Barry Chiang, class of 2020

Growing up surrounded by forests and green fields, where stars were always hanging high up in the night sky, I have never stopped being amazed by the irresistible charm of nature. It did not take long for me to decide to devote myself wholeheartedly to deciphering the profound simplicity and indescribable beauty of the universe.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offered me an unparalleled undergraduate experience—it was more than I could have imagined prior coming here. As a senior pursing a triple degree in Engineering Physics, LAS Astronomy, and FAA Music Composition with a minor in Mathematics, I have benefitted much from the school’s flexible curricula, wide variety of disciplines and subjects, and excellent, welcoming faculty members across the campus.

Since my very first week on campus, my physics advisor, Merissa Jones, has been offering me insightful advice with regard to course plans. She helped me through the process of getting triple-degree forms approved. And whenever I stop by her office, she is always kindly making sure I am getting enough sleep and not stressing out too much about classes!

Last summer I started working on a research project with Professor Shelton in the Physics Department. This involves both looking into theoretical particle-physics axion particle models and having hands-on computational simulations given a set of cosmological profiles and constraints. We utilize the observational data from the Fermi Space Telescope catalog on Sagittarius A*, the supermassive blackhole at the center of the Milky Way, to test against our photon spectrum predictions from the dark matter annihilation process. The result of this work could serve as a probe into the properties of particles in the early universe, beyond the standard model.