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The Sciences

Wrapping Up the Semester: Fests, Workshops and Exams


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We are very close to the end of the semester here at Penn, and the last couple of weeks have been the usual flurry of activity as teaching comes to an end, exam period begins, and a few late semester/early summer meetings all take place at the same time. A week or so ago, I spent a couple of days back at Syracuse University, where I was a faculty member for quite a few years. I was there primarily to participate in a special event that preceded the East Coast Gravity Meeting being held there on the following weekend. The event was a celebration - GoldbergFest - of the career of Josh Goldberg, a good personal friend, and an eminent relativist at Syracuse, who has been an emeritus professor there for many years now. Josh began as a graduate student at Syracuse in the early 1950's, working on conservation laws in General Relativity (GR) and on canonical quantization. At the time Syracuse had one of the few well-known relativity groups in the world, led by Peter Bergmann, and an impressive group of young people were trained under him, and later under Josh, as students and postdocs; people like Ted Newman, Ray Sachs, Art Komar, Roger Penrose, and many others. I'm certainly no expert on the precise history of the Syracuse group, but fortunately, as part of a special issue of General Relativity and Gravitation dedicated to Josh, to which I was honored to also contribute, Ted Newman describes it wonderfully. The Fest was a lovely event. I enjoyed the other speakers' talks - John Stachel, Rafael Sorkin and Peter Saulson, and Ted Newman's hilarious and touching after dinner speech, and the reminiscences of the other people at the dinner made for what I hope Josh thought was a wonderful day. Over the next two days quite a few of our students and postdocs from Penn gave talks at the East Coast Gravity Meeting, and I was delighted to hear that our very own Godfrey Miller won the award for the best student presentation. Returning To Penn, I just about had enough time to finish putting together the take-home final exam for my graduate General Relativity course, before heading off to NYU on Wednesday with our whole group for our semesterly joint meeting. We were joined, as usual, by a nice crowd from Columbia and Case Western for a day of talks and discussion. I always find these meetings to be incredibly useful scientifically, because the group is so interactive, boisterous and interested in the material, while being such warm and friendly hosts. It makes for an enjoyable day every time. Beyond the obvious exchange of ideas, these meetings also provide an opportunity for our students to get used to giving talks on their work. This time my student - Garrett Goon - and one of my colleague Justin Khoury's students - Austin Joyce - gave our student talks, leading to some healthy discussion Wess-Zumino terms in new field theories and conformal cosmology, respectively. Both did a terrific job, although they're becoming old pros at this point, rather than beginning students in need of practice. To close out last week, Greg Gabadadze from NYU came down on Friday so that we could try to finish up some details in a project that is close to completion, before we start dispersing for various summer conferences. I'll discuss these soon, I expect. Today my final exam will be turned in and grading starts, an old friend is delivering a seminar in our group, and Sean's student Kim Boddy arrives for a week so that the three of us can try to finish up a paper. The end of the semester always seems to go this way. While all these things are fun, life becomes excessively hectic for two weeks, and then travel begins.

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