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I went to Liverpool University in England for my B.Sc. in Physics and was inspired by an engaging curriculum and accomplished teachers. It was a dream come true when I was accepted by University College London to do a PhD in High Energy Physics analyzing data from a bubble chamber experiment. Immediately after getting my PhD, I joined a very friendly research group at DESY, the National Laboratory for High Energy Physics in Hamburg, Germany. Alas, I didn’t know a single word of German. Our group meetings always started with everybody speaking English for my sake, but when the discussions got heated they reverted to German. This linguistic gap encouraged me to push myself very hard to learn the language in a reasonable length of time.
At DESY, one of the projects I worked on was the design and construction of the PLUTO detector. One of the most exciting results we obtained with that detector was the first observation of the gluon which is the elementary particle mediating the strong interactions between quarks. Later on, I was invited by my old group to go back to UCL to work on the data from the Big European Bubble Chamber at CERN. In parallel to that, when the HERA storage ring at DESY was being designed, I spent some time at Oxford University/Nuclear Physics Laboratory to work on feasibility studies for that project. At some point, I got introduced to the chair of the Department of Physics at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who was looking for someone to lead their effort in a large international collaboration at the European Center for Nuclear Research, CERN, situated on the border of Switzerland and France. I was offered the position and was fortunate enough to be one of the more than a thousand physicists and technical staff to design, construct and operate a truly amazing detector. The first result was the discovery of the Z boson which is one of the three elementary particles that mediate the weak interactions such as radioactivity. This was followed by hundreds of other studies. When the experiment came to an end, I accepted a job offer at the computing division of SLAC/Stanford University to support the BaBar particle physics experiment and subsequently to work on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project. Also, for several years I was the lead for the science outreach program at Supercomputing Conference series for Stanford and SLAC.
My interest in teaching and helping others with their studies goes way back. When I was at high school, I would hold tutoring sessions a few weeks before the exams for friends who struggled with physics and math. During my graduate studies at UCL I helped the undergraduates in the physics lab. In the final years of my work at DESY when I felt that my German was good enough I started undergraduate teaching at Wuppertal University while continuing with my research work at DESY. When I was back at UCL I mentored a PhD student in our group. At the same time, I offered a physics course to first year graduate students. Later on, when I was the team leader for the University of Michigan at CERN I mentored several of our graduate students who were working on our experiment. In the recent years as my son was attending the PACT elementary school in Mountain View I was one of the parents regularly assisting the teachers and working with the young students. This academic year I joined the JustMath nonprofit program to tutor middle school students in math.
After working with many students, I have come to realize that the most effective way of helping a student is to ask relevant questions so that by answering them she arrives at the correct solution herself. Also, I encourage the students to always look for the most elegant solution to a given problem.
In my spare time, I pursue my lifelong passion for drawing and painting. I started taking private lessons in painting at the age of 10 at an art studio run by two accomplished artists. I continued that until I went to England for my studies. Since then, wherever I lived I managed to find an art group to join and work with and occasionally organize local art exhibitions. Most recently I took several continuing studies courses at Stanford to learn acrylic painting. Apart from that I regularly read science and technology articles to keep up to date with the latest developments. And now and then I read the news in German or French, which not only exposes me to other perspectives but also serves to sharpen my language skills.