Student Spotlight | Winter 2016
Department: Physics, minor in mathematics
Describe your work in a few sentences that we can all understand: I work in high-energy experimental physics, testing silicon forward pixel detectors for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Mainly, I hit these detectors with X-rays, which we can then trace by tracking the small disturbances in the silicon through read-out chips attached to the detector. We then analyze the results to determine whether or not the detectors are behaving as they should, before the good detectors get shipped off to eventually be installed in the CMS.
Q: Who mentors your project?
A: Dr. Alice Bean and Dr. Phil Baringer
Q: What surprised you about doing research?
A: It surprised me how easy it was to get involved in research. I literally emailed Dr. Bean and told her I was interested in her research, and she invited me to come work in her lab. Now, obviously, it isn't that easy for everyone, but I would encourage students interested in research to take that first initial step and establish contact with a professor.
Q: What did you find most challenging about getting involved in or doing your project? What advice would you offer to students facing similar challenges?
A: I think some students are under the misconception that one must have an idea for a research project in order to do undergraduate research. That's not true. Just find a professor with interesting research and ask to have a conversation with them. They might just have an opening in their lab for you! Also, be persistent! If the first professor that you talk to doesn't have an opening, keep asking other professors until you find something. My advice to students would be to research something that interests you, even if it is in humanities because the findings that are being done by these researchers are very important. Also talk to your mentor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions because no one goes into research knowing exactly what to do.
Q: What do you like most about your project?
A: I like being able to learn good laboratory techniques that I will use in the future, as well as applying the theoretical material I learned in class to a practical setting. My favorite part about my research project is using the X-ray box because it's a really neat piece of equipment and let's be honest, X-rays are just cool.