Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 45:
My First University:
Next day, Dr. Guptill verified what my intentions were, and said he was formerly an associate of a Professor Watson who was presently the head of the Physics Department at the University of Toronto. According to Dr. Guptill, he and Watson held the patent on the rotating radar arm that one still sees on the masthead of most ships today. If I wanted, he would get in touch with Watson and would arrange for me to take a degree in solid state physics. I took the fact of my immediate acceptance to the program at the University of Toronto to mean that Dr. Guptill had confidence in my abilities, in spite of his comments about my more eminent suitability for engineering.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

 

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 44:
My First University:
I declined the offer to become a research associate because I felt it would lead nowhere, career-wise. When I announced to Guptill that I wanted to go after a Ph.D. his response was quick and simple; I would make a superb engineer but I didn’t have the right stuff to be a physicist. My retort was that I didn’t care – that I’d rather be poor physicist than a brilliant engineer.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 43:
My First University:
When I submitted my magnum opus the critique of my supervisor Dr. Ernie Guptial was: “You write free and easy but with a tendency to toss in extra words or phrases which do not help in the understanding”. In spite of my tendency to be a multifarious Mozart, rather than a Bach with fewer words, I was asked by Professor Guptill to accept a position as a research associate working with him to study electron-tunnelling phenomena, a new field of physics, which had been opened up By Brian Josephson at Cambridge in the early 1960’s. A decade or so later the discovery led to a Nobel Prize for Josephson.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 42:
My First University:
My Master’s work was completed in one year. The objective of the research was to perfect a method for measuring the conductivity of metals at liquid helium temperatures in order to determine their purity. At very low temperatures effects due to vibrations of the metal atoms are negligible, and most of the conductivity is a function of any impurities that are present…. In the course of the work, relaxation oscillations were discovered, which were reported later on in Professor Brian Pippard’s book: The Physics of Vibrations, published in 1978. A famous professor at Cambridge, Pippard had recently been knighted. When I had to respond to his request to cite my Master’s work, I was at a loss as to how to address him.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

 

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 41:
My First University:
Other options I’d thought about was medicine and biochemistry. The first option had long been removed from contention when I took first year biology and had a bit of a distressing lab experience. After removing the sternum and exposing the immobile bleeding heart of a frog, my doom was sealed when the instructor called the whole class of some two hundred students over to point at my seat mate’s wondrous piece of very clean work – a “surgery” that had exposed a beautifully beating heart. He then pointed at the slaughter on my cutting slab and commented the this was the way it should not be done. I might add that I have always had, and still have, a shaky hand.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 40:
My First University:
As for myself, I changed my focus and moved towards earning a Master’s degree in Low Temperature Physics. Like geophysics this was not a field I was especially interested in, but I felt at the time that I needed a breather. Besides I did the classic thing that a mediocre student has to do if the Ph.D looks like too much of a challenge. You go for the consolation prize first.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 39:
My First University:
Mobil’s question: “What would be your response to a rod man who wants to earn a promotion to surveyor?” My response was that I would do my best to help the chap learn about surveying and, if necessary, I might even help him with any homework that might be involved. I felt that the desire to improve one’s self should be encouraged. We never learned what Goetz’s answer was. In any case Goetz continued his studies in geophysics and eventually earned a Ph.D. from Columbia. He went on to work in a civil service job at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 38:
My First University:
The time to graduate had arrived and that year Goetz (the mover and shaker of our class) and I, were the only two candidates from geophysics. The week before we were to don our cap and gown, a recruiter from Mobil Oil showed up and we were informed that one of us might be hired to work with the mighty Mobil. Since my Engineering Physics thesis was right on topic I felt confident going into the interview. I was astounded to find out that I had not been selected. Dr. Blanchard said he couldn’t understand why I had not been chosen because I had the better marks. The choice was based upon our response to a certain question.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 37:
My First University:
My thesis in Engineering Physics was subsequently based on seismic methods that involved reflections from boundaries, where different layers meld into one another. All my practical work in the field taught me one rule, which I will elucidate. – interesting deposits may be present, these will always be found in the most tortuous terrain that is alien to whatever geophysical measurements the geology suggests. Let’s call this Martel’s rule.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.

Memoirs of a Hayseed Physicist by Peter Martel

Part 36:
I learned every facet of seismic work from drilling the hole into which dynamite would be placed and tamped with water, to laying out arrays of sound wave detectors (seismometers) connected to a recording apparatus. One holiday weekend when the rest of the crew had gone home I went through all the steps outlined above and predicted the depths of various layers that a nearby drilling crew would encounter. I was spot on.

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With permission of the author. This is an on going story one paragraph at a time beginning on the post of July 6th. We will get back to our music and art after this little break.