I am a third year Ph.D student in the AST program. My hometown is in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam. Before coming to RIT, I went to college at the University of Arizona in Tucson AZ, where I graduated in Summer 2015 with a bachelor degree in Astronomy. For my undergraduate senior thesis, I built an instrument that was later installed on the South Pole Telescope as a part of a much larger project — the Event Horizon Telescope — which aims to directly image a supermassive black hole for the first time. Since Fall 2015, I have been working with the CIBER-2 collaboration. We are building a sounding rocket experiment that allows us to put a small telescope into space for a short period of time and take images which we can then use to study how the Universe was like billions of years ago. Asides from doing research, I enjoy doing outreach and advocating for better inclusivity and equity in STEM.
1) How would you describe your field of study/research to a friend who is not in your graduate program?
- I am an experimental cosmologist, which mean I build experiments and make observation to understand how the Universe evolves over time. I am working with a group of astronomers to construct an experiment that allows us to measure the light that was emitted by the very first stars and galaxies to form in the Universe.
2) What brought you to RIT for your graduate studies?
- The AST program has a lot of fascinating research topics that align with my interests. RIT also has very good reputation in astronomy instrumentation. Additionally, the faculty and students here showed a very welcoming and supportive atmosphere when I came to visit.
3) What's been your best experience so far?
- I get to build stuff. It’s very exciting to see a drawing on the computer gain a physical form in real life, even more so when I get to machine it myself. The icing on the cakes: A lot of what I’m building are going to travel into space in the future.
4) What do you most enjoy about Rochester?
- I love how Rochester is a big city buzzing with activities, yet nature is only minutes away. One day I could go to a parade in downtown Rochester, and the next day I could hike at one of New York state’s largest national parks. There’s something for everyone here.
5) What are your plans for after graduate school?
- I’m hoping to find a postdoc position in which I can continue working on the same field. I have been looking around for awhile to compile a list of potential places that I can apply to, but it’s still a bit early to decide now.
6) What trait do you find most necessary to succeed in graduate school?
- Planning and looking ahead are very helpful traits to have. Compared to college, in graduate school students have more freedom to decide their daily schedule and how much time they spend on classes and research. This is why I think planning and time management are necessary. Everyone has different approaches to planning, but generally I would say set a goal (either short-term like a daily goal, or long-term like an observing proposal) then figure out the steps needed to achieve such goal. Having the big picture of what you want to do also helps with prioritizing tasks which in turn allows more efficient uses of your time.
7) Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program or someone considering graduate studies in astronomy?
- Be passionate about what you want to study and do not be afraid to ask for clarification or for help when you need it. I like asking questions in class and when I’m doing research — not only would that help me truly understand the material but it also shows that I really care about what I’m doing.
Finally, do you have a personal webpage you would like to share the link to on this page? If so, please give us the URL.
My professional webpage is at https://www.chi-nguyen.com/