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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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Congratulations, Dr. Dale

Last weekend was graduation weekend here at Nebraska (did any of you notice that we have a new blogger with UNL ties?). If you want to see a bunch of happy people, go to graduation; I can’t think of anything to be glum about there. This was a particularly happy graduation for me, as my first PhD student, Dale Johnston, received his diploma. (Equal credit, if not more, goes to my colleague Aaron Dominguez; we co-advise graduate students.) Dale’s thesis was on the Higgs search at D0; his work was a piece of the puzzle in the first exclusion limits on a high-mass standard-model Higgs. At the ceremony I got to help put his doctoral hood on him — the first time I’ve done such a thing, and I hope to have many more opportunities.

That evening Aaron and I drove out to Seward, about twenty five miles west of Lincoln, where Dale’s in-laws live, to help celebrate with his family. Everyone was very proud of Dale’s achievements, and rightfully so. I will admit that you can lose perspective when you spend all of your working days with people who have a PhD or who will be getting one soon. You start to think that everyone has a PhD! (I have even less perspective, as I come home to my PhD wife at the end of the work day.) In fact, it is a rare achievement. Only about 1400 people in the US will earn a PhD in physics this year. This is only a tiny fraction of the population, of course, and not even a very big fraction of, say, high-school seniors who imagine that they will become physicists someday. It’s not an easy path. So it was very rewarding to me to see how excited Dale’s family was about his accomplishments.

So, graduate students — we have a lot of respect for what you are doing, and we know how hard it is. Hang in there! You’ll be rightfully proud of what you have done when you finish.

Meanwhile: the end of the academic term means a bit more time to think about my physics research. I’ll be back at CERN next week for the CMS “physics week,” where we’ll be taking a hard look at where we’ve gotten with the data so far, and what we are hoping to get figured out in time for upcoming conferences. This would all be wonderful except for the fact that I and my colleagues are also mired in the move to our new physics building. We have been waiting for this moment for three and a half years now, but the move itself has been quite chaotic and stressful. We’re trying to keep our eye on the big picture, which is that we will have a wonderful new facility for research and teaching. Want to have the rewarding experience of getting a PhD in physics? Come to Nebraska!

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