December 29, 2006

2007 March Meeting Abstract

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at December 29, 2006 12:22 PM

The program for the 2007 APS March Meeting is now up. I have an invited talk this year; unfortunately it's in an early morning session. Here's the abstract:

Session N2: Progress in Superconducting Quantum Computing

8:00 AM–11:00 AM, Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Colorado Convention Center - Four Seasons 4

Sponsoring Units: GQI DCMP
Chair: Robert Schoelkopf, Yale University
Abstract: N2.00002 : Solid State Qubits with Current-Controlled Coupling
8:36 AM–9:12 AM

Author: Travis Hime (University of California, Berkeley)

The ability to switch the coupling between quantum bits (qubits) on and off is essential for implementing many quantum computing algorithms. We have demonstrated such control with two, three-junction flux qubits coupled together via their mutual inductances and via the dc SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) that reads out their magnetic flux states. The flux in each qubit was controlled by an on-chip loop, and the chip was surrounded by a superconducting cavity that eliminates fluctuations in the ambient magnetic field. By applying microwave radiation to the device, we observed resonant absorption in each of the qubits when the level splitting in the qubit matched the energy of the microwave photons. With the qubits biased at the same frequency, the interaction produced an avoided crossing in their energy spectrum. At the avoided crossing transitions to the first excited state were suppressed and transitions to the second excited state enhanced, indicating formation of singlet and triplet states in the coupled-qubit system. The observed peak amplitudes were consistent with calculated matrix elements. When both qubits were biased at their degeneracy points, a level repulsion was observed in the energy spectrum. A bias current applied to the SQUID in the zero-voltage state prior to measurement induced a change in its dynamic inductance, reducing the coupling energy controllably to zero and even reversing its sign. The dependence of the splitting on the bias current was in good agreement with predictions. This work was performed in collaboration with P.A. Reichardt, B.L.T. Plourde, T.L. Robertson, C.-E. Wu, A.V. Ustinov, and John Clarke, and supported by NSF, AFOSR, ARO and ARDA.

On a related subject, I still intend to write a post about the results in our Science paper, but I haven't got around to it yet.

Tags: Physics, Science
Comments

Well, but you have an invited talk. (Put that on your CV if you haven't already...) Also mention it in the research statements you send with your job apps (when the time comes).

Posted by: Mason | December 29, 2006 4:23 PM

What Mason Said.

Again, congratulations.

(I meanwhile, am beginning year two of the Search For a Postdoc. And I am being kicked out --with degree-- in May. Anyone know anyone with funding for a postdoc? I do physics, I do geo*, I do chemistry. Surely noone with a Caltech/Berkeley degree can be *this* unemployable.)

Posted by: Wren | December 29, 2006 8:25 PM

Wren: I thought the Bristol thing was a done deal.

Also, I don't know if most people hiring postdocs will care too much about the fact that the undergrad degree is from Caltech. In my experience, other things (such as the graduate degree from Berkeley, which should help you in your search a lot) trump that considerably when it comes to getting a postdoc. (For other jobs, my statement doesn't apply at all.)

Not that that actually changes anything.

Have you looked in the advertisements on AIP's website (or, equivalently, in Physics Today)? This should include positions for which your expertise will be extremely well-suited. Also, you might consider going to the APS March Meeting. There is an extensive academic meat market there.

I'll let you know if I see anything, but our areas basically don't overlap, so I don't know how likely that is.

Posted by: Mason | December 29, 2006 11:29 PM

The Bristol thing is only a done deal if we can pry oney out of NERC, which is looking pretty unlikely at the moment--the standard grant award that would suport me was supposed to be announced "mid to late December" and we haven't heard anything so I'm hitting panic mode pretty badly.

Intriguingly, and remember this is mostly in geophysics, the fact that I went to Caltech _as_an_undergrad_ is a major point of interest.

It seems unlikely, although I'll be giving it a harder looksee now, that a physics lab would want me. Part of the problem is that my training is in a very specific subdiscipline, and I think there's a glut of high-pressure mineral people on the market. So.

(Hi, Travis. Sorry for hijacking yer blog.)

Posted by: Wren | December 30, 2006 8:38 AM

Travis's blog is meant to be hijacked.

I can see how that can be valid for specific fields (certainly, geophysics would be on that list when it comes to Caltech) and my comments are very much colored by my own field, but the general first reaction that I have seen to applicants who harp on where they went for undergrad on a CV (or a related document, an academic interview, etc) at the expense of what they've done with N years of more recent stuff (research plan, experience, papers, etc) is to wonder if their work hasn't been so great since then. Whether one should wonder that (especially in the case of Caltech, where all of us know what having an undergrad degree from there means) is another issue entirely, but at least in my experience this is something that can raise serious warning flags in people's minds and at the very least, I can appreciate why it does so.

Posted by: Mason | December 30, 2006 1:53 PM

*I* don't harp on it. When *other* people read my cv, *they* harp on it. And it's not exactly a detail I can leave off. I can't even get my recommenders to leave it out of my recommendations.

I've consistently given posters at in-field conferences, repeatedly obtained my own funding (from LLNL, but still, it shows initiative), established collaborations, published one first author paper (in JPCB) with two in preparation, which I admit isn't stellar, but for an experimentalist on the bleeding edge of a microfield, it isn't bad. But, no...apparently the fact that I hold a double major from Caltech is the most interesting thing I'm ever going to do.

The whole thing makes me feel like a completely inadequate scientist, who should have dropped out of science years ago, except no one told me!

Posted by: Wren | December 30, 2006 2:20 PM

Nobody is suggesting you leave it off. I give it one bullet point in my education section. My point is that I have seen _others_ harp on it on their CVs and I have seen people's reactions to that when they're judging the CV.

One possibility is to check if you're underselling yourself with your research statements and CVs. I was doing that for years and I finally had to have people pull me aside and point out that the people reading it had to really excavate to see the stuff that I did that stands out.

By the way, you need to be careful with how to list papers in prep because the term by itself is extremely vague as to how far things are along. I have no idea how many papers people in your field "should" have by your stage. That veries too wildly from subject to subject. When I judge CVs that I read (I looked through postdoc applications for GT's Center for Nonlinear Science when I was there and I went through 20-25 of them in 2 hours, which was originally intended to be 1 hour), because there is so much ambiguity as to what that actually means, I treat papers in prep practically as something that's not actually listed. (If someone gets interviewed, then I'll likely ask them about them to see how far those things really are.) If someone lists papers in prep among "publications", I view that as padding a CV and assume they're very likely to be padding other things and become more skeptical about rest of the application. (I have been told that most people don't react in quite a negative manner at seeing this as I do.)

As for your last sentence, one has to learn not to take this crap personally. I was feeling very demoralized my first couple attempts at the job market (including the first time I went for a postdoc). My success rate was very poor, and I was very lucky I applied to a much larger number of jobs than I was advised to do. (I sent something like 50 postdoc applications and 20 tenure-track applications right out of graduate school.) One has to not take job-application rejections personally or else one is just going to go batshit crazy really soon. It took me more than 3 years to learn this.

Even at the postdoc level, a lot of this stuff has to do with how good a fit one is for a specific group/job (even when considering only the set of extremely well-qualified applicants), and I bet that's the major thing that's happening right now. (This is where being in a microfield can really hurt. I would think that that can cause larger job market fluctuations, so some years can be extraordinarily tough.) The other thing worth checking is to make sure your CV, research statement, and other documents are as polished so they're as smooth as a baby's butt. I assume you showed your stuff to several people to get the kinks out of those documents, but it's a good idea to do that if you haven't already. (Spending tons of time on that rather than research is not the most fun thing to do by any stretch, but one needs to do it to make sure the people reading it see what stands out about you very quickly. They'll be looking through those documents really fast and are going to be tired, grumpy, and wanting to do something else when they do it, so they're not going to want to excavate through anything.)

Anyway, AIP is a good resource, as I mentioned. The March Meeting should include prospective employers interested in people with your background, so I suggest you try to get your advisor to pay for you to go there. If the job market is particularly rough right now, that's out of your hands, but there are still a lot of other things you can do. And your first postdoc might have to be in a slightly different field, but I would think lots of people would be interested in your background even if some compromising is necessary as far as project goes.

I can't be more specific because I'm in a completely different field and even at the level of applying to postdocs, certain things are very fundamentally different. (I applied only to one or two individuals and otherwise applied to departments and "research centers".)

Posted by: Mason | December 30, 2006 3:35 PM

They aren't on my cv as "in prep". I hate that and regard it as cv padding--having seen way too many papers listed that way that never appear. Also, then I'd have to explain why they'e been in prep for...three years in one case. But it's a small field, so everyone knows from my posters at conferences that I've got something on these forthcoming.

My field is traditionally underrepresented at the March Meeting. The meeting for us (even the nominal physicists) is AGU, which just happened in December. And, yes, I pushed myself, but...here's an example of how micro my field is: someone who really shouldn't have known about my NSF application (to work at Bristol) asked me how it was going and whether I had gotten any other money to go there yet. Now, I think that means he'd reviewed it, which is OK, but the fact is everyone with money knows exactly what I've tried and what I've been rejected from to date. And there are two ways to get a postdoc here: apply to specific people, either effectively writing a grant together which they as a PI are more likely to get, or get a "named" fellowship on your own worth, for which you're competing with, well, everyone.

There is a high-pressure section at APS this year--which is an attempt to expand into that conference, but it's on Tbar work, which I have nothing to say about. I am also somewhat limited by my advisor's hard and fast rule that "if it requires my paying for plane fare, you have to be presenting something." It seems unlikely, although I'll mention it, when I point out to him that I'm graduating in May (my funding this semester was granted on that basis) and 4 months doesn't seem like very long when I've failed to find a job in the last 12. I expect him to be about as useful as a pig in mud, but what the hell.

So, yeah, the answer is to keep applying, but it's really hard to do that with no positive feedback coming in from *anyone*. Because, and this is something I picked up at Caltech, if I am failing at this, *I* am obviously doing something wrong and therefore I am deficient. (Is there another explanation?)

Posted by: Wren | December 30, 2006 4:11 PM

Other explanations: Some years are tougher than others. (Cornell's applied math program, one of the best in the world in that field, has years where almost all the graduates had trouble finding anything reasonable. Things can fluctuate a lot from year to year just from supply and demand.)

I suggest you unlearn this so-called "lesson" from Caltech. It could be that your CV and research portfolio aren't optimized (and I suggest highly that you make sure they are), but there doesn't _have_ to be any deficiencies for things not to work out, and somebody already expressed direct interest. (Finances are a bugger.)

One other thing which I don't necessarily recommend but which I did and I felt helped a lot: I paid my way to a couple conferences and paid part of my way to several others (with some funding from grants I got) because I had to create my own network. My advisor hadn't been talking to any of these people for years, and in my entire time at Cornell, he actually never paid a cent for me. (He asked me if I had my own source of money the first day I met him. I suppose I should have taken that as a warning sign.) I decided that getting to more conferences was worth the investment even though I had to pay a lot of money out of my own pocket to do it. This included multiple conferences on the periphery of my area (as well as those more directly in line with my area) because (1) it gave me more of a direct chance to talk to the people there who were reasonably close to my area and (2) people somewhat outside the area will be judging the applications for math postdocs because one doesn't apply directly to professors. (Obviously, they'll be doing this for tenure track as well.)

As for the applications, people have a way of finding out these things. (Lemming can testify to just how much math job market gossip flies back and forth during lunch conversations.) I'm not at all surprised by your anecdote.

Another thing I've seen on occasion is if somebody's student can't get a job, it is sometimes possible to keep them around as a postdoc/lecturer for a year. This is very common in math where one needs warm bodies just t teach, and I've seen it once or twice in physics as well. I imagine it's less common in your field, but maybe it's still possible. Another one-year "stop gap" possibility can be in a somewhat different field. Certain skills translate extremely well and tying oneself only to a specific subdiscipline of a subdiscipline of subdiscipline (ad infinitum) can be very problematic. A very large percentage of people I know changed topics a lot when they became postdocs, and a pretty hefty number change topics entirely (as in, changing subdisciplines or even disciplines). I think a good thing would be to branch out a bit in topics, which will look really good when you apply for tenure track once you have major success in a wide variety of areas.

Also, if somebody wants to hire you, they won't care if somebody else rejected you. (Though your comment makes me think of the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry couldn't get over the fact that his girlfriend was dumped by Newman and that ended up leading to their breaking up.) It doesn't matter if they know.

Posted by: Mason | December 30, 2006 6:43 PM

I like the "some years are tougher than others" explanation.

I submit that the Ithaca rental market is less gruesome and costly than the Bay Area. It looks like I will not have lost any money by going to grad school, but I'm not sure I'll have *saved* any either. That's all I'm going to say about funding myself to conferences.

I suspect that the best I can hope for in the way of a bailout postdoc is one at Livermore, which is one of those jobs that would be a personal disaster--I've been working there for 4 years, and I can't see how a full-time job there would be healthy for me. This is a concept, by the way, that no one seems to be able to grasp. It's not the 90 hour work week, it's not the continuous loss of research time to paperwork and "programmatic research," it's not the implicit assumption that everyone has a wife and doesn't need to worry about cooking, cleaning, etc, it's not the paranoid (although justified) security, it's not the collaborators with big egos who backstab and lie, it's not about the constant pressure to add said collaborators undeservedly to papers because they need the publications to stay emplyed, it's not even about having to move to fucking "we don't have a movie theatre" Livermore, it's ALL of IT at once. And, yes, I know they pay postdocs ~$60K/yr.

OK, rant over. And I may *have* to work there if I want to stay in science, but I'd have to pause pretty long at that point.

But, hey, hopefully something will work out. Maybe NERC is just slow. I hear the British really like their figgy pudding. Happy New Year!

Posted by: Wren | December 31, 2006 8:42 AM

For stop-gaps, most people should be able to suck up a lot of things at once for a single year. That's why certain things like location tend to become more important when thinking about tenure-track jobs.

Ithaca's housing is indeed very cheap---that's one of the very good things about the city. The price to fly to LA (which was typically $700 or a little more) made up for that a bit. Funding oneself is a choice. As I mentioned, I wasn't considering that a recommendation -- but sometimes one has to decide if things like that are worth the investiment (cost of living notwithstanding). I decided that they were and that I could afford it, and I certainly won't deny that cost of living and various fellowships that I earned based on my academic record made that more doable than it might otherwise have been (at least to the _extent_ that I took advantage of that---if I were at Berkeley, I could have just gone to MSRI conferences with needing to travel even close to as much to achieve the same ends). However, the larger point about the option of making those or similar efforts as a career investment remain.

Short version: Sometimes one has to take extra effort that is supposedly not required (but may in fact be extremely important de facto) in order to get a good/better postdoc/job. Usually, this is in large part the advisor's job because his/her connections are supposed to help you, but when the advisor doesn't do that job, one is faced with the choice of taking matters into one's own hands, which can take many forms -- I was just indicating what I did.

Corrollary: There are a ton of people who are right now in essentially the exact same position you are (in fact, there are numerous such people every year). I think it's very important (and often required, in practice) to be willing to be flexible when it comes to short-term positions. It doesn't need to be exactly what you want (or close to it) if it puts you in a better position to get where you want after that position, and it's very rare for early-career scientists to not have to make sacrifices in this respect. (So, I guess this is easy for me to say because I've been very lucky in getting jobs that I really wanted, but my situation is far from the norm and it took a lot of effort that most people don't normally take in addition to the fact that I work like a fiend.)

Posted by: Mason | December 31, 2006 2:29 PM

That's good advice, Mason. And yeah, sure, I've been guaranteed attendence at AGU for 7 years because it's always in SF. But...you realize for the last 7 years, slightly more than half my *pre-tax* income has gone to housing? It's been as high as 2/3rds, although that was an anomalous month.

I maintain that there is a difference between "suck it up for a year" and "become suicidally depressed." This seems to be an extrodinarily hard thing for most of the men I've discussed it with to grasp, whereas *all* of the women I've talked to (and this is roughly equal numbers) get it immediately.

Posted by: Wren | December 31, 2006 3:09 PM

There are also a huge range of possibilities between those two levels.

I know people who actually have been suicidally depressed and for whom I was afraid they might actually do something that drastic (and I did once have to make a phone call, afraid of what I might find out from whoever picked up the phone). Frankly, I doubt your situation is anywhere near that level.

I'm far from an optimist, but there's at least some truth to making one's actual situation worse through exaggerated perception of it.

I have no further suggestions. I think optimizing your application package, making the best of what you get (and realizing just how many others are going through the same thing), and being flexible about things are the best things you can do. Otherwise, I can only see how the situation can become worse than it actually is. Whether or not I am successfully grasping any of what you are saying (and I rarely ever fully understand what you are saying) is beside the point. Keeping an evel keel is can be a very good thing.

Posted by: Mason | January 1, 2007 1:28 AM

For whatever it's worth, my first postdoc took 14 months of applying to get. My main lesson from the first job season in that period is to apply to every single job I'd prefer to leaving science entirely (so jobs back east were still out, but wildly different subfields were most certainly in). It was interesting how that worked out - one of the big name groups in one of the wildly different subfields made a point of looking me up at the winter AAS meeting that year, unfortunately for them just a few weeks after I took my current job. Good networking, though...

Wren, if your field is represented (even if it's not well-represented) at this March Meeting thing, it's probably worth going if you can. All the job search materials I've read emphasize that networking is the #1 factor, which is unfortunate for those of us who suck at it... :-)

Is the May graduation date set in stone yet? If you can push it back to summer quarter (defend in late August, say) you can probably swing a TA job to tide you over through the fall. See if yet another job season improves the market any for you... That was roughly what I did two years ago.

Also, as I think we've mentioned in some thread long ago, academia isn't everything. I'm not completely clear on what you actually do, but your chances of landing a "real world" job related to your expertise are at least as good as mine (physics, geo*, and chemistry should be quite employable, I'd think). Mason's AIP/Physics Today suggestion was the best place I found to look for such jobs, though I think I have a file somewhere of other resources (I can look for that tomorrow, if you like). I haven't solved the matter of how to sell oneself in such a real world job market - companies just don't know what to do with PhD scientists leaving academia. Again, networking is probably key, but we're a lot less likely to know folks in business. The AAS has a contact page of astronomers in industry to help with that; maybe the AGU does too. If you're looking for a tenure-track job later in your career, this isn't a great option, but if (like me) all you want is to make a living doing interesting research, a real world job might not be too bad.

Posted by: Justin | January 1, 2007 1:27 PM

Hi, Justin. Thanks for the reassurance. Especially the part about not applying for jobs on the East Coast! (I'm not crazy! Yay!)

About the March meeting: I know all the people remotely related to my field who are attending, and none of them have money for projects I could realistically work on.

My funding this semester comes from the chair of the department and was granted because I should be done in May; it's possible that when presented with my considerable efforts to find a job, he would relent, but...there are also issues with the rising length of time required to graduate in the department, so he'd really like to get me out.

(Nb: Berkeley has no thesis defense. I "just" have to get my committee to sign off on a completed thesis and walk a heap of paperwork through.)

It's not clear to *anyone* what I do, which is part of the problem. My thesis committee is a mineral physicist (high-pressure physics), an astronomer, and an organic chemist. I study high-pressure high-temperature (0-10 GPa, 300-1000K) organic chemistry. I've been focusing on "simple" materials like formic acid (HCOOH), which are associated with spectroscopic observations of proto-planetary discs, meteorites, comets, etc. Since the chemistry of these materials is poorly understood, it's a wide-open field. It has implications for origins of life, either through the formation of more complex molecules at pressure, or (conversely) the stability regime of materials so that organic materials could survive the Late Heavy Bombardment, for example. It also applies to the science of energetic materials.

Thus, the mineral physicists find me odd because I use their experimental techniques on materials other than metals, minerals and hydrogen. I have yet to meet a chemist who doesn't flip out when I talk about GPa, and ...experimental astronomy works in a vacuum. My best bet so far as been a few open-minded mineral physicists, but so far the funding hasn't worked out yet.

Since the bottom fell out of astrobiology/origin of life stuff this year with the shift in emphasis at NASA, and because this research isn't exactly cheap (we break diamonds!), there are a few groups--one at NASA--who would like to hire me, but...no funding.

I hadn't really thought about looking at AIP for non-science jobs, but it's a thought. (AIP for science jobs is merely a repeat of the AGU and our communities' internal list.)

Anyway, that was more to clarify to this forum what it is I do...

Posted by: Wren | January 2, 2007 11:15 AM

That's actually pretty interesting stuff...

I hadn't heard about the astrobiology funding getting cut, but it's hardly surprising.

Sounds like you're primarily experimental at this point - is there any way you could do theory or simulations for a few years? Computer time should be cheaper and easier to come by than diamonds (and presumably specialized lab equipment). I'd think you'd have a useful perspective to work with the planet formation people at various astro and/or earth science departments (I know Santa Cruz and Arizona are both good for that). Maybe this is an obvious and/or dumbass point, but that's where my mind went immediately upon reading what you work on...

You may or may not be crazy (I'm not in a position to say), but having strong geographical constraints is quite rational.

Posted by: Justin | January 2, 2007 3:09 PM

One thing for AIP via science jobs is that it immediately does become relevant if you're open to working on projects that are a bit afield. A lot of people care more about training as an intellectual rather than specific topic, and that includes many things beyond selling one's soul to financial companies (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Posted by: Mason | January 2, 2007 11:39 PM
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