This interview is part of a series of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to increase the visibility of women in research (find more information on Facebook and Twitter).
#LINO19 young scientist Yang from China is a PhD student at the Peking University. Her research focuses on plasmon-exciton interactions and ultrafast carrier dynamics. Enjoy the interview with Yang and get inspired:
What inspired you to pursue a career in science?
Exploring the beauty of nature is what I dream of. When I was a little girl, my parents helped me to conduct some simple experiments. I remember that time I made an artificial rainbow by a small prism. The white light was so magical that could be separated into different colours. That was so impressive to me, and from then on, I hoped I can explore the inner physics of nature.
Who are your role models?
My father is my role model. He is a physics professor who is interested in nuclear physics. I admire him because his persistence is what he loves. No matter how hard the situation is and how many difficulties are in his way, he still follows his heart and fights for his dreams.
How did you get to where you are in your career path?
I got to know the term ‘plasmonics’ from a picture of the Lycurgus cup. The cup was so fancy that it could display different colours under illumination from different directions, which was originated from the plasmonic nano particles in the cup. In order to have a further understanding of the insight physics, I chose plasmonic photonics as my undergraduate research project. And now, with the emerging of atomic two layer materials, I find out that the plasmonic nanostructure can enhance the optical properties of two dimensional materials, and my research interest is turned to the insight physics as plasmon-exciton interactions and the exciton dynamics of 2D materials for developing onchip photonic devices.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
So far, the project I am working on is the coolest to me. My project can provide new insights into the energy transfer of nano heterostructures, and effectively modulate materials nonradiative channel to improve the quantum yield of devices. I think it will have a far reaching significance on the on chip light emitting devices.
What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself/your work?
When I finished the building of femotosecond pump-probe systems with my colleagues, I really felt pride in our work. It was not easy for me because the system was quit complex. A little error from the light path could affect the whole system. Besides, some objective factors such as the variation of temperature and humidity would alter the output angle of laser, which raised the difficulty for the system building.
What is a ‘day in the life’ of Yang like?
I am used to start my work from 8.30 hrs. If an experiment is in the schedule, I spend all day in my lab until midnight. If there is no experiment, I firstly read the latest research papers when I arrive at my office for around one hour. Afterwards, I start my work like paper writing, project studying and discussing with my mentor. If I can finish my plan, I would go to gym as an award to myself at evening.
What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
I want to develop highly efficient light emitting on chip devices. With the global energy scarcity, the exploration of how to enhance the quantum yield of device is pushed into the spotlight. At the same time, when the size of device scales down to nanometer, the quantum effect can destroy the stability of traditional silicon based devices, and it is urgent to develop the nano-size devices. My research interest on plasmonic nanostructure and atomic two dimensional materials are potential candidates to solve above problems and I hope I can realise this goal in the near future.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I like to dance jazz. Actually I have learned jazz for two years, and I started it as a zero-basic learner. And now, I can show my dance at some party. To me, learning jazz is quite similar to doing research: you need to focus on what you do, build a solid foundation of your work, and do your work with passion.
What advice do you have for other women interested in science?
Follow the voice in your heart. There are so much ‘you can’t’ from others, as ‘girls can’t not learn physics well’, ‘girls can’t do research’, or ‘girls can be not competitive as boys are’. I think female scientists have the same quality and ability as men scientists have, so they can also have great achievement in science. Just follow the inner voice of yourself, follow your passion, and you can also discover the beauty of science/physics.
In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physics?
I think the room-temperature superconductivity will be the next great breakthrough. Recently, the ‘magic angle’ of twisted bilayer graphene has provide new insights for achieving high temperature superconductivity. And I think the new physics will emerge from materials with topological (band) structure.
What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?
Providing more positions for female scientists in universities and institutes is necessary. On the one hand, it can encourage female scientists to continue their research. On the other hand, female students can be inspired from their female professors, encouraging them to believe that girls can also have great achievements in science.