How I first learned about supersymmetry:

  • Let me tell you a little personal history and perspective, feel free to skip to the next section.

  • I studied supersymmetry at SUNY at Stony Brook with some guidance from good friends of mine who were working in Superstring Theory. I already knew I was leaving Stonybrook to go to NCSU for mathematical physics but I wanted to do something new before I left so I decided to give a Friday Seminar on supersymmetry. The Friday Seminar is aimed towards beginning graduate students and it is a sometimes feared right of passage for hopeful theorists. I got a good starting point from Peter Van Niewenhuizen and a helpful correction or two from Martin Rocek and Warren Siegel (these men played a large role in the building the foundations of SUSY from a physical perspective, if I knew 1% of what they do I'd consider it a success). So after several months of calculation in the style of physics I came to some understanding of SUSY. As a side consequence I did very poorly in a few courses (don't tell my mom). In particular, I did not do so well in the superstring theory course I was enrolled.

    In case you were wondering, yes it is the same "super" in supersymmetry as in Superstring Theory. For the modern theorist the concept of SUSY is like calculus to engineers. Its a basic thing. That may give you some window into the sophistication that Superstring Theory has brought to theoretical physics. I'm certainly no expert in SUSY, but I discovered that what I learned in my two years as a physics graduate student about basic SUSY had all sorts of ill-defined math. Never bothered me too much until I stopped to think about it in math graduate school.

    Most of my research as a math graduate student involved distilling the carefree calculations of the physics literature back to a particular mathematical framework. Well, there was also that business about noncommutative Minkowski superspace, maybe I'll write about that later.

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    Last Modified: 7-16-08