Alumnus, Goldstein, Talks with Students about Career

On July 8, 2013 by Grad Forum

jerry_thumbnailDartmouth alum, Jerry Goldstein, returned to campus recently to talk with graduate students about his career path. Goldstein, who received a PhD in physics and astronomy, is a space physicist currently conducting research at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. He was featured on the list of “Brilliant 10” young scientists produced by Popular Science magazine in 2006, as well as the San Antonio Business Journal list of “Forty Under 40” in the same year.

Goldstein spoke fondly of his time at Dartmouth, describing his advisor, Professor Mary Hudson, as “one of a kind.” Having earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Brooklyn College, Goldstein arrived at Dartmouth with what he described as “grand ideas,” planning to tackle some of the outstanding problems in physics. However, he quickly became aware of the complexities of pursuing a graduate degree. Goldstein shared some of his struggles, including switching advisors and occasionally sneaking in the fire escape at Wilder to avoid meeting Hudson in the hall because he was embarrassed about his lack of progress.

Eventually Goldstein settled on working in the field of space physics. He noted that becoming a “humbler person” was an important step in his development as a researcher. “People who are looking for greatness, for the sake of greatness, stand out like a sore thumb; people who just enjoy what they’re doing are well-adjusted, enjoy their careers, enjoy their work, and don’t feel a compulsion to hoard data or ideas,” he remarked.

Goldstein went on to complete a postdoc at Rice University where he worked on the IMAGE Mission, which he credits with launching his career. It was an opportunity to work on a fresh project with researchers he felt comfortable interacting with. Later, building on his work on IMAGE, Goldstein joined Southwest Research Institute where he continues to work. He also teaches classes and works with graduate students as part of a joint project with the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Goldstein describes science as “a creative process,” noting that when he has experienced periods of waning motivation it has helped him to have role models to look to, such as Professor Hudson. The key for Goldstein in maintaining his enthusiasm has been in pursuing what he enjoys. As a final piece of advice for graduate students, Goldstein observed, “Don’t suffer fools gladly… you’ll have twenty different people telling you why and how you can’t do it.” In addition, he encouraged those present to remember that they are not alone in the struggle for a PhD. “There’s enjoyment to be had as well as camaraderie.”

by Spencer Hatch

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