I took the Honors Physics 2 course, PHYS 0476, with Dr. Hong in the spring of my freshman year. I remember going to one of his first office hours in the beginning of the semester and asking him about his research. It was not my intention to start researching with him, as I already had other plans for that semester, but I heard that he did research with experimental particle physics and I wanted to learn a bit more about it because I had no idea what it was like to do that kind of research.
When I asked him what his research was, he explained the basic concepts to me, like what a particle accelerator is, what a detector is, what triggers are, and how we can monitor these triggers to make sure we find the data we are looking for. (If you want to read more about these terms and what they mean, you can find my first blog post here: CURF Introduction) He explained to me that triggers are a little like motion-triggered light switches; you don’t want the switch to be so sensitive that any movement at all triggers it, but you need it to be sensitive enough that someone walking into the room can trigger it. This idea was fascinating to me in how it related to the finer details of experimental particle physics.
Then in the summer of 2020, after I finished PHYS 0476, I emailed Dr. Hong to see if there was anything I could do as part of his group. He quickly responded and gave me a task to work on in order to see if I would be able to contribute everything meaningful to the group. I worked on the task for a week or two and got back to him. After that, I started doing research with his group more regularly, which brings us to where we are now.
To anyone interested in getting involved in research, my advice is that it only takes an email most of the time. Take a look at some various professors’ research projects online and decide which ones seem interesting to you. Once you know that, you can write an email to a professor, explaining who you are and why you are interested in doing research with them. The worst they can do is say no, and if they happen to say yes, it can open so many opportunities for your time at Pitt and beyond. I am so excited to be doing the work I’m doing now, and I never would have gotten here if I didn’t just reach out to express my interest.