Friday, November 20, 2015

Turning Heads in 11 Dimensions

Nearly half a year ago, Dr. Ilarion Melnikov came to James Madison and was interviewed by students and faculty alike.  Not long after leaving the University with great first impressions, he was asked to join our team, and was "incredibly thrilled they decided to choose me."

A few months later, Dr. Melnikov became part of our Department, and has since made waves.  In our interview, Dr. Melnikov said that he spent his first weeks here "figuring out exactly where I fit into the scheme of things," much of which dealt with his transition from full-time research to teaching.  Melnikov said a lot of advice came from the the faculty, noting their welcoming and helpful nature.

However, it was our impressive student body who made the greatest impact on him.  While Dr. Melnikov said that he wasn't sure what kind of reaction he would receive from students of a primarily experimental Physics Department, he he was "really amazed at the response of students wanting to do theoretical things." Students were stopping by his office so regularly that Dr. Melnikov decided to start up a series of informal meetings on the subject.  He stressed that these meetings are "open for everyone," and will be pushed primarily by students, with him only guiding discussion.

When asked how he sees the theoretical seminars evolving, Dr. Melnikov said that the only additions that he finds beneficial would be increasing student involvement and introducing planned readings, saying that he'd rather "keep it fluid" and stress-free.  Dr. Melnikov is also very interested in increasing interactions with the Math Department, not only because it is closely related to his field of study, but also because it is "important to keep [a] dynamic nature" for interdepartmental work.

If you want talk with Dr. Melnikov either about his research, joining in his research, or just why String Theory is cool, stop by his office or go to his informal seminars Saturday mornings.