About Me

I'm a physics graduate student in Guadalajara, Mexico. If all goes well, I should be finishing my PhD sometime in late 2018. While I'm interested in a very wide range of subjects besides physics, I will try to write about what could broadly be called the “graduate student experience” in this site. There will be posts on the human side of things, and there will be posts on physics. At the time that I begin writing here, I have only this broad, coarse idea of what I want to do with this outlet. Sometimes I may post something long, scholarly, mathematical, and sophisticated; other times I may just vent about some trivial issue or comment on current events. I may do short posts with pictures, or really long ones with tons of math. I may do several posts a week, or I may go silent for a month. Like nearly all bloggers, I'm just making it up as I go along.

I do have some previous blogging experience, if you could call it that. At AutóMata, I write about issues that interest me, including science and physics, but also lots of other stuff. Before that, there was El Sueño Acabó, now just an archive, where I first began blogging in 2011. Both of those are in Spanish. Part of the idea of writing here is to reach a different audience and to put my English to use.

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I didn't come to my graduate physics journey in the usual manner. I mean, physicists are usually somewhat odd people anyway, but my path to this beautiful subject has been quite atypical. When people ask me what I do, I say I've always been a phycisist but have been distracted by other things. I've been extremely introverted, curious, and fond of abstraction since I can remember, and my limited social skills are still something that I view as a necessary evil. In other words, I fit the stereotype about most physicists. However, it is only in recent years that I have finally been able to focus and act on what had been a lifelong yearning to immerse myself in the subject. So here's the abbreviated version of my relevant bio:

At the end of high school, when I expressed my desire to go to college and major in Physics, my parents were disappointed. They said there was no future for that in Mexico and that I would struggle to sustain myself. There is a widely held view in Mexico that science is a luxury only rich countries indulge in after many years of development by brute industrialization; apparently they held this view at the time. My second choice was Mathematics, but that was not an improvement for them. In the end they said they would support me no matter what I chose, but the damage was done and I ended up with a major in Chemical Engineering (not too bad, I guess).

Then, in the wildest, most impulsive act I've ever done, I took a path completely orthogonal to science and engineering as soon as I graduated: I enrolled in music school. I had a couple of interviews for engineering jobs, but was never called by the prospective employers—and I was glad. I put my engineering degree on the shelf and started from scratch in classical music, which was another lifelong yearning, if not the strongest one. I'm still not sure why I did this. I was just online one night, saw that I was on time for enrollment, and went ahead and did it. Of course, my parents weren't happy about this at all either, and I ended up working part-time as a software developer, also starting pretty much from zero (this will be a recurring theme, as you will see).

Full disclosure: I didn't get into software on the basis of any merit in computer science. I got in because my dad owns a software company and he figured I could be of some use there, even if I was a complete noob, and even if it were only a temporary stop on the way to a “real” job in engineering later. At the time I write this, I've been on this temporary stop for over 8 years. And, for the record, I'm kind of good at this software thing after all. But back to the story.

At that time, physics faded away into a tertiary priority, taking a backseat to classical music and making a living. I made progress as far as income, gave some music lessons, got married to a pianist, and was generally content to slowly settle down into ordinaryness. I thought that I was young, that life was long, and that there would be time for physics later, after I had my life sorted out.

Alas, on a February morning in 2012, at age 29, I ended up in a hospital. Thirsty, weak, with cramps and blurry vision, I was told my blood sugar was over 10 times what it should be, and was immediately hooked up to an IV and put on a diet of water and insulin for the next couple of days—it was type 1 diabetes. Most people with blood sugars that high end up with organ damage, in a coma, or dead, but apparently I made it past that initial crisis physically unscathed. I made up my mind right there in the hospital that I would not put off physics any longer, and made my way to the local public university the very next day after I was allowed to go home.

I went to the campus, found the building where the physcists were hiding, and basically walked in and said “I want to be a physicist. Do you have a graduate program? What do I have to do to get in?” A few months later I was in, and I completed my Master's in July of 2014. Barely a month later, my son was born and my wife and I bought a house. And it is in these circumstances, with a wife, a baby boy, and a mortage, that I made it into the PhD program to begin in January of 2016.  So I suppose yes, there will be plenty of writing about the human side of things here, for sure.