You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Education:University of Hong Kong, University of Oxford
Work History:University of Hong Kong
D.Phil. student at the University of Oxford
Favourite thing to do in my job: Doing hard things, and succeeding
Aspiring physicist, avid musician, occasional photographer and videographer
I’m ethnically Filipino, but I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I grew up speaking English at home and Cantonese in school; unfortunately I never learned to speak Filipino, but I’m kinda sorta learning French now.
In my free time I like to play music. I play the guitar, piano, and bass guitar; I sing as well! The Beatles were my first and are my greatest musical inspiration. I listen to lots of other older artists too, like Stevie Wonder, the Police and James Taylor.
I also like to take photos and make YouTube videos sometimes.
I use the biggest machine in the world to find out what the universe is made of.
The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s biggest machine. It’s a big, 27 km-long circle under Geneva in Switzerland. It’s like a big microscope that lets us look into the quantum realm.
Like in the Marvel movies, the quantum realm is all about the smallest things in the universe. Unlike the movies, however, we don’t make ourselves smaller than ants to study it, instead we use big machines to see what’s there.
We humans already have a good idea of what’s there, actually. If the universe were a big Lego store, fundamental particles are the bricks that make up everything you can find in it. There’s a whole zoo of fundamental particles out of which our universe is made.
Even though we know a lot already, there’s still more we don’t know and so we’re still curious: we want to find out if there are more Lego bricks than those that we know about. How do we find out? We try to break things.
In the Large Hadron Collider, we try to make protons crash into each other at almost the speed of light. When we do that, we can make fundamental particles, which we then take pictures of with special cameras.
It’s like if you tried to find out what a car was made of by smashing two cars together at high speed. If you took a slo-mo video of that car crash, you’d be able to pick out all the car parts flying out of the collision – the windows, the doors, the wheels, the engine…
In a similar way, we can crash protons together to see what they’re made of; however, unlike our car crash example, sometimes we can make new particles, like if you crashed two cars together and a boat came out.
We try to take as many pictures of these collisions as we can in the hopes that maybe we’ll make a new particle we’ve never seen before.
My Typical Day
Some thinking, some coding, some chatting
This is where I work, at CERN, the organisation which hosts the Large Hadron Collider.
Sometimes I get to sit in this room full of flashing lights and computer screens. This is one of the control rooms of our massive experiments. Whenever I’m here, I feel like I’m on the bridge of a starship, ready to boldy go where no one has gone before.
My work is basically a cycle of (1) thinking about what to do, (2) writing computer code to do, and (3) showing my results to my colleagues; every step is a challenge.
Thinking about what to do is often the hardest part. Particle physics is such a big and complicated field (check out how dense the Wikipedia page is!), often it can be hard to wrap my head around it. I might do a bit of reading to see what other people have done already, or do a few small experiments to try things out; after I while I get an idea of what I want to do and how to do it.
The LHC generates a huge amount of data every year — enough to fill 1000 years’ worth of DVDs, therefore we need the help of computers to do our job. We write all sorts of programs to do complicated calculations. Without computers, the experiments we do would be impossible!
At CERN, you are the expert at what you do; no one knows more about your project that you. This means that when we share our work with our colleagues, no matter if we are asking for help or showing them something cool, we have to clearly and concisely explain to them what we have done. Considering how complicated our work can be, that’s not easy; most people need things explained to them at least twice before they understand it.
Talking to people outside our experiment (like you!) is also part of the job. We stand at the frontiers of science; it is our duty and privilege to share all the cool things we find with you and the rest of the world.
What I'd do with the prize money
Fund a teenager to come to CERN
In Hong Kong, where I’m from, we don’t really hear much about all this exciting work done at CERN. I’d like to change that, even if just a little bit.
Coming from a lower-middle class family, I relied on the generosity of scholarship donors to ay for my first visit to CERN. When I first arrived, I knew nothing about CERN or what it did, but being here opened my eyes to all the exciting research that is being done. That first visit made me fall in love with particle physics.
I know a university professor in Hong Kong who organizes school trips to CERN once every two years. However it is quite expensive, as Hong Kong is far, far away from Geneva, and Geneva is quite an expensive city to be in.
If I were given the prize money, I would put it towards a scholarship that would fund a Hong Kong student to come visit CERN. I would meet them when they come, and show them and their group around CERN.
It would be great if I could help someone come to know and love particle physics.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, passionate, careful
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Being at CERN
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Study physics, but beyond that I hadn't a clue
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Hahah I always handed in my homework late.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
A good bacon cheeseburger
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I rolled halfway down a mountain when I went skiing for the first time.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish I'd be I good cook, I wish I exercised more, and I wish my circle of friends only grows and never shrinks.
Tell us a joke.
Tuna piano and it'll sound better.