I did my undergraduate major in Physics at the University of York. During my studies, I spent my third university year at UC Davis as part of an exchange program with the University of California. As is usually the case with exchange programs, such an opportunity to study and live abroad was an extraordinary year for me. It was during this year that I found my passion for cosmology, and I spent much of my time at UC Davis in their newly formed cosmology group. After this, I did my PhD at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, which was then, as it is now, a vibrant and stimulating place to study astronomy.
While at Cambridge I met my wife Bonny Ling, and we are now parents to two wonderful children. Like me, Bonny comes from multiple backgrounds. Not only have we been fortunate enough to travel extensively, we have also lived in many places, and this tends to lead to new insights. Since graduating from Cambridge, I have lived and worked in Monrovia, Paris, Hong Kong and Zurich. One of the joys of doing astronomy is that no matter where one goes, people love to talk about the Universe. This means there is always an interesting conversation that awaits, no matter where I am.
What inspired you to study science, and astrophysics?
During my studies, I found that I was much more interested in working things out rather than learning lots of facts. The wonderful thing about physics is that once you have the basics in place, it becomes a process of detective work and applying common sense. With a full stomach and a decent night of sleep, you have a good chance of making your way through any physics question presented to you, even if you have not met the topic before. It turns out that working things out is the cornerstone of research work, so I very happy to be working in this area.
Do you have a role model in science?
Not really. I believe science and progress is made through collective actions. What interests me the most is the way that small groups of people can come together to work creatively on new ideas. Different people have different styles, but what matters to me is that they are smart, enthusiastic, decent and kind.
A quote that inspires you?
I like two related but different quotes. They are:
You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
My research largely focuses on studying large-scale structures in the Universe so as to better understand things such as dark matter. I like to think in an experimental way. This means one starts with the questions that one wants to address and then tries to develop an experiment that will test this. For this reason, I find that I am drawn to experiment design and opportunities for new measurements.
Favourite reference papers:
For me nothing beats talking to people directly about their work and asking lots of questions.