Letter to My Undergrad Students

This semester I was teaching an advanced physics lab course (4th year BS-MS). Below is an email I sent to them. You may find it interesting :


Image of a plasma discharge experiment in the UG physics lab at IISER-Pune

Dear Students of PHY430,

I hope all of you are doing fine and staying safe where ever you are. Given that we are part of an advanced lab course, compensating for the lost time via internet is not feasible. To fill in the gap, I am writing to you about something you may find interesting and useful. So here it is:

  • Ventilators : By now you may be very familiar with this terminology. Essentially, it is a medical device that helps you to mechanically breathe, and has turned out be a vital component in fighting the extreme medical cases of COVID epidemic. In this regard, I want to inform about the efforts of my colleagues Sunil Nair and Umakant Rapol, who are actively involved in design and development of low-cost ventilators. As you may recognize, both of them are experimental physicists, and their knowledge and intuition has been put to excellent use during the pandemic. In an essence, their involvement in this venture shows how a strong foundation in physics can not only solve deep queries in fundamental aspects of science, but also can cater to an emergency situation. This is one of the important lesson of this course : the skills and knowledge that you gain as part of experimentation in a lab can be transferred and implemented to solve problems outside a lab.
  • A Book recommendation: Talking about experimental skills, I thought of recommending an excellent book by Matthew Crawford titled “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work”. This is a kind of an autobiographical exposition by the author, who majored in Physics, obtained a Ph.D. in political philosophy, and worked in policy circles of Washington D.C. for a brief period, and quit this job to become a motorcycle mechanic and an academic author. This book dives deep into the philosophy of why working with hands (and brains) is a deeply satisfying venture as a career and life-style. If you are not able to read the book, here is an excellent excerpt by the author himself.
  • Lab reports: Do send me the report of the experiments that are due to be evaluated. I know some of you may or may not have good access to internet, so timelines can be flexible (2 weeks from today). Also, you may not have access to research material. In that case, do co-ordinate with your lab partners, and let me know if I can be of some help in this regard.

Finally, keep your experimental spirits high. After all, everything at home is a kind of lab equipment to explore


Stay safe,


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