Suoqing Ji ’13, MS Physics, unravels the mysteries of the universe

Awarded the Burke Prize Fellowship in Theoretical Physics & Astrophysics.

Suoqing Ji ’13, MS Physics, College of Engineering

The secrets of the cosmos fascinated Suoqing Ji '13, MS Physics, from a young age.  

"The mystery of our universe has attracted me since childhood, when I devoted myself to reading popular science books about relativity and quantum mechanics," he said.  

This fascination inspired Suoqing through years of study at both his undergraduate institution in China and through his MS physics thesis at UMass Dartmouth—and later, during his PhD studies in physics at the University of California Santa Barbara.   

Recognized for scholarship in physics & astrophysics

This fall, Suoqing will be moving on to the California Institute of Technology, which has recognized his excellence in scholarship with a Burke Prize Fellowship in Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics.  

Suoqing's future career path became clear some years ago, due to a chance encounter at a conference in China with UMassD physics professor Robert Fisher.   

"I decided to pursue astronomy in 2009, when I attended an international conference, and talked with Dr. Fisher,” Suoqing recalled. 

Exploring the universe through computer simulations

“I became fascinated by the amazing fact that, with the help of computer simulations, human intelligence can unravel the mysteries in the deep universe which are beyond humanity's physical reach.” 

Suoqing excelled during his MS thesis at UMass Dartmouth, publishing a widely-cited first-author peer-reviewed paper in which he carried out the first-ever simulation of a merging white dwarf binary to include the effect of the magnetic field. Although he went on to pursue a different research area for his PhD thesis, he continues to collaborate with the Fisher group at UMassD on extensions of his MS thesis.  

"Briefly, my PhD thesis investigates how galaxies form. Galaxies are made of many stars which burn gas; therefore, how gas fuels galaxies is a topic crucial to understanding galaxy formation," he said.  

Suoqing has been a highly productive scholar, publishing three peer-reviewed papers to date in connection with his PhD thesis, and co-authoring three additional peer-reviewed papers with the Fisher group since his MS thesis. 

He was honored to receive the news that he had been awarded the Burke Fellowship.  

Branching out into new research areas

"The Burke Fellowship provides me with absolute freedom to explore any research interests within theoretical physics and astrophysics at Caltech," he said.

"It is an invaluable opportunity for me to branch out into new research areas outside of my previous research topics and collaborate with great scientists both at and outside of Caltech."

Suoqing is not resting on his laurels. He is eager to continue his successful research program and is looking forward to working with the next generation of young scholars. 

"My goal in next 5 to 10 years is to get a faculty job which is challenging and requires me to keep up my research work," he said. 

If the past is any indicator of future success, Suoqing Ji is certainly on the right track. 

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