2016 FYSRE recipient interview: Linh Phan

TRIUMF caught up with Linh Phan, recipient of the 2016 Erich Vogt First Year Science Research Experience, to learn about her 2016 summer project: “Mass spectrometry analysis for the electron beam ion trap at the TITAN experiment at TRIUMF” with Dr. Jens Dilling at TRIUMF. She works specifically with the EBIT trap (electron beam ion trap) at TRIUMF, which traps exotic ions to allow further studying of their mass. Linh is now completing her combined major in Computer Science and Physics. 

Some additional questions we had for Linh -

Has this experience change your mind about working in Physics?

I have always thought I’ll work in Physics and/or Technology sectors, but there were definitely moments of doubts and uncertainties. However, this experience has allowed me to interact with researchers and helped me better assess my own abilities as well as the research community. This experience overall has helped me become more confident and certain about my career path.

What were the new experiences you had that were made possible with FYSRE?

For the project that I was assigned, I self-taught Python and wrote a peak-fitting program for data analysis for my research group, which I would not have thought is possible for me at this level. I also got the chance to be part of a friendly and vibrant collaboration that completely changed my perspectives on research environments. Furthermore, I got to participate in experimental runs with both day and night shifts, and it was very interesting to see researchers from different groups work together to operate the complex experimental system, and to see the results after much effort was very satisfying. 

Any most memorable moments?

For experimental runs, everyone brought in lots of food, and there were always a table full of food around. But on one of my night shifts, the senior members still ordered a big round of pizza anyway. “That’s how one can ever get through night shifts”, I was told. So we just ate pizza, sat around and chatted the whole night. I started seeing for myself that researchers are just normal humans, and it truly makes me feel that this is a career that I can pursue too.

Anything else you would like to add about working here?

TRIUMF has the most trusting work environment that I’ve ever seen. It is not the strict working hours but efficiency that is most important here. If you can’t work or focus, taking breaks or a short nap is acceptable. You are trusted to have the motivation and responsibility to finish your work, and how that is done is up to you. And I think that is the best working environment that there can be. 

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