Dr. Peter Groves graduated from the Wake Forest Ph.D. program in 2003 and now works as an Operations Research Analyst for MITRE, a federally funded research & development center. While a graduate student at Wake he worked with Professors Paul Anderson and Eric Carlson researching static black hole spacetimes. In the following interview with Professor Anderson, Dr. Groves shares what he has been up to since graduating from Wake.

Prof. Anderson: What are you doing now, career-wise?

Dr. Groves: I am an Operations Research Analyst for a federally funded research & development center (MITRE).  I work on site at an Air Force military command (Pacific Air Forces) with military personnel, conducting modeling, simulation, and analysis for their wartime scenarios – basically how well do we (U.S. forces) think we will do in a particular conflict, and how can we improve our outcome?  I also liaise and leverage digital engineering form my MITRE teammates, who work in the Washington, DC area and elsewhere around the globe.  The military decisions I inform regard tactics using assets in the current Department of Defense inventory, and acquisition of new assets not yet in the inventory.

Prof. Anderson: What did you do right out of Wake Forest?

Dr.Groves: I taught physics for one year at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, then I did one year at U. Tennessee-Chattanooga, then 10 years with Center for Naval Analyses, then 9 years (to present) with MITRE.

Prof. Anderson: How did Wake Forest Physics help you get where you are today?

Dr. Groves: It might sound cliché, but Wake Forest Physics helped me develop the mindset that I could do anything.  Having been successful in the field of theoretical physics (semiclassical gravity), nothing looks intimidating.  Every challenge looks like something that, if I put my mind to it, can be understood and at least addressed.  Aside from confidence, I use the problem-solving skills that I learned at Wake Forest Physics every day.  Sadly, I don’t use physics much in my line of work, but I do use math from time to time, and being versant in math is a huge benefit.  And if there is a physics question, I am typically the go-to guy.

Prof. Anderson: Do you have an anecdote you would care to share either from your time at Wake Forest Physics or from afterward relevant to Wake Physics?

Dr. Groves: I remember fondly working with Paul and Eric on semiclassical gravity and working through problems and calculations related to my particular black hole application.  One memory that I think of quite often was working with Eric – a few of us grad students had a question related to particle physics, which was kind of tricky.  We asked Eric to help and after thinking about it, he said, “well I don’t know the answer, but I know how to start.”  Shortly after saying that and writing the first equation on the board, he said, “I can think of three ways of proving this.  Which one would you like to see first?”  So just starting is underrated, even if the problem looks intimidating.  On a related note, Paul would always say, “when in doubt, write it out.”  As smart as we all think we are, we can’t always solve problems, and just being willing taking a first step or writing down the problem helps, instead of being intimidated by the problem and not starting.  This came up just this week – some of my teammates had a difficult problem that had persisted for over a year, and basically the team had been at the same point the whole time, hadn’t started, because the problem seemed so complex.  I offered that they should take the smallest step just to start – don’t be afraid to start, even if you don’t see how it is going to help.  We will see how the project turns out, but I can almost guarantee that we will solve that particular problem, because sometimes you just have to do the simplest thing you are sure of first.

Prof. Anderson: Is there anything you would like to share with prospective or current students?

Dr. Groves: Everything you do both adds to your resume and hones, or even traps you, in your career trajectory.  If you leave academia and work for the military (for instance!), your resume and path are now military, and it’s hard to reverse or change paths.  So be intentional about each step you make and have an end goal in mind.  If you don’t have an end goal in mind, you will end up having your job opportunities dictating your career path.  Not a bad thing – but if you do have a goal, keep in mind that every career step you take leads you to the next step, so be intentional about them.