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Jim Hetrick

 James Hetrick


    Ph.D. Theoretical Particle Physics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN  (1990)
    B.Sc. Physics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH (1982)



Postdoctoral Research Positions:

    ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, 1990-1992
    University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1992-1994
    University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ  1994-1996
    Washington University, St. Louis, MO 1996-1997

Like our students at Pacific, I was lucky to be able to research as an undergraduate student, working in the surface physics lab of one of my professors. Upon graduation with B.S. degree, I spent 13 months at the South Pole Station in Antarctica studying cosmic rays, the solar wind, the auroras, and the earth's magnetosphere, before going to graduate school. My research now is in an area called lattice quantum chromo-dynamics (LQCD). Using supercomputers around the world, I perform simulations of the physics of quarks and explore models of what the Higgs boson might really be. This work involves very high dimensional monte carlo calculations, state-of-the-art numerical linear algebra, and advanced methods of statistical data analysis. I built and maintain The Gauge Connection, one of the largest archives of LQCD data, available to researchers globally.

My Publications can be seen: here


Teaching this semester

  • Scientific Computing Tutorial (PHYS 027)
  • Electrodynamics (PHYS 102)
  • Senior Thesis (PHYS 199)

Scientific Computing Tutorial  is a course required by our freshman physics majors which shows them how to outfit their computers/laptops with a very powerful open-source scientific computing environment (Fedora Scientific Spin). On this platform, I teach them basic unix skills, how to do data visualization and analysis, publish scientific documents, draft firgures, log on to remote computers, and basic programming.
Electromagnetism is the second half of the yearlong sequence in "E&M" for physics majors. Advanced mathematics, complex dielectric media, antenna radiation patterns,... not for the mathematically feignt of heart!
Senior Thesis is a apstone course for physics majors. In a significant thesis project, students must synthesize material and concepts from all of their undergraduate courses as they deeply study some phenomenon. This year my students are studying the physics of drum head vibration patterns and developing experimental techniques to observe them, and entangling photons in our quantum optics lab using state-of-the-art photonics gear to observe exotic quantum effects.


My Students Asked...

Where are you from?

I grew up in New Kensington, Pa, a suburb of Pittsburgh. As a boy I built many experiments (like a telescope with an 8" mirror, shortwave radios, and rockets). Of course, I am a Steelers fan.

When and why did you choose to study Physics?

I grew up in the "space age" during the Apollo missions to the moon. I was sure back then, that by now I would be living at least on the Moon, if not Mars or beyond. I'm also a huge Trekkie, and was fascinated by the phasors on the Enterprise. I remember asking my Dad (an engineer) what light was. He told me that there was a whole chapter on light in his college Physics textbook which was on the bookshelf. I had a look--not only was there a chapter on light, but also chapters on gravity, heat, electricity and magnetism, quantum physics, relativity, and more! I got to work on the problems in the first chapter, but remember struggling with "vectors" in the second. I think I was in the 7th or 8th grade.

What else do you like to do?

I have a lot of interests, but not enough time. If I had 9 lives, like a cat, I would certainly be a musician in one of them (I like playing and composing music), a chef (I love to cook!), and fluent in Italian or French (I like to travel). When I was in college, I was on the fencing team, but now I get my exercise by playing racquetball. I love spending time with my wife and daughters, enjoying the many options for recreation here in northern California: Tahoe, Yosemite, San Francisco, Sacramento, skiing, hiking, kayaking, biking, and more.