Hello everyone! I’m Islam and I’m currently in the final year of my physics PhD program. I should mention I’m an international student in the U.S. and I did my B.S. in physics from here as well. I do research work in a field called particle cosmology (interface between particle physics and cosmology) and my main project has to do with investigating the nature of the mysterious “dark energy” by better understanding what exactly happened during the very early universe. I’m talking about a time when the age of the universe was only a tiny fraction of a second! Having an in-depth knowledge of these fields of physics gradually gets me closer to the answers to the profound questions such as: “What’s the nature of dark matter and dark energy?”, “What’s the ultimate fate of the universe?”, “What caused the big bang in the first place?”, etc.
My days (and I do mean every single day) start out with a mug of freshly brewed coffee. I usually have to teach astronomy labs twice a week and because all of my research can be done on my laptop, I can work from anywhere provided there’s WiFi available. You’d sometimes find me working in the library, the graduate study center, or perhaps one of the Starbucks in town. There’s quite a bit of grading to do which varies semester to semester. I’ve to attend my research group meetings once and department colloquiums/seminars once or twice a week. Being a member of the representative body for graduate students in my university and also a couple of student-run organizations take up some time as well.
It’s difficult to pick a winner, but I would say I really enjoyed getting to meet and connect with so many wonderful peers and colleagues across many different disciplines, being provided with many opportunities that have helped me develop both personally and professionally, and last but not least, receiving superb mentorship from my PhD advisor. It’s not an easy job for any advisor to “train” a student into becoming a fully independent researcher and I would say my advisor has provided me with enough mentorship needed to accomplish that.
The first few semesters were definitely the most challenging for me. Right from the start of the very first semester, I had to juggle between taking 3 graduate-level courses, teaching 2 physics labs along with grading, and doing my own research work. Maintaining a 3.0 GPA was a requirement for assistantship and I had to figure out my PhD thesis topic in the middle of all that as well. Honestly, barely getting 5 hours of sleep a night and “surviving” the graduate program did take a toll on my health. Fortunately, I was done with most of my classes and exams within the first 2 years. I learned better time management along the way and was able to rejuvenate myself later through self-care.
Washington State University (WSU) is a top-tier public research university with a very high research output! It is located in a college town called Pullman which is far from any major city. Some may have differences in opinion, but I think being in a slow-paced town has its own advantages for someone going to graduate school. Being in a PhD program can cause stress. A calm and quiet town far from all the noise makes any college town the ideal place for dealing with it and to keep going. On top of that, Pullman is in the top 10 safest college towns in the US, and the living expense for graduate students here is quite affordable.
I enjoy playing soccer the most and conveniently, there’s a soccer field right next to my apartment! I also love playing the classical guitar. We have a small band composed of mostly international grad students and we often have jam sessions over the weekends. I’m always off to the movie theater whenever there’s a new Sci-Fi, Action, or Marvel (which is obviously better than DC) movie out. During longer holidays, I usually take road trips to national parks nearby (or far away) with others and spend a few days there hiking as many trails as we can.
Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Facebook, and check out his website using the links below: