||Science & Technology
What he does
Jack Laiho is a research associate (post-doc) at Fermilab in Chicago, where he
works on theoretical particle physics. His work involves numerical simulations
of particle interactions and searches for new physics.
Math on the Job
My work involves numerical simulations of quantum field theory in the regime
where traditional analytical methods (perturbation theory and Feynman diagrams)
do not work. This requires the numerical evaluation of multi-dimensional
integrals using 'Monte Carlo' importance sampling methods. The computer
resources needed for this task are demanding, and in practice, analytical
calculations are needed to extract results which can be meaningfully compared to
experiment. In terms of mathematical background needed for this work, the most
useful undergraduate courses were those in Probability, Complex Analysis and the
Calculus sequence, including Differential Equations.
Jack majored in mathematics and physics at Rhode Island College in Providence,
RI, where he graduated in 1998 with a BA. He went on to get his PhD in physics
from Princeton University in 2004. As a student at Princeton, Jack spent a year
at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island working on his thesis topic. He
began a three year post-doc at Fermilab in the fall of 2004.
Advice for Students
For undergraduates, get involved in research at an early stage. It is
more important to seek out a good mentor than to choose a specific
subfield (this is true in grad school as well!).
For graduate students, remember your thesis is a stepping-stone, not the
culmination of your life's work.
Finally, be willing to work hard, but make sure you have found something
you love so that it doesn't feel like work.