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Mickey McDonald


Postdoc at University of Chicago


I met Professor Jin for the first time during a lab tour at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I was a prospective student, listening to one of her graduate students give a tour of the experiment. Debbie walked in halfway through and offered to continue the tour, and after pointing out a few interesting components she said "...and these are our MOT coils - you know how Magneto Optical Trapping works, right?" I said, "Oh yeah, definitely", and she replied "Okay, good - explain it to me."

Well I had no idea how magneto optical trapping worked, and after I sheepishly admitted as much, she nodded politely and then allowed her grad student to continue the lab tour in her place. And ever since then I've told that story to my own students and my friends as a cautionary tale not to pretend that you know more than you really do. And I've worked hard ever since then, partly hoping that when I met next Debbie, I wouldn't once again embarrass myself. That I won't get another chance breaks my heart. She was a giant, and just through that tiny interaction she had a massive impact on my development as a physicist.