Cissy Suen

Exploration of the Electronic Structure of the Mott Insulator Ca2RuO4
Andrea Damascelli, Bernhard Keimer
Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I have always loved school and learning and actually wanted to go into astrophysics since I was nine! However, the beauty of quantum materials and the exciting hands-on spectroscopic experiments that I get to carry out ultimately drew me to condensed matter. I also like the teamwork that is necessary to conduct a successful experiment in intensive environments. I love the research, and I love telling people about it! I’m very passionate about science communication and education, in particular because quantum materials are the basis for future technologies and thus, have huge implications to society, politically and economically.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is home to the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute! As one of the leading research institutions on quantum materials in the country, I knew that I would be able to challenge myself while networking with the next generation of condensed matter physicists! All the senior researchers and professors are also incredibly kind and the community is extremely supportive. There are also a few dogs that run around the institute, so that’s a definite plus.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

My specific program is a joint doctoral degree between UBC and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany. I was attracted by the opportunity of travelling between Germany and Canada, while expanding my scientific network and learning skills across the two different continents! As experimental condensed matter increasingly relies on international collaborations, I knew I would be able to develop the skills essential to continuing in the field as a part of this program.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

Taking a break from the lab and heading to the skate park or a run down the beach!

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I participated in many undergraduate research opportunities and conferences. Being able to experience research in different sub-fields definitely helped me narrow down my passion to condensed matter! Getting lots of practice giving talks has also helped prepare me for presenting my work to larger audiences.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I love learning languages and have been immersed in learning German, and recently Russian! I also love hiking, cooking and making music.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Take breaks! Don’t be afraid to take risks in your Masters or your Ph.D. This is the time to try things out and see what aspects of the research you like and are most interested in. I also highly encourage getting involved in at least one communication workshop — good presentations and well-written research summaries go a long way. Take the time to get to know what others around you are doing as well. Who knows, maybe the person you always bump into in the coffee room is your next potential collaborator!

In addition to running experiments on quantum materials, we also need to synthesize our samples! Here is the interior of a pulse laser deposition (PLD) machine, which makes thin films. These films form when high powered laser pulses ablate material from the "target", a puck of raw materials that is help in this system in the top carousel.

Explore our wide range of course-based and research-based program options!