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How to come up with good questions to answer

  1. Jul 24, 2012 #1
    I'm entering into my 2nd year of my PhD program at UF, and want to go into condensed matter theory. I'm working on a project where I'm designing, in essence, a molecular engine (at this point, not really designing, but rather "analyzing and understanding"). I am not sure how far away I am from publishing. Now, I do not want to publish garbage (i.e., publish for the sake of publishing), but I do need to not perish. I intend to get into academia (my office mate got a tenure track position at Georgia Tech, and he was doing CM-theory as well; moreover, the real "pen n' paper" type stuff). How do I come up with good questions to research? I'm trying my best right now on my project: "is this particular quantity positive-definite, is this...etc." But I feel like I could be doing more. Should I read some books?

    One professor came up to me and asked me to do a project where I'd write a code to make the coordinates to a chaotic oscillator (from an undergraduate lab project) so he could 3D-print-out an evolving Poincare section (with zero volume and infinite surface area, in theory!). Another fellow, a student, (a CM-experimentalist) wanted me to find out nuclear electric quadrupole moment frequencies, and it turned out you needed to learn how to compute electronic structure. I was worried that doing these two projects would take me too far outside my skill set, but should I have undertaken them? Or should I stick with projects related to molecular engine design, and outward?

    Hopefully, these questions aren't too ill-posed...
  2. jcsd
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