I rolled into Pullman WA, home of Washington State University, in the Fall of 1984, with my girlfriend in tow. Her father was kind enough to let us have her truck. I couldn't believe what I had done! The summer of 1984 was extremely stimulating, with all the action in Palo Alto, and here I was arriving at what appeared to be a huge wheat field. Mind you I have nothing against farmers, but I was now primed for action, and Pullman seemed a bit small, to say the least. The first night we found no hotels were available, and it was too late to go to the dormitory, so we did the next best thing, pitch the tent on a golf course. The morning golfers were a bit surprised to see us crawling out of the tent with bleary eyes.
Soon school started, and I might as well have been on the moon, for me and my fellow students banded together to survive the onslaught of heavy homework assignments, and we lived in the Physics building, day and night. I was also teaching laboratory classes to undergrads for the first year, so was very busy. Once the heat let up, I found cross country skiing in Pullman, running, and great biking in and around the rivers and area roads, swimming, and rock climbing on the basalt. Rico's had great dark beer as well, and we had a group that enjoyed it regularly. Our softball team even won a few games here and there.
The papers resulting from my graduate work are below.
Arnott, W.P., 1988: Generalized glory scattering from spherical and spheroidal bubbles in water: Unfolding axial caustics with harmonic angular perturbations of toroidal wavefronts. Ph.D. Dissertation, Washington State University, School of Science and Arts, Pullman.
Arnott, W.P. and P.L. Marston, 1988: Optical glory of small freely-rising gas bubbles in water: Observed and computed cross-polarized backscattering patterns. J. Opt. Soc., 5 , 496-506.
Arnott, W.P. and P.L. Marston, 1989: Unfolding axial caustics of glory scattering with harmonic angular perturbations of toroidal wavefronts. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 85 , 1427-1440. (requires a DJVU plugin for your browser).
Arnott, W. P. and P.L. Marston, 1991: Unfolded optical glory of spheroids: Backscattering of laser light from freely rising spheroidal air bubbles in water. Applied Optics, 30 , 3429-3442.
Marston, P.L., C.E. Dean and W.P. Arnott, 1992: "Polar and Cartesian Expressions for Principal Curvatures", Appendix of "Geometrical and Catastrophe Optics Methods in Scattering", Physical Acoustics, Vol. 21, R.N. Thurston and A.D. Pierce, eds., Academic Press, Orlando, pp 220-221.
The first semester was a breeze, as one course, Quantum Mechanics, was actually taught out of the same book I had used as an undergrad. Then I went home for Christmas, got married, got sick, came back, and had a tough few months with some bad grades and adjustments to make. I put myself at the back of the class, and crawled back to the front by the semester's end. From then on, course work was still a challenge, but I was never overwhelmed by it again. Some of the courses were truly outstanding - milk and honey for a hungry baby.
My dissertation work was a bit on the esoteric side, sort of an underwater laser light disco show as described by my Swiss friend, sort of optics from the fish perspective. It touched on underwater optics issues, and especially the atmospheric optical effect known as the glory (1, 2). Bubbles in water strongly backscatter light as a result of a set of ray paths having trajectories at 180 degrees, and an associated wavefront focused at infinity. In the atmosphere, water droplets cause sunlight to also be strongly backscattered, though the basic physics is a bit different, as electromagnetic surface waves are involved rather than classical ray paths.
I enjoy being outside anyway, and my dissertation work was related to atmospheric optics, things like rainbows, glories, and halos, so it is perhaps likely that I would end up down the line working in the field of Atmospheric Physics at the Desert Research Institute.
The mathematics of scattering theory is reasonably advanced, so I learned to enjoy theoretical problems as well as the art of experiment. It is possible to stumble around for months in the laboratory, or with computations, and then suddenly things work as the picture unfolds and you peer into something new and interesting.