Travel Fund Spotlight: Amy Tang

Amy is a 3rd year graduate student in the Astronomy & Astrophysics PhD program. She is developing microwave superconducting detectors to study cosmological sources.

Amy is a 3rd year graduate student in the Astronomy & Astrophysics PhD program. She is developing microwave superconducting detectors to study cosmological sources.

As we review Travel Fund applications, we often come across applicants who are doing some very interesting research, and we are glad to share some of their stories with you! This week, we interview Amy Tang, who used GC Travel Funding to travel to the Low Temperature Detectors workshop in Kurume, Japan.

GC: "Tell us about your work!"
Amy: "The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is a remnant of when light was first able to propagate in our universe, when the universe was only 380,000 years old. Set to launch in roughly five years from now, the next generation of CMB experiments aims to provide key measurements in particle physics and cosmology and require hundreds of thousands of detectors. However, current CMB detectors have limitations, such as fabrication and multiplexing difficulties, that make scaling up to this number very difficult. Kinetic Inductance Detectors (KIDs) provide an alternative technology that has innate multiplexing properties and simple design and fabrication procedures. My work is on developing an antenna-coupled KID array for CMB detection by designing, fabricating, and testing these devices."
GC: "What is the most challenging part of your research?"
Amy: "In my research, it often takes a long time from designing to fabrication to testing, and there’s many variables in each step. When something goes wrong, debugging would often take weeks or months and requires a lot of trial and error in modifying the design and trying new fabrication techniques and testing everything. This can be very frustrating to deal with but you need to be patient and methodical."

GC: "What was the best part of your experience in Japan?"
Amy: "Since the LTD workshop is one of the most well-attended conferences in astronomy instrumentation, I was able to meet and network with other researchers and especially fellow graduate students. After the conference schedule ended for the day, we would often go out and exchange scientific ideas while eating say, a delicious bowl of authentic tonkotsu ramen. The organizers scheduled a few events during the conference which let us explore the native culture and history."

GC: "What did you learn on your trip? What made the biggest impression on you?"
Amy: "Through the talks and poster sessions, as well as speaking to other conference attendees, I learned about various ways other research groups are optimizing their devices, such as exploring different material properties, and a host of different applications for cryogenic detectors, such as using KIDs for exoplanet observations. In particular, I really enjoyed the talk on lithographically trimming KIDs to achieve ideal frequency spacing, which was something my group was very excited about."

GC: "How did the Graduate Council Travel Fund help you most in your travels to the LTD workshop?"
Amy: "Travelling from Chicago to Japan, the airfare was very expensive. I’m extremely grateful for UChicago Grad Council’s Travel Fund which covered a significant fraction of my plane tickets. As a graduate student, money and funding don’t come easy. It’s great that the Grad Council provides another financial tool for students to attend conferences, which is a crucial part of a graduate student’s career."
GC: "What advice would you give to other graduate students who may be thinking of applying to the Travel Fund?"
Amy: "It’s important to show how excited you are about your research but make sure it’s still accessible for the reviewers who are probably not in your field.  Also, just go for it!  Applying means you have a non-zero chance of getting it and plus it’s great practice for writing fellowship applications and proposals later in your career."

Thanks, Amy! Check back later for more stories from the Travel Fund.