Usually, the end of a semester is a time of celebration, especially the end of spring semester: the seniors who have worked so hard to complete their degrees are finally seeing the fruits of their labors; the professors who have built strong relationships with those same seniors take a lot of pleasure in celebrating with them. However, this year it’s hard for me to feel celebratory: today marked my last day of teaching regular courses at my current college. As of July 15, I will be unemployed after 6 years of full-time teaching (which also happens to be the amount of time I spent in graduate school working on my doctorate). Although I am actively looking for a new job and I will be teaching astronomy in summer session, this is fairly bittersweet time for me.
I celebrated the end of the term in my classes in my own way: my last lecture in each course involved topics dear to me. I spoke about the Big Picture in modern physics — describing the landscape of physics as it stands now, including what we know and what we have yet to learn. In electromagnetism, I showed how the classical theory fits into 20th century physics, connecting everything we learned with relativity pointing towards quantum electrodynamics. In quantum mechanics, I covered the Aharanov-Bohm effect, an esoteric subject to be sure, but which is one of my favorite topics. I sincerely hope that I will get the chance to teach these subjects again, though the prospect doesn’t look good right now.
Tomorrow we honor our seniors’ research projects, next week is final exams, then graduation. I suppose it’s a graduation of sorts for me, too. What comes next is anybody’s guess.