31 July 2015

Sabbatical Journal

The 2015-16 academic year represents my second sabbatical year.  As I did during my first sabbatical year (2008-09), I will work with Matt Carré at the University of Sheffield in England.  Our first collaborative year yielded research results pertaining to the aerodynamics of soccer balls.  For this upcoming collaboration, I will join Matt's research group's investigations into friction in sport.  I've always been fascinated by the topic of friction, partly because the simple Coulomb model I learned as an introductory physics student is far from the complete story, despite the rather confident way in which Coulomb's model is usually presented.

I plan to use this blog space as my sabbatical journal.  My primary reason for doing so is that I am interested in keeping a record of what I will do over the coming year.  I think it will be fun to look back on some day.  Several colleagues, friends, and family members have told me that they are interested in knowing what my family and I are up to while we're away from the US, and that keeping a sabbatical journal is a good idea.  It always humbles me to think that anyone cares what I write in this space, so I'm flattered by the encouragement I've received to post regularly during my sabbatical.

Webster tells me that "sabbatical" may be used as an adjective with the meaning of "having the character of a recurring period of rest or renewal."  I'm not sure about "rest," as my first official sabbatical month, this July, has been anything but restful.  The Tour de France occupied my research time and kept me busy blogging predictions and stage results.  Media attention on my work further took my time as July came to a close.  I detailed some of that attention in my last post.  Even our local news ran a story on my Tour de France work last Monday (click here for that short television piece).  As flattering as the media attention has been, it only added to an already hectic week of preparing to move my family across the Atlantic.  I am fortunate, though, to have an extremely talented wife who makes international travel look much easier than it is.  Our two daughters, who were quite young during our first year abroad, have also helped in our moving preparations in more ways than they realize.

The second word in Webster's "sabbatical" definition that strikes me is "renewal."  That is a perfect word for a "sabbatical."  I joke with colleagues that my number-one rule for a sabbatical is "to put an ocean between me and my college."  Don't get me wrong.  I love teaching and researching at Lynchburg College.  Our physics students make teaching and researching thoroughly enjoyable for me.  One of my favorite former students, Crystal Moorman, will in fact be my sabbatical replacement, so my courses will be in good hands.  Despite my love for my job, being away for an extended period of time is vitally important.  A sabbatical gives me a chance to explore new research areas, meet and interact with new colleagues, and see more of the world.  That last item is important because seeing new places helps remind me that my little world in Virginia isn't the center of the universe.  There is much to learn from other cultures.  Just as my colleagues give me fresh ways to view the world scientifically, experiencing other cultures provides me with different perspectives on life.

We are near Washington, DC right now.  Our flight across the pond is quickly approaching.  Getting there will only be a small part of the fun that awaits us!

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