Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

Despite the difficult times, I am looking ahead and thinking more of the future.  A third COVID-19 surge is underway, but we are managing well so far.  Success will depend testing, distancing, masks, and not taking chances. It is hard, but we have been doing these things at MIT is it is working, so keep it up.

Christina and Ryan keep a departmental calendar of events.  There are instructions on how to access it at the bottom of this announcement.  Please contact one of them if you have an event to advertise.

There is a lot of career news – our students have been working hard on bringing alumni onto campus to talk about their career, so please check it out.  Also, a friend of mine, Dawna Wright, and EE for the State Department, will be presenting on opportunities on the Bureau of Overseas Buidlings Operations, a very cool job.


Above the Fold

  • Tavneet Suri and I wrote a FNL piece about our reports.  Much shorter than the report themselves.
  • MIT has entered Research Restart 3 (RR3) in which hourly resitrictions on lab work have been ended.  This is good news.
  • Nov. 3 looms.  Here are WorkLife/WellBeing tips on election stress


  • Sample return mission to asteroid Bennu.  OSIRIS-REX did a touch and go to collect samples from Bennu to return to Earth.

Career News

  • Subscribe here to the new weekly careers newsletter from SPS and PGSC! Every Wednesday, you’ll receive a list of upcoming job, internship, and career development opportunities including information relevant to both grad students and undergrads. ​Thank you to our physics careers team, consisting of Quinn Brodsky, Joseph Johnston, Eugene Knyaev, Maya Reese, and Prof. Mike Williams for setting this up.
  • If you have opportunities you would like advertised to the physics student newsletter, please email them to 8careers-owner@mit.edu.
  • Research Opportunities with the Department of Defense
  • Princeton Princeton Electrical Engineering faculty  position
  • Faculty position in astroparticle physics at Louvain
  • Interested in careers in industry? Want to get a sense of the many options available to you? Come attend the Fall 2020 Alumni Careers Panels hosted by the Society of Physics Students! The two panels will be held on Wednesday, October 28, from 6-7 PM EDT, and Thursday, October 29, from 5-6 PM EDT. Each panel will feature five alumni from varying career fields, such as software, finance, consulting, teaching, and many more. Further details to be announced shortly!
  • Career Fair information here


  • Teaching position at Deerborn academy here
  • SoS teaching prize nominations here
  • Moore inventor awards announcement
  • Experiential Learning Grants Request for Proposals
  • Nominate for the MITx prize

From SPS

  • Next week: SPS is hosting alumni panels! Come hear about the diverse options available to Course 8s beyond academia and research.
  • Contribute to the first version of the Course 8 Handbook, a guide to the department for underclassmen and prospective majors! Sign up here to help.


Upcoming events

  • Thursday, October 22: from the producers of Pciture a Scientist, Bending the Arc – Oct. 22, 2020, 7 pm
  • Friday, October 23: Mark your calendars — PGSC will be holding a Zoom trivia night this Friday (10/23) and movie night next Friday (10/30).
  • Sunday, October 25-Saturday, October 31: Black in Physics Week – professional development; mixers for undergrads, grads, postdocs, and faculty; jobs fair
  • Friday, October 30: Deadline for students living in the US to get a flu shot and submit documentation here, lest MIT block your spring registration

Outreach and recruitment

  • The  Black in Physics Week Job Fair will run on Friday, Oct 30, from 11am – 1pm ET and the PVC will have a virtual booth in the job fair. We invite you to join the MIT Physics booth and to advertise any open postdoc positions you may have during the event. Please contact the Physics Values Committee at at physics-values@mit.edu .
  • Help applicants out through PhysGAAP! Dominika Durovcikova and Mason Ng have created a new graduate application assistance program through PGSC’s Grads Advising Graduate Admissions (GAGA). Graduate students should sign up here.
  • GAGA and APO staff are also managing a student-led Q&A service. Learn more and please sign up to help out here.

More ways to get involved


Accessing the Physics Community Calendar:

  • In cooperation with Christina Andujar and myself an MIT Physics Community Calendar was created for use in Microsoft Outlook.If you want your Physics event on the calendar please email Christina Andujar (candujar@mit.edu) and myself (higginsr@mit.edu) with all of the information for the talk itself as well as how to access it (e.g. a zoom link).When you set up this calendar, you will be able to view and open the individual appointments on this calendar to find the zoom details and eventually the DropBox link will be added with the video if the talk was recorded. Our hope is to have all events posted to this calendar during our time working remotely to help you have a place where the zoom links can live and login information can be accessed.Windows Users:
    Steps to access the calendar for those who use Microsoft Outlook:
    1.     Go to the calendar in Outlook
    2.     Click on “Open Calendar” and then “Open Shared Calendar…”
    3.     In the text box type: PHYSICS: Community Calendar
    4.     When you press “OK” the calendar should appear on your end.

    Apple Users:
    Steps to access the calendar for those who use Microsoft Outlook:
    1.     Go to the calendar in Outlook
    2.     Click on “View” then “Go to” and then “Calendar” and then “Open Shared Calendar…”
    3.     In the text box type: PHYSICS: Community Calendar
    4.     When you press “OK” the calendar should appear on your end.

    Please note: For this calendar to appear you must type the name exactly as I have it listed, “PHYSICS: Community Calendar”

Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

For the first time, nothing too weird happened in the last week…

Above the Fold

  • Alumna Andrea Ghez shares Nobel Prize in Physics with Rienhard Genzler and Roger Penrose – Tran found Andrea’s senior thesis cover page
  • Finally, MIT has a communictions plan for when a community member tests positive for COVID-19.  Flowchart here
  • Science News named Phiala on of the top 10 Scientists to Watch AND Phiala won the APS Maria Goeppert-Meyer award. Talk about a good week.


  • The skinny on face masks from Nature
  • Cooling with capacitors in Science
  • Quanta article on black holes vis. Nobel Prize

Connect with us

  • Department leadership office hours for students alternating Wednesdays 4-5 pm, look out for emails! We went into academia because we enjoy talking to students. Please drop by; we don’t bite.
  • You can also route questions for Peter through Anjali and Stella, who meet with him every Friday
  • You are welcome to start conversations about any topic on the department Piazza page and department Slack
  • List of other resources in our department and around campus, courtesy of Physics Values Committee


  • Stanford Science Fellows Announcement – Oct. 15 (i.e. very soon)
  • Stanford Physics Identity and Equity event – Oct. 23-24 on applying to graduate school, focus on URM students – information and flyer here
  • Family support from Office of WorkLife and Welbeing – here

June 10 recommendations updates

  • Science Council is working in earnest on SOS and department staff positions dedicated to furthering equity and inclusion. There are many moving parts, ranging from soliciting Science GSC input to HR to finances during the pandemic, but you will hear from us as soon as we can. ​
  • Deepto and I will be asking the Physics Values Committee to consult with us regarding trainings for the spring semester and beyond
  • The Department has asked the Physics Values Committee to keep track of recommendations and make scorecards to hold us accountable. Check out their webpage for comprehensive updates on division and department initiatives
  • Given the pandemic, the Physics Visiting Committee visit was canceled this far. However, we will be asking SPS and PGSC to contribute a section to the report when they come in 2021.


  • Thank you to the APO staff for always keeping students in the loop and providing a wealth of information through the weekly Physics Student Newsletter, even when ours goes on hiatus
  • The Career Event ​on September 24 went extremely well. A huge thank you to all who served on the panel and all who attended the event.
  • The Physics Values Committee is welcoming in a new co-chair, Associate Professor Yen-Jie Lee. Thank you to former co-chair Halston Lim. One of the first graduate student leaders of a department committee in collective memory, Halston did an extraordinary job leading the PVC during a period of great transition, on top of his significant and sustained efforts to improving the experience of marginalized members of our MIT community. Be like Halston.

Anjali, Peter, and Stella

Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

I am sorry to have gone so long without a community message.  Recently, the Academic Continuity Meetings have been more sporadic than usual — which is good as these meetings were born of the crisis last March.  At the same time, much has been happening in other venues.

I’m away this week and will return, with our student announcements, next week.

Above the Fold

Campus operation – Research is going at the 50% occupancy level while the rest of the campus is at about the 5% occupancy level.  The number of positive COVID-19 tests remains very low (Dashboard here).  Testing has ramped up with the opening of the new test center on the Ice Rink in Johnson athletic center.  Access to the campus is possible – please contact Matt, Peter (after next week), or the head of your lab to you would like some time to use your office occasionally. Lots of data here. There have been 34 positive cases since testing started, and MIT Emergency Management and MIT Medical have analyzed where the infections cames from here.

Cool thing – The Alm Lab in Biological Engineering has been analyzing wastewater and can see Sar-COV-2 biomarkers that lead detection by testing by at least five days.  They have set up a pilot in 7 MIT buildings, slides here.  Wastewater sampling is great stuff, and I’ve invited the research lead, Dr. Katya Moniz, to give a lunch talk about their work.

Many discussions about ramping to 100% research and one of the milestones is full compliance, hence this rather unpleasant memo here.

What is going to happen this Spring?  This note just went to academic officers (but not faculty or Department Heads, I’m told).  I have also heard from our students they are being asked about their preferred plans for the spring (i.e. will you be here or there).


  • Last week, we had David Elwell from ISO talk about OPT, slides here
  • Arup has a new book out on viruses, vaccines, and immunity.
  • I’ve spent almost a year working with Tavneet Suri of Sloan on companion reports on how MIT should evolve our gift processes.  They are here.  There will be a Town Hall week after next to hear comments and, I am sure, much more strum und drang after that.
  • Information on MIT sponsored tutoring programs for MIT children up to high school.
  • Thursday, I hosted a panel, “Should I go to graduate school?” The panel was Wolfgang Ketterle, Richard Fletcher, Yannick Selelim, and Alyssa Rudelis.


  • PRL Cover – Hubbard Model from Martin
  • Wha? Department – Nature article on Numpy
  • Dark matter – could be primordial black holes, according to Quanta.  I’ve always liked this solution: no new theory is needed.  But, they are hard to find.
  • Insight Fellows announcement

Los Endos

I watch “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix – tech CEO’s tell-all about how the tech companies use our data.  Did not learn much new – but if you don’t know, read Soshona Zuboff’s book – but I’ve decided to remove everything Google from my computer. To replace Chrome, I’ve installed Brave as my browser and am using Qwant as my search engine.






Semi Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

This marks the end of the first week of classes in our new virtualized reality — the summer is now officially behind us. It was long and arduous at times, but hopefully, everyone got a bit of sun. In the midst of everything, a number of organizations in the Department embarked on new initiatives, instituted policy and procedural changes, and began a variety of other efforts to benefit students. This report, by the SPS and PGSC presidents, summarizes the tremendous amount of work done on almost every front this summer to improve the way students move through the Department.

Peter, Stella, and Anjali

Above the Fold

  • Op-Ed by Kerston Perez in Inside Higher Education
  • New department-wide Piazza forum, Communic.8.  You may post semi-anonymously (poster’s name known to instructors only).  the instructors (Jesse Thaler, Matt Hodel, Kaylee de Soto, and Peter Fisher) will review how the site is working any may move to fully anonymous posting in mid-October…
  • New positions: Prof Lindley Winslow has agreed to serve as Undergraduate Coordinator and Prof. Claude Canizares will serve as Graduate Student Advocate.  Announcement here.


New news

    • Physics Values Committee restructuring. The Physics Values Committee underwent a major restructuring this summer to best respond to community needs, and has uploaded its new charter on its website.
    • Metrics of student success survey — faculty and graduate students, please fill out this survey from the PGSC’s admissions advisory council, GAGA, about metrics of student success
    • GWIP and UWIP rebranding. GWIP, along with UWIP, is working with LGBTQ+ services to make the organization more inclusive of all gender marginalized physics students. Outward-facing changes include a name change from “Women” to “Womxn”, new logos, and updated web resources, in addition to more internal efforts. GWIP and UWIP are planning to host joint inclusivity training events during the fall 2020 semester.

In case you missed it

  • 8.391 and 8.398 in-person policy
  • Opportunity for undergrad and grad students to be a mentor for core undergrad courses (~$840 stipend available)
  • Want to learn more about opportunities in our Department or at MIT? The Physics Values Committee website has nice lists of resources you can access and ways to get involved.

Upcoming events (if you want to link to the Departmental Calendar, see Christina’s instructions at the end of this message)

  • Monday, September 7 – Labor Day (read: three-day weekend! Woo!)
  • Tuesday, September 8 – first PhysREFS office hour. Here’s the full schedule of PhysREFS office hours for the semester​
  • Also Tuesday, September 8! At 5:30pm, SPS is holding elections for the 2020-21 year. If you can’t make it at that time and want to run for a position, fill out this form to nominate yourself.
  • Thursday, Sept. 10, 12-1:30 pm, Physics Lunch talk, Salvatore Vitale “Astrophysical implications of the binary black hole merger GW190521”, see Ryan’s note for zoom link
  • Thursday, September 24, 4:00 p.m. — “Is Grad School Right For You?” physics department panel
  • November 5-8 — The National Society of Black Physicists Conference is coming up soon! Our department is organizing a small group of students and/or faculty to represent us. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Olumakinde Ogunnaike at ogunnaik@mit.edu.

Community outreach opportunity from graduate student Francesco Sciortino

  • ​Recently many of us have felt rising pressure to become more active and address social justice, educational access and diversity issues. If you’re on the same boat, now is the time to change gear! In this document, you can find information about 3 opportunities to volunteer with organizations based near MIT: the Cambridge Community Learning Center, the Science Club For Girls and Enroot. Together, these 3 groups support underserved adult learners, girls learning about STEM, and young immigrants in Cambridge. This semester, the majority of these volunteering opportunities will be remote (via Zoom). We are in contact with representatives of each of these organizations and they have told us that they are in huge need of volunteers to address old and new challenges during the next months. If you’re interested, please look through this document and/or email Francesco at sciortino@psfc.mit.edu!

Accessing the Physics Community Calendar: In cooperation with Christina Andujar and myself, an MIT Physics Community Calendar was created for use in Microsoft Outlook.

If you want to your Physics event on the calendar please email Christina Andujar (candujar@mit.edu) and myself (higginsr@mit.edu) with all of the information for the talk itself as well as how to access it (e.g. a zoom link).

When you set up this calendar, you will be able to view and open the individual appointments on this calendar to find the zoom details and eventually the DropBox link will be added with the video if the talk was recorded. Our hope is to have all events posted to this calendar during our time working remotely to help you have a place where the zoom links can live and login information can be accessed.

Windows Users:
Steps to access the calendar for those who use Microsoft Outlook:
1.     Go to the calendar in Outlook
2.     Click on “Open Calendar” and then “Open Shared Calendar…”
3.     In the text box type: PHYSICS: Community Calendar
4.     When you press “OK” the calendar should appear on your end.

Apple Users:
Steps to access the calendar for those who use Microsoft Outlook:
1.     Go to the calendar in Outlook
2.     Click on “View” then “Go to” and then “Calendar” and then “Open Shared Calendar…”
3.     In the text box type: PHYSICS: Community Calendar
4.     When you press “OK” the calendar should appear on your end.

semi Weekly Message to the Physics Community, September 4, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

Things have been happening fast this week and I’ve gotten behind on the messages.  I will catch up with Anjali and Stella in the next few days, but here are some things from today’s 8 am Academic Continuity Meeting:

  • Experiential Learning Opportunities – elo.mit.edu – everyone should look at this.
  • New displayed ID requirements – when on campus, need to display your MIT ID, preferably from a lanyard around your neck.  Can pick up lanyards in Lobby 7, residential halls should have lanyards.
  • Q-week ends 6 am on Tuesday
  • Move-in statistics: 670 undergraduates have arrived, 784 expected.   The normal undergraduate population in MIT housing is 3,200.  1,311 graduate students have arrived out of 1,450.
  • Biology, 7.00, on the pandemic,  open to everyone.  (Fauci is listed as a speaker!)
  • Rules and Regs. for the start of term
  • Pulse survey – Janet Rankin has developed a Pulse Survey for instructors to use in Week 2-3 Guide is here, qualtrics form here.  I mentioned this a lunch yesterday and this will save some time setting up. An early survey can help a lot in improving new online courses.
  • Students who have signed up in-person classes for COVIDPass but who do not yet have access to campus will be added to the access list on Saturday, most likely.
  • There are now circles around circles various places around campus (Killian Court) for informal gatherings of up to 10 people.


Here is a collection of local university dashboards (and Bates College because my kid goes there).  I’ve love to see someone make a web crawler to produce a consolidated webpage with all the local data.  Please be in touch if you are interested in doing this – I think it would be very popular.







Semi Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

Summer is ending and our seniors and a few other students will return on Sept. 29.  Testing continues to do well, slides here and classroom scheduling is being finalized. We are ready for what Krishna Rajagopal calls A thoughtfully remote semester.

Some numbers for Fall: Total subjects: 1,377, Virtual subject: 1,181, Hybrid (in-person and virtual) 115, in-person: 81.  On-campus graduate students: 1,900, on-campus seniors: 660, other undergraduates on-campus: 240.  Needed testing rate: 14,000-30,000 per week.

What are other colleges and universities doing?  Here is a breakdown from today’s NYT:

  • 6 percent will be online-only

  • 27 percent will be primarily online

  • 15 percent will be a hybrid of online and in-person

  • 20 percent will be primarily in-person

  • 2.5 percent will be solely in-person

  • 6 percent are doing something else entirely

  • 24 percent of schools have still not yet finalized their plans

We are excited to have some of our students coming back: it is a step into a new world and we will begin to learn how to operate so everyone can be back. Here we go…

Above the Fold

Society of Physics Students and Physics Graduate Student Council Announcements

In case you missed it…

New news:
  • New PGSC non-academic career officers, Eugene Knyazev and Joseph Johnston. Thanks!

Upcoming grad student group events

  • Tuesday 8/25 11:00 a.m. (Boston time) — Grad Womxn in Physics Orientation Meeting
  • Wednesday 8/26 6:00 p.m.  —  PGSC Outreach + Advocacy Orientation Event
  • Thursday 8/27 5:30 p.m. — PGSC mixer event with the Reject Injustice through Student Empowerment (RISE) campaign (RSVP here)
  • Friday 8/28 10:00 a.m. — PGSC Outreach + Advocacy Orientation Event
Get involved!
  • Sign up to write a page of the grad student handbook! Also please feel free to add sections as needed.
  • Join SPS! Email us at sps-exec@mit.edu to hear about current projects and what we’re hoping to do in the fall.
  • Get involved in PGSC events! Contact us at physics-gsc-officers@mit.edu or reach out to Stella Schindler on Slack. The more the merrier; we’re always happy to take on new PGSC delegates and officers.

Physics events and news this week

  • Community Lunch, Thursday, 12 pm, Speaker: Erin Kara
  • New graduate student orientation, Tuesday, August 25, 10-11 am
  • No office hours this week – getting ready for term.
  • New: Career Advising and Professional Development – Physics is working with CAPD to bring much needed resources to students.  Prof. Mike Williams is acting as liaison, Maya Reese and Quin Brodsky represent SPS and Eugene Knyazev and Joseph Johnston represent PGSC.  They will advise the Department on needed resources.


  • LIGO observation of mis-matched black holes
  • Wigner’s friend – just when we thought all the loop holes for quantum mechanical entanglement were closed, someone remembered Wigner’s friend
  • Physics of Living Systems group has observed turbulence on a starfish embryo member here.

Peter Fisher, Stella Schindler, and Anjali Nambrath











Semi Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Thursday, August 20, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

I would like to call your attention to Pres. Reif’s letter from yesterday. and focus on two key sentences.  First, from the third paragraph,

“…we are ready to try something more difficult: bringing back a portion of our undergraduates to live on campus.”

This does not sound like much, but it is huge:  In the past week, MIT has stress-tested every aspect of its operations with students back on campus.  Our testing capacity, which averaged 200 tests/day over the summer, was a key test because our testing operation needs to operate at 2,000 tests/day for students to return.  In the past week, MIT Medical ramped testing and yesterday carried out 1,930 tests. You can read the details here.  The average time from test to result is about 20 hours, with all tests being returned within 24 h.

Why is testing so important?  The mean time between infection and the appearance of symptoms for COVID-19 is 5 days, so to catch people early, MIT needs to test twice a week.  MIT will have about 2,800 students (1,900 grads, 900 undergrads) on-campus in two weeks.  Adding about 4,000 faculty and staff (about 30% of normal) coming and going during the week means at least 14,000 tests per week in order to ensure the safety of everyone.  If MIT had not been able to carry out 1,930 tests yesterday, Pres. Reif’s sentence above would have been much different.

The other critical sentence is from the sixth paragraph:

“…while we continue to celebrate and learn from each other’s individuality, we cannot afford individualism. I must take care, for your health; you must take care, for mine.”

What does this mean?  It certainly means wear your mask, wash your hands, keep six feet apart.  It also means being diligent about getting tested if you are coming on campus. The IDSS crew has done a series of studies that show that if 20% of the MIT population “opt-out”, I.e. consistently fail to get tested regularly, COVID-19 will spread at MIT regardless of what the other 80% do.  If you are coming on campus in any capacity, getting your COVID-19 test done is a key part of taking care of yourself and each other.

Everyone should read the guidance for returning students here.  These are the expectations for our students, but versions of this apply to everyone.

Yes, there may be standing in a long line (but that’s getting better).  Or coming at 5 am when they open to avoid lines.  But, it is what we need to do to avoid a repeat of last March when we all had to leave MIT and work remotely.  The next weeks will be a tough adjustment and there will be some positive tests, but if we all stick with it, it will be okay.

Above the Fold

Other Announcements

Stay Safe,








(New) Weekly Message to the Community, Monday, August 17, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

In an effort to improve communication between different parts of the department during these physically-distant times, I have decided to add to my weekly message updates and events from our student governments, the Physics Graduate Student Council (PGSC) and the Society of Physics Students (SPS), as well as a special announcements section, Above the Fold.  On my website, I am also starting to compile a list ​of activities that we as a department are undertaking in addition to our regular duties to help support all of you during these tough times.

Today’s message is longer than usual as we there is much to report.  Also, we are still working out the format and frequency of messages.  Thank you to SPS President Anjali Nambrath and PGSC President Stella Schindler for their reports, and thank you to all of the faculty and staff who have been working tirelessly to support our community.


Above the Fold

  • PRISM workshop – presentations and posters by MIT affiliated undergraduates on their work over the summer.  Register here.
  • PRISM is also looking for postdocs and grad students to serve as mentors to the presenters and give them some constructive feedback on their presentation skills. The signup sheet is here, and here are our general guidelines for feedback.
  • Congratulations to Nergis, the new Dean of Science, and many thanks to Mike Sipser, outgoing Dean.  Mike did a lot for the Department and I was very happy to work with him over the past seven years. The transition takes place on Sept. 1.
  • Guidance for instructors on assessments for Fall term related to the APART recommendations

Physics Department Events

  • Departmental Office Hours – 4-5 pm Wednesday
  • Community lunch – Thursday 12-1:30 pm

Physics Graduate Student Council

The PGSC is currently working on a number of ideas and projects to improve the graduate student experience, including:

  • Crafting and improving opportunities for students to maintain a sense of community while physically apart, via our student Slack workspace, Zoom events, and other ways to stay connected online
  • Creating new opportunities for peer-to-peer advising, support, and mentoring
  • Informing students about non-academic career opportunities
  • Communicating both immediate/urgent as well as longstanding graduate student needs to department leadership and faculty committees that make important decisions
  • Ensuring equitable administration of the diagnostic exams (formerly the “written qual”) during the pandemic
  • Working towards implementation of the PGSC/PWG social justice recommendations
  • Coordinating with other student organizations and coalitions on their goals

This week, student leadership has no tangible output to report, though we have made major headway on important backend work such as research, consultation with stakeholders, as well as planning and deliberation of potential actions we can take in each area.

The PGSC is still looking for volunteers for the following:

  • 1-2 volunteers from each division to join a PGSC Task Force to create a graduate student handbook
  • A new officer on PGSC: Careers Czar
  • Liaison(s) to a national grad student physics anti-racism coalition
Please contact Stella Schindler at stellas@mit.edu or on Slack if you are interested in learning more or getting involved.

To the many students who are struggling out there, know that we are here for you. The Department is working day and night to support you all, and a great many of your peers have effectively dropped their research for the past couple of months to work with them to get it done. I know things may seem confusing or frustrating at times, but please bear with us, and know that we’re trying our best. To the students who have stepped up to help your peers, everyone in the Department is truly grateful. Please feel free to reach out to student leadership at any time with questions, comments, concerns, or if you would like to learn how to get involved.

Society of Physics Students

SPS has been working on a variety of projects this summer:

  • the inaugural PRISM conference for undergraduates, happening this Thursday and Friday

  • advocating for fewer high-stakes assessments in undergraduate classes for the upcoming fall

  • conducting a survey to understand students’ advising needs and communicating that to the department

  • starting to act on the SPS equity and inclusion recommendations

  • working towards informing students of career opportunities (here’s a starting point)

  • partnering with Harvard’s SPS on a series of weekly talks

This week, most of our work has been focused on the upcoming conference. If you’d like to see what ~40 undergraduates have spent their summers working on, please sign up to attend! This will give you access to the Zoom links for the talk sessions and the Slack for access to posters and Q&A.

For undergrads hoping to get more involved with SPS: we will be holding elections for the 2020-21 year early in September. If you have any questions, please email sps-exec@mit.edu, and we can tell you more about the projects we’re working on and the new ideas we’re hoping to start work on in the fall!

MIT and other Announcements


Physics Department Activities and Announcements

  • The Department is working through establishing policies for the Written General Exam, graduate courses, and breadth requirements.  We had excellent input from a team of graduate students and are now making sure that we are within the guidance from APART, which they have promised for today.   We will get guidance out to our students as soon as we hear from GCP
  • We are in the process of developing a new, first-year graduate research seminar with an online component.  We are looking for faculty, Pappalardo Fellows, and graduate students to give 30-minute talks on their research.  Please look for an announcement from the Department this week.
  • As part of an effort to ensure we are communicating everything, the Department is doing to support our students, here is a list of things the Department has done or is working on.
  • Guidance for instructors on assessments for Fall term related to the APART recommendations



Semi-Weekly Message to the Physics Community, Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

LOTS of things are happening.  Massachusetts is moving to Phase 3 of the opening while MIT moves to its Phase 2.  For more about MIT in the Fall, Chancellor Barnhardt wrote to the City of Cambridge a letter detailing what will happen in the Fall and Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis made a presentation to the City of Cambridge about MIT’s plans for testing a medical care in the Fall.  There are also updated travel policies for the MIT community.

In the Fall, remote teaching and community building will start.  Here are two new tools that MIT has acquired to help online. Teach remote has training sessions for faculty and new TA’s.  If you are planning to send off-campus students, see this information on remote making about the rules surrounding sending things off-campus.

More Friday…

Stay safe,











Weekly Message to the Physics Community, August 6, 2020

Dear Physics Community,

Fall is beginning to define itself.  This week, we had a lunch discussion with Janet Rankin about low-stakes assignments, slides here, TLL resources here, and my letter to instructors here. On a related theme, I’ve just finished David Kaiser’s book, “Quantum Legacies” and there is an interesting essay, “Training Quantum Mechanics” about the different approaches to teaching the subject.  David kindly sent me a pdf of the essay for our inspiration.

MIT has developed policies for returning students: undergraduates here and graduate students here.  Just in case, faculty/staff concerns can be reported here and student concerns here.

Announcements and opportunities

  • Looking for another course?  Biology is offering a course in COVID-19.
  • AAPT Virtual Coffee hour on remote learning
  • Apply for a MathWorks
  • Do you have a grant from the NSF?  New disclosure requirements here


  • I have always wondered how knives get dull cutting tomatoes or a razor get dull shaving.  Now we know MIT News story, Science article.
  • Last year, a definition based on the meter and second replaced the kilogram artifact kept at BIPM outside Paris.  I thought we were all set, but no – the radian is becoming an issue. Currently defined as a dimensionless derived quantity, advocates want 1 rad=1 m.m.

Los Endos

Back by popular demand: email guidelines.