Postdoc Spotlight: Xuan Chen

Xuan Chen

September 29, 2023

Xuan Chen is a postdoc in particle physics at the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences and Education (CLASSE) from Qingdao, China. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her research at Cornell focuses on particle acceleration and dark matter. She is a recipient of a Postdoc Achievement Award for Excellence in Leadership as part of Cornell’s celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2023.

What is your area of research, scholarship, or work and why is it important?

I am a particle physicist. My field looks for the most fundamental blocks that build our universe. I’m always fascinated by how mysterious our universe is and how little we know about it. I am part of the CMS experiment based at CERN, Switzerland. We accelerate the particles to nearly the speed of light and collide them in our detector to see what emerges. My day-to-day job is to build the detector that captures the moment of collision and analyze the data taken by the detector. I am particularly interested in particles called dark matter. There are more dark matters than regular matters (the ones that build stars, galaxies, and everything we are familiar with) in our universe, yet we haven’t caught any of them. I want to say hi to our neighbors.

What are the broader implications of this research, scholarship, or work?

Understanding our universe alone is already an expansion of the knowledge of mankind. I believe all of the understanding we have obtained will significantly benefit future generations (and give future physics students more headaches when they prepare for their exams LOL). However, the technologies we have developed for studying particle physics have already created great impacts on our society. My favorite example is that the accelerator technologies we developed to smash our particles now can be used in cancer treatments.

What does receiving a Postdoc Achievement Award mean to you?

I’m very honored to receive this award. I hope it can encourage more postdocs to work on creating a strong and supportive community among postdocs and a broader group. We should pay more attention to the people who make research happen, instead of just the research itself.

What hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

I have an unmanageable number of hobbies. One of the new hobbies I have since I came to Cornell is swing dance. It is a great stress-relief activity. I also enjoy baking, painting, playing cello, and a few other things. 

Why did you choose Cornell?

I was very impressed by how human everyone was during my interview. I feel our group cares about the people in the group and what we can do for the community as well. When some of the faculties explained to me all of the outreach activities they do, I felt that I finally found someone who spoke my language.

What is next for you?

My first choice would be finding a faculty job, but I am also open to the possibility for nonprofit organizations and industry.

Do you have any advice for current graduate students?

Find the things that truly make you happy. Being happy takes practice, and surprisingly not many people know how to do it. All jobs have their ups and downs. If you are excited and enjoy the things you do, it can be your greatest strength. Success also comes in different forms. You should design your own success instead of following the textbook version of what a successful life should be. Everyone is unique, and that is the beauty of life.