Monday, June 4, 2018

Travel, travel and travel

    I can't think of a best title to describe my recent life that is both exciting and exhausting. But after revisiting my older blog posts about the hectic time period I went through as a senior in Kyoto University, what I am experiencing now is not something completely new. 

Part of the reasons why I have been traveling so frequent is because I am a postdoc at the University of Washington, Seattle and also an analysis coordinator for the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab, Batavia. As a result I need to coordinate and supervise analysis efforts of students and postdocs at both locations and hence there is a need to split my time 50:50 between these two locations. This is still fine. Just over two weeks ago, I was invited to participate and give a talk at an analysis workshop organized by my collaborators at the University of Kentucky, Lexington and was also invited to give a seminar talk at the Yale University in New Haven. To make sure I optimized my travel grant, I combined my Fermilab trip with the Kentucky and Yale trips. As a result, in 2 weeks time, I spent more than 24 hours in addition to commuting time to work in transportation like car and airplane. The best reaction I could give you is to shake my head if you ask me how was my trip.

However, I am pretty satisfied what I got out from the last two weeks. First, I managed to convinced some of the collaborators to give an update in the meeting I host every 1-2 weeks for Muon g-2 data analysis. People were being shy in the first few weeks and I had to work at 200% productivity to keep the ball rolling. I am glad that it paid off. Second, I was glad that I managed to give useful suggestions to the data analysis workshop I attended. I gave a talk regarding using modern data analysis tools like JupyterLab to perform analysis on Muon g-2 data and gave some concrete examples they could use immediately. I also contributed my knowledge on the detector to clear up some misunderstanding in data analysis. Third, I was very glad to have the chance to give an hour long seminar talk at a prestigious place like Yale University. Although there are still rooms for improvement for my talk (I had only about two days to prepare) I can pretty much using it as a template for my future talks. The talk I gave at Indiana was a job talk (focusing mostly on my contributions) so it was not really oriented for a more general physics seminar or colloquium. 

More importantly, 3 important results came out as soon as I came back to Seattle this week. They are

1) Excess of electron-like events in the MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab,
2) Determination of nucleon axial coupling from lattice QCD, and 
3) First dark matter search result from XENON1T.

This weekend is the time for me to relax so I am glad to have a little time to read more about these exciting updates. Hopefully our collaboration can deliver the result in a timely manner next Winter/Summer so that we can confirm the measurement previously done at BNL about 20 years ago.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It's going to be crazy months ahead for me as those heavyweight tasks are flowing in one by one. First I am charged with the commissioning run task force to figure out the missing muons and then I have to co-prepare the Experimental Operational Plan (EOP) and then to give a talk for the Operational Readiness Review regarding the data analysis plan for the muon anomalous precession frequency. All these responsibilities in addition to job applications, funding applications, manuscript preparing, data analysis and student mentoring, my life can't be busier.

Ok, back to work.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Revival post

I can't believe it took me more than 2 years to create a new post here. It could mean I was either very lazy or very busy. It is a mixture of both.

I have gained a lot of experience working in my current group and in the Muon g-2 collaboration while I was absent from this blog. Long story short, my current responsibility is to co-coordinate analysis effort of the collaboration. I guess I will share what it means for me in the next occasion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Update from Seattle

Why Seattle? It's simple, I have been living here for almost half a year.

I have decided to take up a postdoc position offered by UW after writing the previous post regarding my interview experience. Lots of things have changed since then, and I am doing okay right now in Seattle. I must say that the culture here is quite different from what I have experienced before. For example, you are not allowed to drink on the street, alcohol is prohibited in the karaoke box nearby the university, right-turn is allowed during red traffic light unless stated otherwise, and so on ....

Research wise I am very happy to be entrusted with several important tasks for the collaboration. Having experience in both hardware and software has been my dream since undergraduate and today finally I have the chance to experience a nice mixture of 50:50 in my daily research work.

I spent a majority of time on the muon beam injection and storage studies for the first two months and it worked out quite well albeit some bugs in the geometry implementation and tracking in the EM fields. I didn't expect the injection scheme of this experiment to be this complicated but I am glad to learn many things related to the dynamics of the muon beam in the storage ring such as coherent betatron oscillation and fast rotation.

In terms of hardware development, I am working on a beam monitoring system consisted of 3 consecutive fiber array detectors. This is something I have been working on since my ETH days so it's a good continuation of work for me. And of course I have learnt much more about the amplifier circuit for the SiPM compared to before, such as the dynamic range of the VGA. I am involved also in the QC of the SiPM board for the calorimeter. This is perhaps for the first time I have to design an experiment from scratch. It's hard of course, but it is also very rewarding at the same time. Because of it, I get to expand my familiarity in the Autodesk Inventor program for mechanical drawing, to expand my knowledge in the electronic department, such as flashing LED using super narrow pulser, etc. Hopefully I manage to characterize all the SiPMs within the allocated time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last few months as a student

Again I am in the transition period of my life, and this is a big one: the end of my student life. Technically speaking I am both student and research assistant and more importantly, I am paying taxes. So this semi-phase transition sounds less dramatic but it's actually not.

Very often a research project is led by a postdoc or a senior scientist and usually PhD student is focusing on executing the technical tasks. When the direction is well defined, you do the job quicker as you can feel day by day that you will reach there soon. Of course depending on which type of experiment, there are also many cases where PhD students are taking the lead.

My Postdoc Interview Experience

Finally my postdoc hunting season is over and it's time to share some of my experience. Usually to have a chance of promotion in the academic path, you will need to prove yourself in a field with different specialization than your current PhD. For example, in the field of experimental particle physics, hardware development-emphasized postdoc work if you have been working mainly in the software environment during your PhD work. But of course some of the work will still involved the current expertise that you have, so that you get to learn new skills and to polish and apply the previous skills that you have acquired. For these reasons, I have applied to the research groups working on physics different from what I am working on at the moment and also as diverse as possible in terms of the skills required.

There are about 4 topics coming up in my mind, which involved neutrino, neutron, anti-proton and muon particles. Quite wide isn't it? Each of them has different physics motivations and the similarity among them is that all of them are trying to answer the big questions about our universe - where is another source of CP violation, why neutrino is so light-weight, how symmetry are the matter and the anti-matter, and so on ...... Expertise that are required by the positions span from Monte Carlo simulation and offline data analysis to constructing an ion-trap and calorimeters. As diverse as the topics and the skills, the workplaces are also quite far away from each other, Switzerland, UK, Japan and the U.S. Even though staying at the same place will save you a lot of time moving around and settling down to a new environment, there are many unforeseen incident happening and in the end I will be going to the place furthest away from my current city.  While not mentioning which university and which group I have applied to, I would like to share some of the important things that I have learnt from my 4 postdoc interviews (2 face-to-face and 2 skype).

1) Keep your talk within the allocated time
I did a mistake during my 1st interview where I was a little bit slow in presenting my works.
Even though I managed to finish 1 of the projects and in the middle of the 2nd project I am involved in, this doesn't leave a good impression to the interviewers. Thanks to this experience, I did better or to say finished everything within the time limit and everybody was happy.

2) Never put any words that you don't fully understood on your slides
Usually there are not many people who is trying to test your knowledge about your field, but according to Murphy's law, anything can happen! I got a sharp question during my 3rd interview, well more than one question, and I wasn't expecting the questions to come in those directions. Luckily I managed to compensate it with my answers to many other questions but still it is destroying my mood. Thanks again to this experience, instead of taking them away, I have invested even more time trying to understand the concepts that I have been understanding only on the surface.

3) It's obvious but ask more about your future work or experiment
This point I believe will give a very good impression to your future boss/group that you are really interested to work in that project with them and you have done your homework. Usually the detail of an experiment is not fully covered in the publications and thus you should be able to figure out what are the questions to be asked. Asking about the schedule of the experiment is also very important as it shows that you are considering seriously the possibility of working in the group and incorporating the time schedule into part of your life.

4) Discuss with the people around you who you are close to (be it before the interview or after)
This is also extremely important to know what is the option of your colleagues regarding the future projects you are interested in. Since postdoc has the time limit and pressure to accomplish highly within 2-4 years, it is wiser to choose projects which can be done within the mentioned time span. As a fresh PhD graduates, very often it is difficult to judge where a given project can be completed within the allocated time. Consulting more senior members in the group will be the better idea and you need to be prepared that the opinions are usually 50:50 and you will have to make your own judgement. You are becoming an independent research now after all!

As a conclusion, don't be afraid of approaching people whom you are interested to work with. I have talked to more than 20 people since Feb this year and I get to know more about what's going on in my current field and also the other fields. Even if it doesn't work out for the 1st postdoc, you might be working together with them in the near future as a collaborator! So, make more friends and enjoy doing research!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Next destination

It has been almost 10 years since I left Penang to study abroad and now I am living in a place where I could never thought of 10 years ago. Osaka (1),  Kyoto (4), Tokyo (2), Zurich (3) are great cities that I have lived in, and now I am again at the moment of deciding which destination to stop by in the coming years.

From Osaka to Kyoto was a tough one. Most of my friends were going or at Osaka, and I have made a decision to go to Kyoto University for my undergraduate studies instead. For the exposure I had and the colorful life I experienced living in Kyoto International Student House, I have no regret. 

From Kyoto to Tokyo, I was quite sad to leave a place that I have been liking for the past 4 years. I lived quite near to the University, and the surroundings were full with Rahmen shops which are my super duper favorites. However, it is still too early to say which path would be better for my scientific career, ATLAS group of Todai or T2K experiment of Kyodai. Nevertheless, I am very happy with the choice now, as I have met many nice friends in Tokyo and also my current girl friend!

From Tokyo to Zurich, this was decided rather faster than I could imagine. I was worrying that spending too much time on computing and analysis would narrow my career path, and decided to have a look on some job platforms online. I must say that I was looking at the right timing as I have the job that I am working right now, which I enjoyed very much, and also thanks to a Swedish master student in my institute for her supports and advices during my application for the position.

So what's next? From Zurich to? Even myself has no answer. Be it US, be it Japan, be it Europe, there are mountains of tasks waiting for me for the coming months. Do my best! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

It has been 6 months since my last post and this shows how "busy" I was.

First of all, in July I was accepted into the Telejob group of AVETH and have been working in the IT team to support the job platform and Telejob website. Even though I am working as a researcher in Physics and aiming to continue in the academia, there is no harm to learn about the working environment of somebody outside of academia. The Telejob is like a small private business where everybody is coming from different background hoping to learn from each other on how to manage a business. This is certainly very beneficial for PhD students who are working most of the time in a small group and highly specific topics, to extend their social network and horizon. I have also learnt a lot from the IT team about PHP framework Symfony, JavaScript and also managing database using mysql. I am enjoying the work!

After spending a weekends with my high school friends in Venice, I was spending most of the time attending seminar, conference and workshops, from ETH to Linz in Austria and PSI. It was for the first time that I have presented something about my main project "Phase space compression of positive muon beam". I was quite nervous at the beginning, but managed to explain smoothly after several practices and discussions with other physicists.

After resting for several months, the season of Badminton is finally coming back again. The Swiss Badminton League is usually being played from September to the March of next year. Since last year my team was at the bottom of the table in League 3, this year we are demoted to League 4 and our target is to top the table and go back to League 3 again. Since I have stopped playing every week for quite some time, my first league game was quite rusty but somehow managed to score 2 wins in men singles and men doubles. And currently I am ranked high C3 after beating two C2 guys in December 2013 and January in 2014. B3 is my target this year and hopefully I am able to reach it.

In September when the semester starts, I have signed up for a course named Space geodesy. It was all about mapping the physical quantities of the Earth, such as gravity field, drift of the continents, etc. At the beginning I thought it was only about the GPS, but as the course going on, there were much more interesting stuffs being taught: different types of tides, different ways of measuring distance, orbits of the satellites, etc. It was really an eye opening class for me and I believe it will be of future use for me in my career.

We were happy to have friends visiting again in October, where we visited Rapperswil (3rd time!) by ship and Titlis for the first time. The lake view from ship was nice as usually, and the Titlis mountain was great as everywhere was covered with snow. We had Raclette party one night, and another dinner at the famous Zeughauskeller to show them some typical swiss foods.

In November I have attended an interesting workshop "2nd International Workshop on Antimatter and Gravity". It was held at the University of Bern which is just next to the train station, and I get to know many physicists who I have seen only their names before. The faces didn't match the names most of the time though.  I wasn't giving the talk but I have prepared the talk together with my boss so it was great to receive some feedback regarding it in preparing for my thesis defense. Since I am quite new to this field, it was quite a good chance for me to have a glance of whole field.

December was quite an eventful month for me as I have attended KIZUNA meeting for past Japan scholars to share experience and to exchange information, Annual meeting and dinner for Institute for Particle Physics, visited Google Zurich for the first time hosted by a Malaysian friend working there, Christmas dinner organized by AVETH and Telejob (plus year end bonus!), Telejob retreat to Mulhouse, France, and of course year end trip to Italy (Rome, Florence and Pisa) with my dearest one.

Oh, and not forget to mentioned about the new year eve party held at my flat with my student gang in Zurich plus their friends. The foods were great, the games were fun and the people were nice!

A few days after the new year came my first Ski in Switzerland in Sattel, and I managed to recall what I have learnt last time at Nagano in Japan during the ICEPP symposium 2010. Hopefully there will be more snows this year and I can ski until May to minimize the cost/use. :)