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  • 101. You and Your Career: Hamming’s crash-course on career success



    Reference: 101. You and Your Career: Hamming’s crash-course on career success

    Recently, it came to my attention that February, 11 2016 marks the 101st anniversary of the birth of Richard W. Hamming, a well-known mathematician and computer scientist of the 20th century. As a young researcher who has always sought for career advice from great minds and successful senior scientists, I have found Hamming’s book on The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn, an enlightening read that helped me improve my daily scientific and personal life. This coincidence in time prompted me to revise and improve my personal summary of Hamming’s advice on career success, have it reviewed and criticized by two senior highly-successful scientists, and write in the form of a concise readable essay for those interested. There are likely many young researchers and graduate students, like myself, who are very enthusiastic and receptive of career advice from one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

    The content of the essay is focused on advice for career success by Richard W. Hamming. Unlike the scientific works of Hamming, his valuable thoughts and advice on the art of doing scientific research and achieving career success have been relatively less recognized and appreciated. In the final years of his life, Hamming summarized his personal experience and thoughts in his book titled “The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn”. In his book, Hamming provides valuable practical lessons on how to excel in research and career, based on his own lifelong scientific career experience and his close friendship and collaboration with some of the greatest minds of the 20th century, such as Claude Shannon and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman.



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  • Sep 2015 Supermoon lunar eclipse and its side-products



    The year 2015 has a total of six supermoons. The full moon on September 28, 2015, was in particular most interesting, since it is apparently the closest supermoon of the year 2015 (only 356,896 kilometers or 221,754 miles away from the earth). What made it even more interesting, this September 28, 2015 full moon staged a total lunar eclipse, concluding a series of Blood Moon eclipses that initially started with the total lunar eclipse of April 15, 2014. Unfortunately, my attempts to capture the super lunar eclipse failed today due to partly cloudy sky of the city of Austin. Nevertheless, I managed to capture a time-lapse of the semi-super moon on the following night, as well as making a not-so-bad night-lapse of the Pennybacker Bridge on Texas loop 360 state Highway.



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  • Celebrating the Happy Coincidence of Graduation Day and Birthday



    This year on my birthday, coincident with the official day of my PhD degree award, I received a gift from the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg and a second precious gift from the University of Texas, which I dedicated to the two angels who made it happen.


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  • Last Teaching Assistantship of Graduate Life



    I have always been fond of teaching all my life. It's a great feeling of responsibility and power when you go to the chalkboard in front of tens of students with brains like a white paper, ready to register whatever they are taught, permanently in their mind. and there comes the great responsibility on teacher. Depending on what you teach and how you teach, you can change not only the lives of your students but also generations to come. I can still very well remember those few teachers during elementary school and high school, who made me who I am today. and there are examples of great influential teachers in science too: Arnold Sommerfeld, John Archibald Wheeler. Almost the entire structure of modern physics (and even chemistry) was built by the students of these two physicists and their descendants.

    As for myself, last semester I decided to take on a partial teaching duty for one last time in graduate school. Yesterday I received the students' evaluation. and a positive feedback I believe is the best reward a teacher could get :-)

    pros

    • Amir was a badass! He knew his material and was extremely helpful in office hours. He explained things very clearly.
    • Amir is awesome! I love him!
    • 3 * Explained everything thoroughly (yes! that’s real me)
    • Amir was enthusiastic about physics (Again, it’s me!)
    • 2 * encouraged independent thinking
    • made himself available for every student, very much appreciated
    • 2 * very dedicated
    • 2 * made learning fun
    • 4 * amazing teacher
    • I would have failed this course without his review sessions ( ! )
    • best lectures I’ve had
    • Amir is friendly and good at leading students to the correct solution rather than just telling them how to solve an in-class question. He makes sure all students who need his help get attention.
    • always helpful during class and office hours.


    cons

    • showed up in office hours, was not there. (likely making coffee in the IFS kitchen)
    • too much fun in class is too distracting!
    • 3 * no discussion sessions! (not my fault really!)

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  • What Every Scientist Needs to Know



    Reference:
    BEACON Researchers at Work: What Every Scientist Needs to Know

    I recently wrote a guest blog post for the Bio-computational Evolution in Action Consortium (BEACON) on the importance of teaching, or at least introducing all STEM graduate students with cognitive sciences and cognitive flaws that can affect human mind and reasoning. The full post can found here. The following is a summary of the post:


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  • Beyond Univariate Luminosity Functions for Long Gamma-Ray Bursts



    Reference:
    A Multivariate Fit Luminosity Function and World Model for Long Gamma-Ray Bursts

    Available Downloads:
      – BATSE Catalog trigger numbers for 1366 events classified as Long GRBs in this analysis can be found here.
      – Spectral data for these triggers are available from BATSE Current & 4B GRB Catalogs.
      – The spectral peak energy EP,obs estimates for all LGRBs can be found here.
      – Full MCMC samples of the model parameters for different cosmic rates can be found in the project’s repository.

    A Brief (incomplete) Introduction to the Story:

    The Luminosity Function (LF) of Long-duration Gamma-Ray Bursts (LGRBs) has been subject of many researches in GRB community. Early attempts to constrain the LF of LGRBs in the BATSE era were primarily aimed at finding the true origin of LGRBs: Cosmological vs. Galactic. Back in the 90’ there was a great debate and suspicion about the cosmological origin of LGRBs with some scientists arguing that a cosmological origin for GRBs would imply an enormous output of energy on the order of. 1051 [erg] in a matter of a few seconds. Nevertheless, observations of the GRB afterglows in the late 90’ and the first measurement of a GRB redshift, ruled out the galactic models as a potential candidate for GRBs, or at best, for many classes of Gamma-Ray events. Now with GRB distance puzzle being solved, researchers turned into other interesting aspects of these bursts, such as the studies of GRB energetics and the correlations among the spectral parameters of the prompt gamma-ray emission from (mostly) LGRBs. Most prominently, some observational astronomers reported strong correlations between the total isotropic emission of the gamma-ray energies (Eiso), or the isotropic peak luminosity (Liso) and the spectral peak energies (EP,z) of LGRBs. Such correlations were later criticized by some other researchers for the lack of significance and sample incompleteness. The culprit here turns out to be the unknown complex selection effects in the GRB detection mechanism, spectral analysis, and redshift measurement which modify the observed sample of LGRBs from the true underlying population without leaving a clear trace. Nevertheless, the debate still goes on to this date among GRB researchers (c.f. Shahmoradi & Nemiroff 2011 for a complete review).


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  • Human Perception and Instrumental Bias



    References:
    The Possible Impact of Gamma-Ray Burst Detector Thresholds on Cosmological Standard Candles
    How Real Detector Thresholds Create False Standard Candles

    The psychological literature is full of studies that demonstrate how the humans’ limited senses can result in cognitive flaws and biases in our understanding of the universe. In fact, psychologists have pinpointed many specific biases that affect not only the way we see but how we think about and perceive the world. Confirmation bias, for example, is the tendency to notice, accept, and remember data that confirms what we already believe, and to ignore, forget, or explain away data that is contradictory to our beliefs. To make things worse, add the (unknown) limitations of instruments by which human probes the universe. The combined effects of human and instrument biases can result in erroneous conclusions and predictions.


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  • Hardness as a proxy for the spectral peak energy of Gamma-Ray Bursts



    Reference:
    Hardness as a Spectral Peak Estimator for Gamma-Ray Bursts

    Available Downloads:
      – The spectral peak energy (EP,obs) estimates for 2130 BATSE GRBs can be downloaded from here.
      – Conditional EP,obs probability density functions for all bursts can be downloaded collectively as a zip file.

    One of the most widely used spectral parameters in the studies of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) is the time-integrated νFν spectrum peak energy of these cosmic events. Since the early 1990s, there has been a growing trend in the research community to plot GRBs’s spectra in the form of E2 dE or νFν versus energy, (E), where Fν is the spectral flux at the frequency ν. This has the advantage of making it easy to discern the energy of the peak power from the burst. The νFν plot of many of the bursts’ spectra shows a peak which is denoted by EP,obs where the subscript “P,obs” stands for OBServer-frame spectral Peak energy (in contrast to the Comoving-frame Peak energy).



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  • BSc project: Cygnus X-3 and the Muon Excess Puzzle



    After months of research and article reading, my undergraduate degree project is complete and available to view here (it’s all in Persian language).


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