Amy Qu, PhD in Physics

Amy Qu is pursuing a PhD in physics under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Damascelli. She started at UBC in June 2015 having previously attained a BSc in physics, University of Toronto and MS in biomedical engineering, Columbia University

What attracted you to study quantum matter research? 

It's a field with a lot going on and a lot to do. That means a lot of opportunities to be the first person ever to see a new material do something interesting, and that's kind of cool.

What made you decide to study this at UBC? 

I feel a bit guilty admitting this, but I originally applied to UBC as a "safety school." Even though I was really impressed by the friendly atmosphere and the focus on quantum materials when I came to visit, I still ended up taking a year-long detour in New York before finally coming here (but I'm so glad I made it in the end). The mountains and oceans are a nice bonus too.

What makes UBC and /or SBQMI different or stand out for you?

I like how close-knit the quantum materials community is here. When I first arrived, I was really surprised by how easily people walked into each other's labs to share equipment and expertise. Since physics is not a particularly social field, this kind of open collaboration is really nice to see.

What is one cool fact about your research or quantum matter more generally that you use to impress your friends?

I'm working with graphene, which is a material that has a lot of really cool properties: it's one atom thick, it's stronger than steel while also being stretchable and flexible, and it conducts heat and electricity very well. It turns out that if you add certain metallic atoms to graphene, it may also turn into a superconductor. Personally, I think this is really fascinating in its own right — but you might also think that if we could understand well how to induce various special properties in a material, we could make some sort of "supermaterial" with any properties we like.

What’s the best thing about being at SBQMI?

I really like the sense of community here. I like that people readily help each other out (even if they don't work in the same lab). I like that there's always people chatting in the coffee room. It's pretty easy to feel isolated in grad school, and this really helps a lot. 

Have you got to work with other groups/organizations either at or outside of UBC through your studies?

My project is in close collaboration with the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, who provides our graphene samples. Last winter, we hosted a visitor from Max Planck for a few weeks, and it was pretty cool to get a fresh perspective and learn from each other.

What would you like to do when you finish your studies here?

This is still way up in the air, but of course continuing in academia is a big possibility. I think I might also be interested in physics outreach and education, so we'll see what comes out of that in the next few years.

When you’re not studying/in the lab, where are you most likely to be found?

Hiking in the mountains, looking for coffee, taking pictures of food, and petting strangers' dogs. (All excellent activities in Vancouver.)

The research and activities of the GREx Secretariat and SBQMI are undertaken thanks in part to funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.