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Recommendations for time-line and road map in graduate school towards specializing in Maldacena's conjecture

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I would like to know as to how or at what rate does the academic life or a good graduate student progress in a theoretical physics grad school if he/she is aiming to specialize in topics like say the Maldacena conjecture (or "AdS/CFT" as it is often said), or issues of integrability emerging from it and such related questions. I have in my mind "role models" of certain brilliant students who have recently completed their PhDs in such stuff like Jacob Bourjaily, Tudor Dimofte, Silviu Pufu etc.

Assume that a grad student starts learning QFT and related mathematics from the first day of grad school (which I guess is already too late!) I guess some of these recent very successful PhDs were way ahead of such scenarios!

Then, how much and how far into QFT should someone know before he/she can get into cutting edge of Maldacena's conjecture?

To split up the question,

  • How long should it take to learn enough of QFT (what is enough?) ?

  • At what stage and after knowing how much of QFT should one be able to start learning String Theory?

  • How long and how much of String Theory should one know before being able to get through the literature in the topics mentioned above?

  • Can one start reading the papers (or even working?) in these topics along with learning QFT?

  • Can one start learning String Theory along with learning QFT or do they have to come in a strict order?

I guess the canonical resource to learn about Maldacena's conjecture is the famous "MAGOO" review or may be the Hoker and Freedman's review. Any other suggestions? The "problem" I see is that standard QFT courses don't teach about N=4 SYM or about N=8 Supergravity and absolute fluency with such stuff seems to be utterly necessary for getting into this field.

For all of these above questions I would love to know of the characteristic time-line in terms of months into graduate school when each of these milestones should be covered.

I guess this will help know what is the right pace to work at - which I guess was the speed in which some of these people mentioned earlier worked at.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
asked Oct 19, 2011 in Theoretical Physics by curious_1 (5 points) [ no revision ]
retagged Apr 19, 2014 by dimension10
Dear curious, Jacob Bourjaily may be viewed as a "role model" but he is also a natural genius that other people simply can't reproduce. The list of his papers http://inspirehep.net/search?ln=en&p=find+a+bourjaily%2Cj&f=&action_search=Search shows that as an undergrad in Michigan, he knew almost everything about QFT and was writing papers about mSUGRA and other advanced things in field theory. Then he also became a homeboy in string phenomenology as a Princeton grad student, and could add the twistor/polytope business as a trivial addition. He will be a junior fellow at Harvard now.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
I also want to say that he would never ask what is the most efficient way to avoid learning stuff, or how to specialize so that you won't have to learn the rest. Also, he would never use the term "Maldacena's conjecture" for the AdS/CFT because the term "conjecture" has been brutally misleading since 1998 when the amount of evidence for its validity was overwhelming. And if Bourjaily were asking someone about advice, it wouldn't be random people on the Internet. This whole philosophy of "how do I become another Bourjaily without knowing or doing much" is just fundamentally flawed.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
I have to agree with @Moshe's comment here. This question doesn't really have a canonical answer, and instead is something that needs to be worked through between a student and their advisor among others. Any answer here will be very generic and very probably wrong for you, since people come at these things from different directions, with different background knowledge, different skills and abilities and different strengths. I'm voting to close too, not to punish you, but because I don't believe this question has good answers and I don't want to encourage bad ones.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
Moshe has a point, but as a side note: I was in the same research group as Silviu Pufu for a short time (I doubt he remembers me, though) and I seem to recall that he was taking QFT courses as a junior, which puts him roughly 3 years ahead of a typical academic program. But certainly not everyone does that.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
You can get an outline from reading Jacob Lewis's personal page: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jbourj. He was winning prizes in his youth yet doing the same homework problems as his peers. The conclusion seems to be that brilliant people tend to go through the normal undergraduate/graduate route like everyone else, with the course work at around the same universal level: But they're head and shoulders above everyone else because of their natural talent.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
I really don't think we should get into the business of giving detailed career advice for people we don't know, that cannot be good for anyone. The answer for this question should be given over a few years by many people, including a thesis adviser, who will have the benefit of having met the OP, and have then the chance of adjusting their plans according to the many variables invisible to us. Vote to close.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)

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