Humans of Physics VII: Frederick del Pozo

This is the seventh installment of our project Humans of Physics, which seeks to portrait the scientists as the persons they are.

When the Lockdown came the big question every student was asking was “how will this impact my studies, degree, carreer???”. Luckily I am a Physics Student, soon to complete my MSc Thesis and degree, and therefore most of my work is easily done from Home, a luxury that many Physicists share. My work can be done with a stable WiFi connection, a laptop and Zoom-Calls. No longer did I need to “go to work”, I could simply sit at my desk or my bed, and work as I pleased.

But was I really that lucky? The consensus is that Physicists, and Theoreticians in particular, are content as long as they have a pencil and a sheet of paper to scribble on all day long. So why wouldn’t we look forward to months of strict social distancing, finally have some time to dive into our equations and theorems?

In fact a common issue that researchers in a variety of fields face is the inability to “turn-off”, “leave work at work” or however else you may want to phrase it. Of course when your job is your passion it may not seem like a stress-factor, but throw some self-doubt and performance-anxiety into the mix, and this passion can morph into a perpetual source of stress and quite literal headache. Already before the Corona-Virus lockdown the pressure to perform, be the best, fastest, brightest, etc. was very common amongst students and young researchers, and Physics is no different. Also from outside our field, the popular media portrays Physicists as geniuses or secluded geeks, the Big-Bang Theory being the best example for this. Despite all that, at least work and personal life was separated in most cases, which made it easier to shut-down. During the lockdown this boundary blurred almost completely, leaving many to wonder how they will be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance, also post-corona.

Most prejudices have a small bit of truth to it, and indeed the average Physicist is quite content when they are able to immerse themselves in their work. I used to sit at my desk for hours forgetting to eat, because the models we build, study and probe give us insight into other realms that are beyond the reach of our human senses and even understanding. But at the end of the day we are Humans of Physics, not logic driven calculators, and in times of unprecedented crisis like now it is important to focus on the “Human” aspect, more than ever.

Frederick (center) is a theoretical Physics MSc student from Germany, currently completing his thesis on equilibrium properties of Quantum Field theories at the University of Heidelberg. 

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