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City Mathematics alumna blazes post-doctorate trail at Los Alamos National Laboratory

After seven successful years at City - undergraduate through to PhD studies in the Department of Mathematics - Dr Julia Cen has proceeded to the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA, for post-doctoral studies.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

Julia Cen completed her PhD in mathematics at City in 2019.

It was a crowning achievement after seven years of study in the Department of Mathematics where she began as an undergraduate.

She is now a post-doctorate researcher at prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory in the American state of New Mexico.

The primary responsibility of the Laboratory is assuring the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent.

With a national security focus, the Laboratory also works on nuclear nonproliferation and border security, energy and infrastructure security, and countermeasures to nuclear and biological terrorist threats.

City News caught up with Julia for an interview about her time as a City student.

What drew you to mathematics and motivated you to study the subject at university level?

From a young age, I was interested in how and why things worked around me. The person who had the biggest influence would be my father, an electrical engineer. As a child, he was always there to fill my curiosities, explaining many natural phenomena and taught me the importance of reasoning and concepts. Throughout high school, I enjoyed all sciences, but what led me to my final decision to study mathematics as a degree, was because I found the mathematics behind the theories just a little bit more beautiful.

Why did you decide to study mathematics at City and to complete postgraduate studies here?

For the connections and for the diversity, City being the heart of London, and London the biggest city in the UK, I knew this was the place I would love.

During my undergraduate studies, I enjoyed applied mathematics and learning about the tools and techniques used in physics and I am indebted to my lecturers and professors for their contagious enthusiasm and their patience in helping me with the many hurdles along this journey. There are two people I am particularly thankful for. First is my tutor, Dr Vincent Caudrelier, who I worked with for my penultimate year project on solitons. I was fascinated with these special solutions of nonlinear systems, the particle-like waves with a vast amount of applications, such as in nonlinear optics, data storage and tidal bores. This led me to continue in my final year to explore and learn more about the different techniques in this area, under the guidance of my PhD supervisor, Professor Andreas Fring, which ultimately developed into a PhD project. He had confidence in me from the very start. I am very grateful to have so much insightful, invaluable and inspiring guidance from him.

What were the highlights and challenges of studying at City?

There are too many wonderful times to list, but I am thankful for all the opportunities and financial support from City, which has allowed me to participate and present at many great workshops, conferences and seminars. This has given me the chance to meet lots of great people and friends during my time here and to develop various skills. The biggest challenge for me, I would probably say is, time. There is always too little time, but so much that I wanted to do.

How did you secure a post-doc spot at Los Alamos National Laboratory?

This may have been some coincidence. It was during my undergraduate final year project with Professor Andreas Fring, that we first came across an interesting paper by a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The paper was on new solitons solutions with joint space-time symmetry, which we managed to derive, generalise and find many interesting features for. This became the start of my PhD research. A few years later, I got back in touch, had my research proposal accepted and decided to embark on my next exciting project!

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Join the conversation #DrJuliaCen#DepartmentofMathematics#SMCSE#ProfessorAndreasFring#DrVincentCaudrelier#LosAlamosNationalLaboratory#NewMexico#Solitons#TidalBore
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