What might it be like to have me as a thesis advisor?

In general terms, I work on mathematical aspects of string theory. Specifically, that means that if you work with me, you're going to have to master quantum field theory, general relativity, differential topology, algebraic topology, and some miscellaneous algebraic geometry.

If you're interested, let me know as soon as possible, you've got a lot of work ahead of you, and the sooner you start, the better.

Course of study:

Here's a rough idea of what classes you can expect to take for your first few years:

  • Year 1: You'll mostly be taking the core graduate physics classes, but in the spring, you'll start taking some additional math, either algebra (e.g. math 4124) or topology (e.g. math 4324) or an independent study in special functions, covering everything from gamma functions to asymptotic series expansions.
  • Summer after year 1: More math, basically whichever of the options above you didn't do in year 1, including differential geometry.
  • By the end of the summer after year 1, you must have a basic understanding of differential geometry and special functions, at minimum, otherwise you'll need to find a different thesis advisor.
  • Year 2: In add'n to finishing up core physics classes and taking quals, you'll take quantum field theory (either as a lecture class or independent study) and some math -- probably either differential topology or algebraic topology, depending upon what's offered by the math dep't that year.
  • By the end of year 2, you must have a basic understanding of quantum field theory and Lie algebra representation theory, otherwise you'll need to find a different thesis advisor.
  • After year 2, you'll continue learning some math, but your focus will shift to primarily doing research.
  • (Details subject to change depending upon your previous background.)

    Again, if you're interested, start talking to me as soon as possible, in your first year, so that we can start working out your schedule.


    After the end of your second year, you'll start doing research, which is where you really have to start working.

    My philosophy is that research is a skill, best learned by doing. Graduate students should work on a bunch of very different problems in graduate school, to give them a broad grasp of the field. Not all of those problems will lead to papers, but some should, and you should have, say, about four papers by the time you graduate. You don't have to work by yourself all the time, you're welcome to collaborate with others, but probably not all the same people all the time.

    Students who work with me are welcome and encouraged to talk to other faculty in the department too -- I should point out in particular Lara Anderson and James Gray, who work on closely related topics, and Djordje Minic, who also works on string theory, albeit from a different perspective and with different tools.

    Still interested?

    Talk to some of my current students for more information.

    A few other schools with closely analogous graduate programs, preparing students to work on mathematical aspects of string theory:

  • Duke
  • Hamburg

  • Last modified: December 23, 2008.
    ersharpe at phys