What does your research entail?
I'm sort of a generalist, with knowledge in optics, high-speed imaging, and programming. Some of my current projects are designing the optical head and support structure for a touchless optical ultrasound, rewriting the control software hardware for the target manipulator in the Laboratory's Optical Systems Test Facility, and developing software for identifying objects with an infrared camera. My work is quite varied, and I love that I am exposed to so many different topics.
What was your career path before joining the Laboratory?
Before I came here, I was mainly doing engineering and design work on power and safety systems for high-field magnets. This work was totally unrelated to that of my doctorate — using a combination of a terahertz source at a particle accelerator and lasers to study material properties — which I enjoyed more. At the Lab, I have the opportunity to choose from a variety of projects instead of being assigned to just one. I enjoy being able to pick projects that I’m excited to work on.
Where do you find inspiration or motivation for your work?
I want to make my family proud of me. My son says he wants to be a scientist, but he's very young. I want him to still be interested in what I do when he's old enough to really understand it. For now, I tell him I work with lasers. He's starting to get into programming and computers, though, so his understanding of the other types of work I engage in is increasing. For example, he's building a calculator in Minecraft and now knows what logic gates are. Soon, I think I can explain to him more about what working with lasers actually entails.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date, and what do you hope to achieve in the future?
Finally completing my PhD in physics is at the top of my list. I got it a bit later than most, and I owe my wife a lot for her support and encouragement. Someday, I would like to earn a patent, perhaps for a technology that would help protect soldiers on the battlefield. I didn't even know I wanted one until I saw a plaque with a patent award hung up on one of my project head's walls. To have that acknowledgment that I made a contribution to something new and useful would be rewarding.
Where have you traveled, and how have your travels changed you?
I've been all over the world, which was always a dream of mine when I was a kid. For seven years, I lived in Dresden, Germany, a city that was completely destroyed in World War II. At the time, they were finishing the rebuilding of structures that had been destroyed back then. On the weekends, my family traveled all over Europe by train, with trips to places like Berlin, Prague, Nuremburg, and Hamburg. There is so much history in plain sight and cool architecture. Living in Germany made me appreciate how hard it is to be an immigrant, even in a similar culture.
I attended a friend's wedding in India, and that trip was pretty unforgettable. I'd never been to a place where I really felt like a foreigner, standing out so much so that people asked me to take selfies with them. Conferences have brought me to various places, including Vancouver, where I saw beautiful natural sights like waterfalls and snow-capped mountains; Barcelona, where I experienced the Mediterranean for the first time and toured a Roman fort buried under a cathedral; and South Korea, where I tried bulgogi for real and loved it.