My first week at TIFR

Today marks the end of my first week at TIFR. So far, this place has been amazing. Let’s make a quick summary of plus points and minus points:

Work environment:
I’ve currently settled on a desk in the students’ room with my laptop and just enough space to keep my books. Air conditioned, Wireless net access. I’m surrounded by a lot of PhD students. They work a lot and that’s good because it motivates me to work as well. It’s so nice to see the next generation of scientists pacing up and down thinking, occasionally writing a few equations (that interestingly seem at least remotely familiar!) on the board. I like the work environment, although sometimes I wish it were cleaner – but after all, I’m used to dirty desks!

Lectures and other stuff:
We’re currently hearing from various departments about their work. So far, we’ve heard from 6 departments. Some of the speakers were very impressive, while some were talking to their colleagues and not to students – making their talks drab. Today, we heard from the condensed matter physics group, and we also had a nice discussion after the talk. I’ve been learning something new, something totally different everyday!
It was interesting to see a non-scientist at TIFR saying “You should always try to do science with enthusiasm.” or something carrying a similar message, as he fiddled around with an interesting experiment saying, “The scientists at TIFR have done this to me!”. I enjoyed the fact that learning about the world around is so enjoyable – to everyone.

My project:
My project’s about hydrodynamics. My guide et al found new symmetries in the non-relativistic Navier-Stokes equation for incompressible flow. The symmetry group is the conformal group. Given the generators of the conformal group, I verified today that the Navier-Stokes equation is indeed invariant under the action of the infinitesimal generators conformal group. My summer project will be related to these symmetries.
Today, when I went to meet Prof. Spenta, the discussion drifted to Green’s functions. He explained to me what a Green’s function was in brief (I still need to think), and eventually pulled out a functional integral and said “This is what’s called a Feynman Path Integral”. I said, I don’t know this stuff. And the reply was approximately, ‘Yes! That’s the point! You don’t know this stuff – so try to think about it and reconstruct it – don’t read about it’. He’s always put in the point that the best way to learn things is to think about them and reconstruct them, and not by reading them up in the past few times I’ve met him. I liked that! I’m now left to figure out all by myself what a special conformal transform does, and how a certain Feynman path integral gives me a two-point correlation function!
In the last one week, I also learnt a lot from Frisch’s book on Turbulence.

Well, I have the choice of 4 canteens! That’s much better than IITM. I don’t complain. Food here is good. The only stuff I don’t like about it is the garlic. It feels great to have nearly authentic Mysore Masala Dosa in Mumbai! We don’t have a choice for dinner, though, and I nevertheless manage to eat roughly the same stuff every evening.

My co-VSRPs in the Theoretical Physics Dept are pretty good too. I’m yet to interact with most of the PhD students. I have knowledgeable peers to discuss stuff with.

We’re accomodated in a furnished apartment at a place called Wadala, which is an hour’s journey by road from TIFR. That’s a little pain, but the accomodation isn’t as bad as we thought it was initially. I feel it’s better than hostel back at IITM, but I do miss internet connection. It doesn’t matter that much because I get just enough time to sleep at the accomodation and spend the rest of the time at TIFR.

I did feel a bit homesick initially, but that’s the case with me everytime I face change. It’s something that happens when you don’t give your brain enough work – but I now have enough to pack my day already!

Overall, I rate the first-week experience as good 😉

I’m going home this weekend and returning on Sunday evening. Our department will introduce its research activities on Tuesday, and I’m looking forward for that!