COSAM News Articles 2020 May Physics Graduate Joins National Laboratory to Work with Plasma Simulation Codes

Physics Graduate Joins National Laboratory to Work with Plasma Simulation Codes

Published: 05/19/2020

By: Maria Gebhardt

Taylor Hall earned his doctorate degree in physics and is applying those skills in his new job at Sandia National Laboratories.

“Taylor began his research career as an undergraduate student working on projects for Stuart Loch and I,” shared the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) Ed Thomas, Jr. “It has been wonderful to see how his career has advanced through graduate school and now as a post-doctoral researcher. Auburn Physics is very proud of him!”

Hall accepted a position as a postdoctoral appointee where he works with plasma simulation codes.

“As part of learning how to use the program and getting established in my new team, I’ve been specifically working on several benchmarking problems,” Hall explained. “We want to make sure the simulation code can reproduce basic plasma physics results that we know exact solutions to or can compare to other experimentally proven results.”

Taylor earned his doctorate degree from the Department of Physics at Auburn University. Thomas was his advisor and he worked on the Magnetized Dusty Plasma Experiment (MPDX).

“This is a one-of-a-kind device that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” he added. “Having the opportunity to work on such a unique experiment and getting to meet people from all over the country and world that want to come and do experiments on the MDPX was a really great experience.”

Advice that stayed with Hall from his advisor helped prepare him to navigate the job market.

“Dr. Thomas gave me sincere advice that always stuck with me. Learn a lot of skills as a graduate student because odds are good that you’re not going to get hired to do the specific thing that your dissertation was on. So, make sure that you learn as many different skills as you can because you never know which one of them is going to get you your next job,” Hall said.

He recalls how solving problems can be a great part of the field of physics.

“When studying physics or doing research there always problems that seem like they don’t have an answer, or worse you know there should be one and you just can’t figure it out, and that’s frustrating,” he explained. “But when you stick with it and finally figure out the answer, that’s one of the most rewarding experiences.”

His advice to students who are interested in pursuing a degree in physics is about overall perspective.

“Sometimes things just aren’t going to make sense right away and that’s okay,” he shared. “You’re going to run into some piece of math or physics that just seems impossible to understand but if you stick with it, and you keep studying, eventually all those little pieces of information that didn’t make sense all start to fit together like little puzzle pieces into a bigger picture.”

He also mentioned the importance of a team.

“Get a good study group of friends that you can work problems with and discuss concepts you don’t understand with. Having that group of people all going through the same thing together can make it a lot easier, or at least a little more fun,” Hall added.

While at Auburn, Hall was selected as the Graduate Student Award at the 2018-2019 Dean’s Research Awards.

“I was really honored to be recognized with the Graduate Student Award,” he said. “After so many years of doing research it was nice to have that work recognized by the Dean of COSAM, and very much appreciated.”

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