Infrequently Asked Questions

Why is this blog called “The Adventures of My Hamster?” (also: do I have a hamster?)

The title of this blog is a metaphor. Most of you have already stopped reading, so I will continue. When I was an undergraduate, I had the great fortune to be working in the group of Prof. Michael Schmidt at Yale University. There was a senior graduate student in the group, also named Steve. While in the group, I had a desk in an office that I shared with a post-doctoral researcher. One day, while I was tapping away at the terminal on my desk, Steve popped into my office and said something to the effect of, “Oh, look at you. The undergraduate, deep in his work. You’re like a little hamster, running on your wheel, thinking you’re going somewhere.” He meant is as an affectionate joke – look at the little undergraduate, thinking he’s doing physics just like everybody else in the “big leagues.”

I wasn’t offended. In fact, I found it a little encouraging (I try to take seemingly annoying or offensive nicknames as a badge of pride – you have to OWN IT), because in science it’s easy to run for a long time in one direction and think you’re going somewhere, only to find out you were going nowhere. I take this moniker – the hamster – as a mark of pride, and a reminder that just when we think we are making them most progress may be when we are most fooling ourselves, and we must think deeply about what we are doing.

There are no actual hamsters.


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