Kent Yagi / Physics
In Spring 2018, I taught a 5000-level course on introduction to General Relativity. After taking my course, three undergraduate students came to see me and showed their interests in studying General Relativity further. It is a very exciting timing to study gravitational physics given the historical discovery of gravitational waves (which are ripples of spacetime curvature) and the Nobel Prize in physics last year was awarded to three representatives of LIGO, the gravitational-wave detector. The new discoveries marked the dawn of gravitational-wave astronomy and we expect to learn many different aspects of fundamental physics (not only gravitational physics but also e.g. nuclear physics) in near future.
I would like to take this opportunity to let these undergraduate students expose them- selves into the frontier research of General Relativity. The goals of my proposal are four-folds;
to let these undergraduate students have experience on gravitational theory research, (II) to let them become creative and be trained on how to come up with new research ideas, (III) to let them practice giving research presentations and (IV) to let students who will be taking the GR course next year learn about frontier gravitational research from the undergraduates. To achieve this goal, I will host the Gravity Research Competition. I begin by asking the undergraduate students to read some literature on frontier research in gravitational physics and select a few topics that they find interesting. Based on this selection, I will come up with a project for each student to tackle over the academic year. They are all ready to work on projects in gravitational physics as they have already completed taking my General Relativity course with good scores. Ideally, it would be best if the students could come up with their own research ideas, but I understand this would be extremely challenging for beginners, so I will host a separate training session on brain-storming research ideas that I describe later. Once I assign them research projects, I will hold a weekly meeting between each student and guide them through reproducing previous calculations and obtaining new
results that we hope to ideally publish in a journal.
At the beginning of the General Relativity course that I am going to teach in Spring 2019, I will ask each of the above three undergraduates to present their work. To each student, I will assign 12 mins for the presentation plus 3 mins for questions. 12 mins is short but this is roughly the same amount of time assigned to a speaker at the American Physics Society (APS) Meeting. This will be a good practice for the three students to summarize their work in short amount of time. Having such presentations at the beginning of the course also has an advantage to students taking the course as they will have a better idea of why the topics that they are going to study are important. At the end of all the three presentations, I will let students taking the course to vote on one of the presentations that they enjoyed the most. The winner will get an opportunity to attend the APS April Meeting in Denver in 2019.
One of the crucial skills for a researcher is to come up with interesting research projects. In some occasions, such new ideas arise when one is relaxed and e.g. having dinner with other researchers. Thus, I would like to also host a brain-storming dinner twice each semester (so four dinners in total) among the three students. By the time we have such dinners, the students should have more or less understood how the research works in our community. I will advice students to check the arXiv frequently and take a look at papers that they find interesting. I will then ask them to try to come up with new projects based on those papers, and present their ideas over the dinner. We will have discussions and brain-storm among the four of us to see if we can turn each idea into actual projects.
APS Meeting airfare: $500
APS Meeting accommodation fee: $500
APS Meeting registration fee: $40
brain-storming dinner: $240 × 4 = $960