Mathematics Major to Conduct Theoretical Physics Research at MIT
Hang Su ’23 has been involved with several research projects with faculty mentors at the University of New Haven and beyond. This summer, she will work with a mentor at MIT as part of its highly competitive MIT Summer Research Program.
March 13, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Hang Su ’23 has always been fascinated by physics and how it helps explain the natural world. Eager to learn as much as she can about how the world works, she hopes to make her own meaningful impact on our understanding of physics and cosmology.
Majoring in mathematics – something that plays an integral role in physics – Su is also interested in cosmology because she is fascinated by how it explores the most fundamental components of the natural world on such a large scale.
“It is both philosophical and logical,” explains Su, who is minoring in physics. “It excites me to be able to discover how the world works from the tip of my pen. It gives me the power to look for what is out there without leaving the Earth.”
This summer, Su will be taking her research to MIT, where she will be conducting theoretical physics research on cosmology as part of MIT’s Summer Research Program (MSRP). A highly competitive program for undergraduate students, MSRP enables students to conduct research under the mentorship of MIT faculty. Su’s work as part of this program has parallels to her SURF research.
"I hope that, during my lifetime, I can contribute to establishing a complete standard model that incorporates dark matter."Hang Su ’23
“My experience with SURF was the foundation of my research journey,” said Su, a native of China. “I gained invaluable skills working with world-class physicists. The University of New Haven prepared me well academically and mentally for a challenge like this. Faculty members’ patience and support, as well as my coursework, gave me the power to reach my goals.”
Su also presented her SURF research to an audience of highly-respected professors and doctoral students at the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium (GCURS) at Rice University. While at the conference, she received important feedback, networked, and attended workshops and lectures about applying to graduate school. The experience led to an exciting opportunity for her to work on a research project with a cosmology group.
“This was my first research conference where every presenter was in the field of theoretical physics,” she said. “It boosted my confidence and helped me find a group of like-minded people from all over the world.”
‘Patience and perseverance’
One of the speakers, a Harvard faculty member, discussed the landscapes in biological physics – something Su says is helping her with her current chemistry research with Dequan Xiao, Ph.D., and Chong Qiu, Ph.D. As part of her research, she is reproducing molecular clusters using various computational methods.
In addition to her research at the University, Su is taking part in theoretical cosmology research with a mentor from Rice University. Serving as the lead author, Su is investigating the properties of vector rotating oscillons using numerical simulations.
Su says her time as a Charger has prepared her to conduct complex and important research. She’s also grateful for the flexibility of her degree that, she says, she can “tailor” so that it will best support her career goals and future success.
“Dr. Yasanthi Kottegoda, my adviser, gave me very specific insights into how to be well-versed in many areas of mathematics,” said Su. “This helped me to connect my coursework to the research projects I am conducting. Having substantial undergraduate research opportunities is indispensable for an academic career, and the time I have spent at the University of New Haven has taught me how to be disciplined and how to deal with drawbacks, as well as success.”
Su is continuing the research she has done as part of her SURF project, and she will be presenting her findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research this spring. Her goal is to learn as much as she can while building a solid foundation that, she hopes, will enable her to understand theories that many physicists find baffling. Perhaps, one day, she will even develop her own theory about how the natural world works.
“Many people think studying mathematics is difficult – and it is, indeed, difficult,” she said. “But I believe being successful in any field requires patience and perseverance. I hope that, during my lifetime, I can contribute to establishing a complete standard model that incorporates dark matter.”