27.07.2017difficulty level - Q

Around the World in 40 Days (Part One)

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By James Kroll

Research in academic is a tough, gruelling but ultimately rewarding job (otherwise we wouldn’t work so hard at it!). Usually if you ask a scientist about what it is like to work in research, you will be subjected to a coffee fuelled rant about tiresome data analysis, demanding students and endless paper preparation. Unless you catch us in an unusually good mood we won’t take the time to talk about the many things about our job that we genuinely enjoy.

Perks of the job

On that topic, there are a few major perks to being a research scientist. A large amount of business travel being one of them. This can be a double-edged sword, as not everyone is in a position where they can travel frequently, but if like myself you are a young, energetic person who wants to see the world a job in academic can be a great way to go about this – in the last year alone I was able to visit seven countries!
This post is about my most recent and longest academic trip, where I circumnavigated the world in just over 40 days (beating Phineas Fogg himself, although unfortunately I was not awarded £20,000 for doing so).

March Meeting

The journey started with a 10 day trip to the APS March Meeting (QuTech’s experiences were summarised here), the largest physics conference in the world. It takes place every year at a different venue in the US and aims to bring together many of the best physicists in our field from around the world. This year it was held in New Orleans, Louisiana – a city that really surprised me with its architecture, diversity and rich history. I was in attendance to present my research to as large an international audience as I could muster.
It proved to be an intense but amazing five day experience, attending presentations all day and spending the evenings experiencing New Orleans fantastic night life, cuisine and culture.

Trying to parallelise conference attendance, cultural experience and preparation for my talk on the final day proved to be pretty difficult!

The best part of the conference was that due to the sheer scale of it, with almost 8000 physicists in attendance it proved easy to constantly find interesting talks to attend. It also proved to be a surprisingly social event as I bumped into old friends by coincidence and made new ones at talks and evening events. It may also have been embarrassingly exciting to finally meet the authors of some of my favourite papers.
My talk was in the final session on the final day – not only am I impressed I managed to survive that long, but my fears that no-one would attend were unfounded – the room was packed with many of the most respected scientists in my field, and I received a number of tough questions from scientists who I have read about for years and deeply respect. Overall it was a great experience and I hope to be able to attend next year! I was even lucky enough to get a few days to see the real Louisiana and the Deep South.

You would not believe how many alligators, snakes and turtles are in this picture.

The next leg of my trip required me to fly for another 20 hours in the opposite direction from home for some international research collaboration. Where to? And with whom? For that you will have to wait till next time, on the Exciting Adventures of James: Research Candidate.

James Kroll – I am James, an experimental physicist hailing from Scotland. I work in the topological quantum computing roadmap of Leo Kouwenhoven, as it requires an exciting mix of condensed matter physics theory, experimental cryogenics, electrical engineering and computer programming – all things that I somehow enjoy. If I’m not in the lab, you will most likely find me cycling somewhere or reading. Or eating. That’s a pretty important part of my life.


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