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Mike Anderson | USLHC | USA

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Daily Grind

Screen shot 2010-01-18 at 1.07.58 PM

The color scheme I enjoy coding in (and my favorite programming language).

What is the main thing that a graduate students in particle physics spends most of their time doing?

Here are the most common activities:

A) Working with pen & paper, staring at equations, using computers to help solve/simplify those equations

B) Building/fixing hardware, Running wires, Connecting cables, Soldering connections

C) Writing computer code, Debugging code written by others, Documenting code

D) Reading/writing papers, Attending meetings, Preparing/giving presentations

This list probably generic enough that it could apply to a grad student in any science field.  (I hope for sanity’s sake that nobody spends most of their time attending meetings.)

Grad students in theory probably spend most of their time doing A.  Grads that participated in the building of the LHC or one of the detectors might say B.

For me, and for graduate students I am familiar with, most of our time is spent on C, dealing with computer code. In our collaboration, almost all the code we write is in C++ or Python. So much time is spent coding, in fact, that it really helps to have taken computer science courses.

Linux is the operating system most commonly used. Any student starting particle physics with only Windows experience has to quickly get comfortable writing/running scripts and programs by typing in terminals.

Many people in particle physics never would have guessed when they started out how much time they would spend programming. Those with CS degrees or experience really have a head start in contributing to particle physics!

More later. -Mike

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