I had a startling realization yesterday. I remember a little under five years ago joining the physics department, which was very small but growing rapidly. I remember being taken under the wings of runnergirl, and cheesehead, and Randy. They'd be sure to invite Dean and me to social functions because we were 1500 miles from home and didn't know a soul. Many of the older grad students just ignored me because there was such a high drop out rate that they didn't really bother getting to know anyone. I knew who they were though. They seemed so smart and light years ahead of me in knowledge. At the start of my second year, it was as if they noticed me for the first time.
Yesterday, an undergraduate member of our local chapter of the Society of Physics Students stopped by the lab. She was updating the physics department website, specifically the grad student directory. Besides taking a picture of our newest grad student, she asked us senior students (namely James and me) if we wanted our pictures updated. Updated? Were they that old?
I pulled up the directory online and promptly noticed that I had no idea who any of these people are. I recognized my "friends" which consisted of members from my lab and the lab down the hall. A couple other faces vaguely rang a bell. "Who the hell are these people?" I tactlessly asked the undergrad.
"Um, that's our department." I was a little embarrassed. I scrolled down to my picture. It wasn't too outdated, save for a general look of naivety on my face. I kept scrolling down.
Aha! Someone I recognized that didn't work on the second floor. "I thought this guy was an undergrad." I commented.
"Mike? He's defending his master's next week." Oops.
So it's happened. I've become a physicist hermit. I feel like I've done an even worse job than the older generation did when I first got here. Some of these people have escaped my notice for more than a year. Granted, we are still rapidly growing and there are more new faces to deal now than when I first started.
I decided to update my picture just because the old one was taken up against a plain white wall, making it slightly reminiscent of a mug shot. I had the undergrad take my picture in front of my poster that I displayed at the last conference. I'm going to share it with you because I think it actually turned out pretty good:
It reminds me that I should update the picture associated with my profile, it is a bit out of date as well. I should hunt down that undergraduate. She does good work. What was her name, again?