Letters to the Editor—April 6, 2020

Physics 13, 52
Physicists from around the world share their experiences during the pandemic.
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If you have a story to share about your experience during the pandemic, write to physics@aps.org. A selection of letters will be posted in Physics and APS News.

Keeping Research Going, and Contributing in Other Ways

Fortunately, my research is theoretical and computational, so it has not been difficult for my group to continue working and to stay in touch as we all hunker down at home. But graduate students in campus housing have been particularly affected. Many of them have had to vacate their housing and find new lodging on extremely short notice.

[My group] also volunteered for the Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) initiative in the UK, which brings together researchers with many kinds of computational skills. We hope that our expertise will be valuable there.

Andrea Liu is a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania and Speaker of the Council of the American Physical Society.

I guess my story is pretty standard: healthy so far, quarantined for two and a half weeks, bathtub office. I help my students on Slack and Skype frequently and attend seminars and meetings on Zoom, which turns out to work really well. Running calculations is not a problem for now. But running things from home with my 4-year-old son is challenging.

Juan Carrasquilla is a physicist at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Canada.

I’ve been asked to participate in a group of epidemiologists, virologists, and modelers who are trying to estimate, in different scenarios, how this pandemic will strike Buenos Aires and its surroundings. I closed the lab, maintaining minimal guards for the animals, and I do simulations at home.

Gabriel Midlin is a physicist at the University of Buenos Aires.

A Silver Lining

I enjoyed writing short stories in my high school and college years. But after getting my doctorate in physics and then teaching large undergraduate classes, I had no time to indulge in this pastime. The coronavirus outbreak forced me to join the ranks of college faculty around the world who communicate with their students online. How could I continue to make physics exciting to my students when I could no longer interact with them personally? Then the inspiration came to me: I would write short stories centered round the topic to be covered in class. One of them is a detective story about the charging and discharging of capacitors.

Basil S. Davis is a physicist at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.

Completing a Thesis

Following the government’s call for social distancing, I have not left my apartment in over a week. As a Ph.D. student in my final year, I am very busy. I split my time between writing my thesis and working on three research projects with my collaborators. Being a theorist, all I really need is my laptop, pen, and paper, so my work has not really been affected that much. I continue to talk to my advisor regularly, and I have Skype meetings with my collaborators almost every day. Unfortunately, two conferences I was planning on attending have been canceled. A few more scheduled for June and July are currently in a limbo. Apart from that, I am grateful to be one of the lucky few whose life has not been completely scrambled.

Alexander Yosifov is a Ph.D. student at the Space Research and Technology Institute, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

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