When Yen-Jie Lee got here to MIT as a graduate scholar in 2006, it was a little bit of a tradition shock. The aspiring particle physicist had studied physics at Nationwide Taiwan College earlier than his profession took a hiatus within the forested mountains of Taiwan. There, he labored as a marine corps lieutenant to meet the nation’s required navy service. He nonetheless remembers the deafening crackle of artillery drills and the unyielding stress of day by day navy life.
“That have made me into an individual who is far much less affected by stress,” Lee recollects. “However after two years dwelling in a forest of monkeys, my English was fairly dangerous, and I felt like I had forgotten the entire physics I realized.”
However, towards the tip of his service, Lee utilized to PhD applications, together with a number of in the US. When he visited MIT, he felt an instantaneous kinship with physics professor Wit Busza.
“Though he couldn’t perceive me due to my accent, we thought we have been every great individuals, and on the finish of the day I made a decision to offer myself a attempt,” Lee says. “Coming to MIT modified my life fully.”
As a graduate scholar in Busza’s group, Lee had a career-shaping alternative to go to Geneva throughout a pivotal second in particle physics. There, scientists have been making ready to activate the Giant Hadron Collider, the biggest, strongest particle accelerator on this planet. The collisions of particles produced by the LHC have been anticipated to provide situations just like the early universe, and probably fully new, unpredictable phenomena.
Lee discovered himself on the core of the evaluation staff, the place he shortly realized to speak with different scientists, within the language of English and the equations of physics. He in the end helped to measure and interpret a few of the LHC’s first collisions — extremely anticipated analyses that Lee, who credit his navy coaching for serving to him keep centered, took to readily.
“There have been a number of thousand collaborators, everybody was on this physics, and I used to be one of many first to get to know the information,” Lee says. “For me, the thrill of those first measurements was a lot larger than the stress.”
Since these early days, Lee has continued looking for clues to the universe’s beginnings, utilizing information from the LHC. At MIT, the place he’s now a tenured affiliate professor of physics, he’s on the lookout for patterns and interactions within the excessive aftermath of particle collisions that may inform us one thing about how the universe got here into existence. These experiments may also reveal the internal workings of different excessive environments, corresponding to neutron stars.
“Each time we accumulate a small piece of knowledge, we perceive a little bit bit extra in regards to the early universe,” he says. “That makes me need to know much more.”
“The regulation of nature”
Lee was born in Taichung Metropolis, an industrial municipality in west-central Taiwan. Rising up, he remembers being drawn to math and physics, although in highschool he not often attended class. A busy schedule of science competitions usually stored him out of college, as he was chosen commonly to signify his highschool in nationwide science gala’s and problem-solving contests in math, physics, chemistry, and computation.
“It was like an schooling for me,” he says.
After competing throughout a number of topics, Lee realized that he was most concerned with one: physics. When he enrolled in Nationwide College of Taiwan as an undergraduate, he spent his first 12 months taking over a variety of physics internships, together with working in an optics lab, helping in a examine of superconductors, and tenting out in an observatory to trace the celebs. It was an internship in experimental particle physics that set his tutorial profession in movement.
Lee labored as an intern on the Belle experiment, a particle physics experiment that ran out of the KEKB particle accelerator in Tsukuba, Japan. The accelerator was designed to collide electrons with positrons — the antimatter counterparts to electrons. As they collided, electrons and positrons annihilated in a bathe of subparticles. Scientists together with Lee regarded for indicators of unique particles and tracked the decay of uncommon particles within the annihilation’s aftermath.
“I had quite a lot of enjoyable with this quite simple system,” says Lee, who based mostly his undergraduate and grasp’s theses on Belle experiment information. “It made me need to study the regulation of nature, and whether or not we are able to discover new physics and new phenomena involving particle detection.”
After finishing his navy service in Taiwan, Lee got here to MIT and joined his advisor Busza on work on the LHC, the place the accelerator was making ready to collide heavy ions to provide a mixture of particles much more sophisticated and unique than collisions between electrons and positrons.
“Heavy-ion collisions create an surroundings that’s round 5 trillion levels, and we are able to watch as this technique cools down,” Lee says. “It’s principally the identical path of the early universe, 10 microseconds after the Large Bang.”
Lee was eager to probe the fallout of heavy-ion collisions, although on the time preliminary experiments concerned easier collisions between protons. Because it occurs, Lee was positioned within the analysis staff to jot down the primary physics paper reporting the outcomes from these preliminary proton-proton experiments.
The LHC started working its first heavy-ion experiments towards the tip of Lee’s PhD, and he was in a position to analyze a few of the first information from these much-anticipated runs. By way of these analyses, he found fast-moving quarks produced within the collisions, that streaked by the ensuing plasma in jets.
“It’s like watching a bullet shot by water,” Lee says. “We will see the wake trailing the bullet, and might use that to find out about water’s sound propagation. It’s the identical with these jets, the place we are able to use quarks to study in regards to the sound of the early universe.”
In 2013, Lee accepted a suggestion to affix MIT’s physics college as a member of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Group, the place he has continued to guide analyses of heavy-ion information from the LHC, and is creating new strategies to search for unique particles and new, unpredictable phenomena.
“At MIT, the stress could be very excessive, and there are moments of pleasure and moments whenever you really feel you might be doing not in addition to you hoped,” Lee says. “However colleagues in our group, Gunther Roland and Bolek Wyslouch, have constructed a really supportive surroundings. I’m very grateful for this.”
One thing he’s additionally grateful for has been the possibility to see the world by his profession in physics. He has given talks and attended conferences in additional than 30 international locations, and has taken prolonged stays in lots of, to expertise new views.
“When visiting different international locations, I might attempt to keep for one or two months, to learn the way completely different individuals reside their day by day life,” Lee says. “Earlier than, I didn’t assume I might exit of Taiwan. I’ve been so fortunate to expertise so many variations.”
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