The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula


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. Michael was kind enough to provide a desk for me in a shared office, next door to the office of a graduate student in the group.

That student was also named Steve. One day, while I was tapping away at the terminal on my desk, Steve popped into my office, smirked, 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 it as an affectionate joke – look at the little undergraduate, working away so hard as if he was a real physicist already.

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.