5 Things a PhD Student can learn from the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics

By: Sarah Martinez Roth

This year the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Rainer Weiss, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, both of the California Institute of Technology, for the discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein but had never been seen before.

These three scientists created LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, the instrument that detected the gravitational waves. Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, pronounced in 1916 showed that matter and energy would warp the geometry of space-time, producing the effect of gravity. In February 2016, Einstein’s and these three scientists ideas were combined to record gravitational waves emanating from the collision of a pair of black holes a billion light years away.

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So what can we take away from this as PhD students:

1. Be Patient: It is important to remember as graduate students and future scientists that our life’s work might not be recognized in our lifetime but the work we do is important and valuable to not only the scientific work but also society.

2. Hang in there: So even though the road to our PhD’s might seem long, know that what we do is valuable.

3. It takes a village: The moral of this story is that science sometimes takes 100 years and a village to come up with a discovery so never give up your work it is important. Rely on you lab, your family, and your friends

4. Appreciate the people that came before you: Just like these three scientists they used the science and advances that was predicted by Albert Einstein to advance their own ideas. Learn from everyone around you and those who came before you.

5. Every Scientist has a story: Dr. Weiss was a refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938 and came to the United States due to the generosity of a family in St. Louis that helped his family obtain visas. Science doesn’t care about the color of your skin, race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Be who you are, work hard and you will succeed.

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