February 12, 2020
Solomon Quinn is from New York City. He holds a BS in mathematics and physics from the University of Richmond and is in his second year of pursuing a PhD in computational and applied mathematics (CAM) at the University of Chicago. We interviewed him about his experiences below.
What have you been studying or researching as part of your program?
Topological insulators. These are materials with insulating bulk but conducting surface states and are characterized by quantities that are preserved in the presence of impurities. Such quantities are known as topological invariants and are most typically a current or conductivity along the edge of a two-dimensional material. We use techniques in functional analysis, partial differential equations (theoretical and numerical), and topology to identify and compute topological invariants of various physical systems. This work has applications to electric circuits and quantum computing since topologically protected current/conductivity allows for a more robust transport of information.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
I came to graduate school with a background in mathematics and physics, with the aim of contributing where the two disciplines overlap. UChicago’s strengths in both fields make it ideal for me. Moreover, there is a lot of collaboration between departments at UChicago. This feature was crucial for my decision, given the interdisciplinary nature of my research interests. Also, I liked growing up in NYC and wanted to experience another great city.
Please describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
This year I am organizing the CAM student seminar at UChicago. This is a weekly seminar in which talks are given by CAM PhD students as well as graduate students and faculty from other departments. Organizing this seminar gives me the ability to select topics specially tailored for our first- and second-year students, exposing them to promising areas of research. The seminar also provides valuable experience for our speakers, as it allows them the opportunity to give their talks in an informal setting before presenting in conferences, etc.
What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
I enjoy playing the piano. Having trained as a classical pianist since the age of five, this is something that I continue to do for fun. I also like playing basketball at the Ratner Athletics Center.
What are your plans post-UChicago?
I aim to continue learning and researching in an academic environment. A postdoctoral appointment would be an ideal path for this.
What support have you received at the UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
The faculty in CAM are very supportive, and have spent a lot of time advising me on research, courses, etc. In my experience, faculty are very approachable and eager to discuss their research with students. I have benefitted tremendously from this environment. Students here are also very supportive of each other. We routinely run research ideas by each other and spend time together outside the student office. I am grateful for the Neubauer Fellowship, as well as the generous financial support I have received from CAM. I was also fortunate to learn about FEniCS (a computing platform for solving partial differential equations via finite element methods) in a fully sponsored one-week course at the UChicago Center in Paris in my first year.
If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
UChicago is a great place to be a graduate student. Everyone here is really dedicated to their work, which creates an incredible environment for learning and research. There are numerous social events for graduate students, and PSD provides many reduced-price tickets for shows, sporting events, and other fun things to do in Chicago. New students should familiarize themselves with UChicagoGRAD, a great resource for academic support, career development and more.