“The source of all true art and science.”

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is
the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” This quote
by Albert Einstein is one of the best quotes I have ever heard. I love
mysterious things. I love the mystery behind black holes. I love how quantum
mechanics is different from classical mechanics that is common in our everyday
life. I love how the human body has 37.2 trillion cells and each cell contains
their own mysterious genetic expression. I love science because it is
mysterious. Every scientific conundrum is a treat for me, and I am excited to
solve them.

 

I loved physics, chemistry, biology, and other
scientific areas equally until I read Stephen
Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell
in my first year in middle school. I was fascinated with physicists’ attempts
to create a unified theory that combines Albert Einstein’s general relativity
and quantum mechanics. The complex yet brilliant ideas about black holes and
time travel attracted me to the field of theoretical physics. My admiration for
ground-breaking physicists had turned into a desire to become like them, and
that’s why I chose physics as my major.

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My interest in experimental and
computational physics appeared when I was participating at the Summer
Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Loma Linda University last year. Under the
supervision of Dr. Ryan Sinclair and Dr. Christopher Perry, we designed and
built a low-cost air quality sensor utilizing a
Dylos DC1100 Air Particle Counter and Raspberry Pi Linux-based miniature
computer. We conducted this project in response
to the request of the Pueblo Unido Community Development Cooperation
(PUCDC) in monitoring the sometimes poor air quality of the Eastern Coachella
Valley of Riverside County, CA. My task in the group was writing Python
programs on the Raspberry Pi to convert the particle counted by the sensor into
?g/m3 and Air Quality Index (AQI), to stream real-time data from the
particle counter to a web-based data server
using a wireless connection, and to control a DC fan to cool the Raspberry Pi’s
CPU. After developing the sensor, we constructed an outdoor enclosure
for the air sensor and deployed it in the Eastern Coachella Valley.  

 

Born in a developing country, Vietnam, I
understand the importance of education and hard work. To me, the saying that
“there is no such thing as a free lunch” means that success requires effort and
hard work. I try to give my best in everything I
do, and this internship was no exception. During the internship, I often stayed
up late to code and fix errors, and I always gave my 100% at work. As a result,
I finished the project four weeks before the end of the program. The joy of
getting things done after giving my best was rewarding. It motivates me to
continue working hard.

 

During the last four
weeks of the program, we designed and printed components of a 3D printed Raman
Spectrometer. At the same time, I also worked on a research project under the
guidance of Dr. Christopher Perry. I was specifically responsible for using
Discrete Dipole Scattering (DDSCAT) code to calculate electromagnetic
scattering and absorption of light of gold nanoparticles 5 to 1000nm in size.
Using the same software, I also calculated the extinction spectra for gold
nanoprisms, rods, and spheres.

 

Certainly, I have
gained extensive experience in experimental and computational techniques from
my fellowship at Loma Linda University. But the most valuable reward I’ve gotten
from this research experience is a purpose for my physics career. The air
monitor project of Dr. Sinclair has reminded me of my home country, Vietnam,
where air pollution is currently a major problem. Because of the increasing
numbers of motorbikes and cars, the air pollution in big cities in Vietnam has reached
hazardous levels. Yet in the whole nation, there are only a few pieces of professional
equipment used to monitor air quality. Besides the air pollution, the country
is also dealing with other environmental issues such as water and soil
pollution. I realized that in order to fulfil my purpose in life, I need to use
my physics studies to create a healthier environment and enhance the scientific
knowledge in my home country as well as in other developing countries.
Therefore, I have chosen my career as an experimental physicist.

 

While exploring
the experimental sides of physics, I became attracted to condensed matter
physics. From several courses that I took from Dr. Tom Ekkens such as Physical
Electronics and Experimental Physics, I realized that the study of metals,
insulators, semiconductors, and superconductivity are particularly interesting
to me. The excitement I felt during my experimental labs convinced me that I
enjoy conducting experiments and interpreting the result of my work.

 

            Along
with my study and research experiences, I am also working as a teaching/lab
assistant and a math and physics tutor at Walla Walla University. I truly enjoy
these teaching positions as I believe that the best way to learn is to teach
others. I have learned as much from students who seek for my help as they have
learned from me. These teaching experiences have confirmed my desire and
enjoyment in communicating with people and conveying my knowledge of physics
and mathematics to others. I also believe that such teaching experiences will
prepare me to work as a teaching assistant in the future.

 

The
intensive research in experimental condensed matter physics at University of
California, Los Angeles, has convinced me that your program would provide me excellent
physics education as well as great research experiences to become an
experimental physicist. Of particular interest to me is the use of spectroscopy
to study pollutants by Dr. Kumar Patel and
high-resolution 3D imaging by Dr. Jianwei (John) Miao.  Dr. Patel’s use of optical and quantum
characterization techniques in diverse systems from air pollutants to condensed
matter systems would help me see the range of uses for current technology and
help me grow in creative applications while still making useful
contributions.  Dr. Miao’s use of
coherent diffractive imaging makes use of my love of computational problems
while also offering the same range of diverse applications from crystals and
solids to biomolecules.  I find a lot of
places where UCLA’s work interests me.

 

As
a graduating student getting my B.S in Physics and in Applied Mathematics, I
have a serious intention to continue my education at graduate level at UCLA.  I believe that your PhD program will lead me
to my dream of creating innovative and prominent contributions to my home
country and the science of physics.

 

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