Why did you choose to come to AMSC?
I decided to get my PhD in scientific computing instead of physics
because I was using advanced computational algorithms in my research
without properly understanding how they worked. AMSC's
interdisciplinary program allowed me to take graduate courses in
physics and computing giving me an advanced understanding of both why
I do physics and how to do computational physics.
I chose the program
at University of Maryland in particular because it is one of very few
in the nation with a wide diversity of stellar faculty in physics,
computer science, statistics, math, and astronomy. I knew I would be
able to find an interesting research project.
What are your research interests and why?
My scientific application area is experimental particle physics.
Specifically, I am a member of one of the experiments at the Large
Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. My applied computing areas
are machine learning and grid computing. Our detector churns out approximately 150
"pictures" of particle collisions every second, which need to be
stored and distributed using computers on an international computing
grid, as well as interpreted using various statistical and
computational techniques such as machine learning.
Particle detector at Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland
I personally find quantum mechanics to be a fascinating area of study,
as well as necessary for long term technological advancement.
Particle physics in particular has made many contributions to modern
medical imaging and various industrial processes by developing
particle imaging and accelerator technology.
The idea of taking
pictures of particles colliding with a 5x10 story hundred-million
channel digital camera is totally appealing.
In my spare time, I also
assemble and administer our computing cluster, which services jobs
from around the world. I gain a great deal of personal satisfaction
banging the cluster into shape for the service of international
science. Grid computing preceded cloud computing, now used in a wide
variety of public and private sectors for the outsourcing of computing
Finally, the techniques in machine learning are
mathematically beautiful and awesomely powerful, used both for
discovery in scientific fields such as particle physics and biology
and analysis in engineering and finance. I use machine learning
techniques to maximize our precision in measuring a fundamental
What do you like to do in your free time?
I'm an avid hiker and gamer. I regularly hike in Shenandoah National
Forest in Virginia, which is stunningly beautiful in the fall and has
some wonderfully challenging hikes.
Mary's Rock hike
I'm currently training for a
return visit to my old favorite hike, "Old Rag," a 7 mile, 2,500 foot
hike with a lengthy and entertaining boulder crawl at the top. When
I'm not hiking, I'm home playing video games and am currently jazzed
about the recent StarCraft II release, woohoo!
Old Rag hike
What are your favorite parts of the greater Washington DC area?
I enjoy going to various shows at Wolf Trap and the Kennedy Center.
I've seen Riverdance, Les Miserables, Prairie Home Companion, Sarah
Chang, and the Bolshoi Ballet, amongst others. I love the easy access
to constant festivals; my favorite festival is the Scottish Games,
with caper tosses, history aficionados, and great music. I also love
visiting the dozen free Smithsonian museums and zoo with friends and
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Make your courses work for you: scientific computing is a very new
field with great flexibility. It's up to you to figure out what you
want to do with it. Additionally, as is true in any graduate program,
find an advisor and research group with whom you feel you can be
comfortable working with. A high quality professional relationship
will help you go farther and do more than almost any other factor.
Story posted 8/4/10