Mathematics Alumnus

John Laiho

Position: Research
Company Name: Fermilab, Chicago
Industry Sector: Science & Technology

What He Does

Jack Laiho is a research associate (post-doc) at Fermilab in Chicago, where he works on theoretical particle physics. His work involves numerical simulations of particle interactions and searches for new physics.

Math on the Job

My work involves numerical simulations of quantum field theory in the regime where traditional analytical methods (perturbation theory and Feynman diagrams) do not work. This requires the numerical evaluation of multi-dimensional integrals using 'Monte Carlo' importance sampling methods. The computer resources needed for this task are demanding, and in practice, analytical calculations are needed to extract results which can be meaningfully compared to experiment. In terms of mathematical background needed for this work, the most useful undergraduate courses were those in Probability, Complex Analysis and the Calculus sequence, including Differential Equations.


Jack majored in mathematics and physics at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI, where he graduated in 1998 with a BA. He went on to get his PhD in physics from Princeton University in 2004. As a student at Princeton, Jack spent a year at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island working on his thesis topic. He began a three year post-doc at Fermilab in the fall of 2004.

Advice for Students

  • For undergraduates, get involved in research at an early stage. It is more important to seek out a good mentor than to choose a specific subfield (this is true in grad school as well!).
  • For graduate students, remember your thesis is a stepping-stone, not the culmination of your life's work.
  • Finally, be willing to work hard, but make sure you have found something you love so that it doesn't feel like work.

Page last updated: Monday, August 19, 2013