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Past: Fall 2016: Yuanhao Zhang

Featured Graduate Student: Fall 2016

Harry  (Yuanhao) Zhang

Harry is a Ph.D. candidate in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He speaks here about himself and gives some advice to other aspiring astrophysicists.

 My name is Yuanhao Zhang, also known as Harry. I was born and spent most of my life in Shanghai China before I went abroad, where I got my bachelor degree in applied physics from East China University of Science and Technology. I joined AST program since 2012 and majored in astrophysics, my research field is gravitational wave data analysis.


1) How would you describe your field of study/research to a friend who is not in your graduate program?

I am looking for tiny little ripples of spacetime — gravitational waves predicted by Einstein. I developed methods to analyze data from LIGO to search for gravitational waves emitted from neutron stars in low mass X-ray binaries. 

2) What brought you to RIT for your graduate studies?

The Internet, I suppose. Back to the time when I was seeking for grad school, I did research online and applied for US physics departments by a certain selecting algorithm. I applied mostly related to condensed matter physics, while I was sort of an amateur astronomer owning a 80 cm telescope, so I also applied for a couple of astrophysics programs including RIT. Eventually AST offered a good deal, and I decided to expand my interest to become a less amateur astronomer.

3) What's been your best experience so far?

Travelling to different places around the world, I lived in Germany for my third year where my advisor had his sabbatical. It was lucky to experience both the continental and American life style during my PhD study.  Also joining conferences allowed me to go to different places and meet people, brought good memories.

4) What do you most enjoy about Rochester?

Rochester is at the perfect size for living, it is friendly to driver, pretty much has everything you need. You can always find interesting events to go, people are friendly to international residents. It's a good place to live if you don't mind snow, and I have got used to the winter weather.

5) What are your plans for after graduate school?

Become a real punk, I mean a real scientist. I am applying for postdoc position to start my independent research in gravitational wave astronomy.

6) What trait do you find most necessary to succeed in graduate school?

Get motivated. Doing research is different from taking class, there is no grade A to reward your achievement, and there might not be a good answer to your research. People probably feel dispirited as others don't understand how to appreciate your work, but you should find a way to motivate yourself and get along with science.

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?

First year is the first step from student to professional, a grad student is supposed to be more than a student, who is expected to create new knowledge and contribute to the field. Doing astronomy is not about retweeting pictures on APOD, science work could be trivial and tedious which is different from what a person may expect, but being an astronomer is no different from other jobs, the main point is pursuing a way of life. Students are supposed to deal with it and transfer into the research phase as soon as possible, so work hard and don't wait until everything is ready.

My website is at