1 febbraio - 19 maggio

Tokyo University, Japan


Q: Please send us a short presentation of you including, if possible, a picture.

My name is Hexi Shi, a first year PhD student at the University of Tokyo. I was born in northeast China, an industrial town which was once the capital of the old Chinese empire.
After graduating from a local high school, I went to Japan and studied physics at the University of Tokyo, where I got my undergraduate and master degrees. For my master degree, I worked at DAFNE for two years participating the SIDDHARTA experiment, which measured X-ray spectrum of kaonic atoms.
The following step for me is trying to work on my PhD degree including a thesis on the final results of this experiment.

Q: What are you working at now and what are your ambitions or expectations?

Apart from SIDDHARTA experiment, I am also working on the E17 experiment which will measure the X-rays of kaonic helium-3 atom. It is under preparation in Japan at J-PARC, a proton accelerator facility for hadronic physics experiments which boasts the highest intensity proton beam in the world.
Both experiments try to understand the strong interaction between kaon ( which consists of a "strangeness" quark ) and nuclei by observing the characteristic X-rays of the exotic atoms they form.
High precision is the life of these experiments, and presents many challenges.
However it is the charm of the experiment to tune the apparatus to their best performance, and to declare with confidence how precise our results are through scrutinized analysis.     
My expectation in the future is to be able to design an original experiment and play a central part in every stage of carrying it out.

Q: How and for what reason was your interest for physics born? Which characters have influenced this choice? What is the most beautiful memory of your life as a student?

My father was a lecturer in material engineering science when I was a kid.
I was always fascinated by the gadgets and my father's explanations on how stuffs work.
In the text-book experiments until high school, the quantitative descriptions and predictions of physics laws to the simple experiments excited me all the time.
Feeling that there are so much ahead to learn, I chose physics as my major since undergraduate.
The most beautiful memory as a student was the time when I made my first report among the current collaboration.
In the first half year into my master degree course, there had been certain frustrations as I started from zero in learning everything about the experiment including how to use the analysis tools.
It was after presenting the first report, that I really felt I could contribute to the collaboration as a member.

Q: Which difficulties did you have to deal with in your career? What has given you the strength to carry on? Which was the most significant event of your career?

Come ho detto precedentemente, l’inizio è difficile. It is like plotting discrete dots without knowing where are they leading to. 
As mentioned before, the beginning is difficult. It is like plotting discrete dots without knowing where are they leading to.  
However it is certain that, I believe what I am doing is so challenging that it will bring the best out of me, and the "dots" will finally join and make great sense. Such thought and the desire to learn are my motivations.
I would like to say that my career has merely begun. Nonetheless being able to work and learn in this field of physics where the most innovative ideas were born on a daily base, and surrounded by the most talented and passionate minds, I find the start itself is truly significant for a career.

Q: Which do you believe will be the next discovery in physics, and how this might contribute in changing our lives?

New regimes of high energy in accelerators always lead to discovery of unpredicted particles and physics.
Whether proving the existence of the HIggs boson or not, I believe the LHC will keep physicists busy and excited.
Although not directly, the state of the art technologies applied in the high energy experiments boost the development in communication, electronics, and semiconductor technologies, from which we have been benefitting a lot in our daily lives.  

Q: In your opinion, what has been the biggest discovery in physics and who has been your "reference-scientist"?

The scope of the question is too broad for me. But for the modern particle physics, I think the discovery of atomic nucleus and the experimental techniques developed by Ernest Rutherford marks the beginning of a era.  
I have a preference to those scientists who are also great lecturer. Thus I would give Michael Faraday and Richard Feynman.

Q: What characterizes research workplace and how is scientific collaboration organized?

For a research workplace, there must be necessary equipments, efficiently used by those active minds.
A free atmosphere to debate and openness to opposite opinions are indispensable.
Scientific collaboration, according to personal experience, although has a hierarchy like in most organizations only looser, is often governed more by the underlying common understanding towards the physics principles and a constant pursue for optimized efficiency. Moreover, as long being constructive and correct, ideas from any one at any time are always welcome and will be approved.

Q: Considering the crisis of inscriptions in scientific faculties, which do you retain are the reasons of the gap between young people and scientific studies and what may the world of research do in order to change this trend?

One reason I think is that the scientific studies are getting more highly professionalized, thus requires more training and preparation to appreciate their fun factors. Another one may be because of the increasing choices for young people to face, which decrease the chance of one proceeding into scientific studies, not to mention the distractions from all kinds of media.
The student stage LNF is really a good try in my opinion. Yet it is a pity that in most part of the world, such an opportunity could not easily obtained. 

Q: How can a scientist be defined and how do talent, intuition and study influence his profession?

Scientists build self-consistent theories with predictive power based on facts or observations from natural phenomenon or designed experiments.
They have to be skeptical, curious, passionate, and patient. They are also qualified with special skills and familiar substantial knowledge in physics and mathematics.
Although talent is absolutely important, but as pointed out by Santiago R. y Cajal in his book "Advice for a young investigator", untiring efforts, a strong will, and a correct methodology are of equal importance in most cases. Furthermore, intuition is born from broad and earnest study.     

Q: How do you spend your free time?

I enjoy most sports, both joining and watching. Traveling and reading are also my hobbies.
Expedition to a new place or a intriguing book excites me equally.

Q: In this period of economic crisis, how do you see the future of research and what do you think about the employment of nuclear energy for energetic aims?

There is no doubt that research in basic science is crucial. Yet without sufficient proof and elucidation, the fact is not self-evident.
The period of economic crisis gives a chance for scientists to consider how to convey their passion and devotion into their research to the public, and how to convince the later the value of research.
Imagine after enjoying a lecture as entertaining as those Friday Evening Discourses given by Faraday, a reasonable person is not likely refuse to donate a few coins saving from daily spending to see what higher good the principles behind the lecturer's illustration can do.
Especially in the period of economic crisis, to raise the interest and narrow the distance with the public, might seriously be a part of the work of researchers.
With the techniques on application of the nuclear energy becoming more reliable, I think the main problem now is how to properly dispose the nuclear waste.