Welcome — this is my first foray into blogging! My plan is to post at a rate of once to a few times per month.
I am a theoretical physicist, originally from the island country of Singapore. Beginning Fall 2003, I entered graduate school in the United States, to pursue my research interests in theoretical physics. Getting a doctorate took me through a convoluted route, but I did eventually graduate from Case Western Reserve University Fall 2010. I just finished up a Postdoctoral Associate position at the University of Minnesota Duluth; and I am extremely excited to be moving on to an Associate Professor position at National Central University in Taoyuan, Taiwan. This would also bring me much closer to home.
More than 14 years in (theoretical physics) academia has lead me to develop a strong sense that, while it definitely attracts many bright minds, its reward structure is deeply flawed and the incentives to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, ethics, and intellectual integrity are severely lacking. On a personal level, I have struggled to survive, and the toll on my physical and mental health has been considerable. That hard work, scrupulous conduct, and a good amount of creativity/problem-solving capabilities are rewarded with apparent punishment — this has been a recurring theme throughout my career thus far. Given how academia functions, I suspect I am not alone.
I hope to write about physics proper — the topics will necessarily be as idiosyncratic as the range of theoretical research I have worked on — but I also hope to, on this blog, discuss many of the above-mentioned scientific-ethical issues. Because detailed evidence is extraordinarily important to me, I will be rather explicit about the various (admittedly anecdotal) examples I have witnessed/experienced over the years that have influenced my views. This would likely offend many people — so let’s see how much trouble I’m going to get myself into…
The March for Science movement has recently been triggered by the need to push back against the perceived anti-science socio-political climate of our times. While I very much stand with it in spirit, I would also like to urge my fellow physicists to perform some serious collective self-examination, if we desire to promote an equitable and merit-based way forward for our scientific community. Issues related to scientific integrity/ethics, professional conduct, intellectual credit, and the evaluation of scientists and the value of their work, will — I predict — become evermore acute the more data starved theoretical high energy physics and (certain aspects of) cosmology become; the higher the ratio of physics graduate student intake to postdoc/faculty job openings; and the more intense the ensuing pressure to publish often and to work on fashionable topics. Although I take issue with many of the dogmatic teachings of the world’s religions, within the context here, I believe it is appropriate to express my sentiments by quoting the King James 2000 Bible, Matthew 7:3:
And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own?
I hope this blog will be a place for personal growth; for me to learn/understand more physics; and, through the comments section, for interacting with thoughtful people.