That’s what it was dubbed in college. The three to four weeks in January that one could either take a condensed course or have a few weeks to be home and work or exist in a drunken haze in the dormitories.

I took two J-term courses out of my four years as an undergrad. I thoroughly enjoyed them both. The first was in my sophomore year electricity and magnetism course. I still use the notes from that course in my career. The second was an introduction to literature class that I took in my junior year. This class was a blessing as well. During a normal, 16 week semester this was typically taught as a “novels” class.

Forced reading of novels is akin to a death march in my opinion. I somehow was able to fake my way through reading such droll books (in my opinion anyway) as “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Kitchen God’s Wife” in High school. Although I have to admit if I were to read them on my own, I would have probably enjoyed them both, but as I said: death march. Books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” I had read prior to being required reading so those made life a little easier.

The J-term literature class was great in that the professor decided to make it a short stories class in the spirit of the shorter term. This was perfect for me as I rather enjoy short stories and don’t mind the required reading in such a capsulated manner. In fact, I kept the tome of short stories and still read from it on occasion currently.

My senior year J-Term was interesting as I actually worked as a paid teaching assistant in the same electricity and magnetism class I took sophomore year. Moreoever, several of the students were from my year of school. It’s interesting to be teaching peers in such a manner and admittedly a little awkward.

I have to admit, I do enjoy teaching though. I run the FIRST lego league team for my kids’ elementary and middle schools and I loved being a TA in graduate school working in both the physics for biology courses and the upper division electrical circuits courses.

I actually envision my career in a “learn one, do one, teach one” manner and will eventually start looking for a professorship of sorts. I think I’ll need to work with the “honors” or college kids though. I don’t have a whole lot of patience for kids who are only putting in their time or run the high risk of becoming a severe distraction. Every now and then there are a few more distracting “eggs” thrown into the mix, but overall I enjoy the interaction. It’s even a little bit of a high when you can see the light go on in a student’s mind. The “eureka” moment when the material finally makes sense on that more ingrained and applicable level to where, at a minimum, they can take it into a test with minimal effort.

While such fond thinking on my past and pedagogy is great this wasn’t the real intent of this post. I’m reminded of the J-term at the moment as I have taken a few weeks off from writing. It hasn’t been the lack of wanting or thinking about writing, it has been the fact that I have been suffering from a very condensed work schedule.

Not to brag, okay I’m going to brag a little, but I’m on the verge of realizing five different products for my company based on two different core technologies: magnetic tunnel junctions and single crystal magnonic devices. If that sounds like a mouth full, it’s even more design, fabrication and test work.

We just got the first device back from packaging (making into a little black “computer” chip) and are testing it over temperature. It’s looking how we expected it to look.

The second device is mid-way through the fabrication process. It looked good at the middle electrical test.

The third device I am currently developing the materials for. It is a challenge as its performance characteristics are beyond the test equipment we currently have in house. This means I need to make full test devices and test them on equipment at the University of Minnesota. This route is time consuming and more expensive, but we do what we need to do.

Devices 4 and 5 are in a different boat and are almost fodder for an international thriller. I’d name it “The YIG” for yttrium iron garnet. High quality is hard to get and we had to source it from, of all places, the Ukraine. This was very expensive and took time and a flight to Lviv to get the goods. Once getting the material, we needed feature sizes that were smaller than we could make in-house. Unfortunately, the electron beam lithography tool that we needed to use, again at the U of MN, has been out of commission since early December. I have second sourced that process to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, but it is still taking time and we are running into end-of-program deadlines.

I also have several other device ideas underway, but I need to get through this quagmire (giggidy-giggidy) first. I am truly grateful that I get to innovate like this even though there are obviously a lot of roadblocks and a lot of stress. My hope is that these devices will hit the market like a hammer and result in some sort of paradigm shift.

Despite the work emphasis I was able to travel to Utah. The main emphasis of the trip was a workshop related to devices four and five, but I was able to take a couple of day’s to go skiing and relax. My girlfriend joined me on the trip and we skied Deer Valley in Park City then took a day of rest. I was very antsy and stressed on the day off on account of work, but am looking at it as a learning opportunity to manage the stress. The third day we skied Brighton. It was awesome with the varied terrain and good snow conditions. More will follow on a subsequent blog.

Indeed, it’s been quite the January. I’m hoping to get back to a normal level of stress. I’m planning a weekend escape to see an old grad school friend in either San Diego or Las Vegas. My next step is to get back in the gym…again.