend wrote and asked me to tell him about my graduate advisor, whom is applying to be a faculty member in his department. With this query, I get to address a whole slew of emotional issues at once -- yey! Weirdness: how often do you get to write a letter of recommendation for an advisor who never wrote you one, and to a boy who is going out with a girl you loved who hates you and isn't talking to you? I wrote back with this letter, in which I tried to be honest.

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H A is an amazingly skilled and productive physicist. I once saw him work out and complete a detailed paper before the ink had time to dry on the whiteboard. He is also very arrogant (heh, like I'm not), and has a tendency to be somewhat overconfident in his understanding and modeling of phenomenon that he may only have a cursory knowledge of. However, his arrogance is supported by the fact that he really IS extraordinarily good at surmising and analyzing key elements very quickly. And he is driven; even though someone as skilled as he is could get by with minimal effort, he will wake up at the crack of dawn to attack a new problem when he finds it interesting.

Although H was my graduate advisor, I feel a little strange about reviewing his advising, since we had such an odd relationship. For several reasons, but mostly because my own interests led me outside his realm of expertise, I did most of my graduate work independently and conferred with H only rarely. However, the meetings we did have were both enjoyable and very productive -- I can honestly say that H is an excellent advisor. He was always candid as well as friendly, and, if nothing else, trusted me to do my own thing without imposing a lot of structure. And, on every occasion I had to rely on H, he never once let me down. I kind of regret not having taken more advantage of his assistance and friendship, but I like to think I optimized the use of his time to benefit my goals while not putting too much of a strain on his schedule.

As to his lab... he's trying to herd a bunch of cats down there! Doing a good job though. He really keeps the place running with his personality and natural inquisitiveness, as well as his disarming humor and charisma. He is always tackling new projects head on, and keeps things from stagnating. Of course, his drive to be at the edge of any field he is investigating sometimes comes at the expense of past projects -- but H's drive and talent belong in the exploration of the new rather than in the support of the past.

In short: H is energetic, a leader, and a very skilled physicist. He can step on people's toes and his arrogance can rub people the wrong way, but that is a small price to pay for the life and intellect he brings to any investigative effort. As an advisor he is friendly and candid, but he can be somewhat intimidating in his confidence -- perhaps he should come with a warning label that he is not an advisor for the feint hearted! All in all: if he wants to tackle a faculty position in neuroscience, I can recommend him highly as a person and as a researcher.

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