Meet Our Graduate Students
Meet Julian Cuevas-Zepeda
I am originally from Merced, California and a proud first generation alumni from the University of California, Merced. I am now a fourth year physics PhD student here at UChicago. I’m currently working with Professor Paolo Privitera in the DAMIC-M collaboration; where we are using novel Skipper CCDs to search for dark matter. After graduation from the University of Chicago, I look forward to continuing my career in research and potentially branching out to other specialties.
Who inspires you?
I am most grateful towards my family, friends, and mentors who have supported me throughout my career and continue to inspire me with their own success. I am inspired by my parents who always encouraged and supported me throughout my career, and taught me the value of hard work and perseverance; my sisters’ whose career and life success continues to motivate me to do better! My friends whose resilience and desire to succeed has allowed many of them to land their dream jobs (many of whom are first generation students); My mentors (past and current) who have been patient, guided me, and taught me what it means to be a great scientist and teacher. These are the people who motivate and inspire me to be the best I can be every day.
What are you fans of?
I am fan of basketball and am always looking forward to the new NBA season. My favorite team is the Los Angeles Lakers, but I am also a fan of the Chicago Bulls. Other things I am a fan of are working out, going on occasional hikes, craft beer, and finding new places to eat in the Chicago area! I am also passionate about science outreach and helping improve access to opportunities and resources to underserved communities within the country.
Why did you choose to study physics?
I chose physics because it fulfilled my curiosity in understanding the universe, as well as consistently pushed me to try and be better — to be the best version of myself. Today, I continue to choose physics because I enjoy the problem solving, the engineering, the analysis, and the continued search for dark matter.
Why did you choose UChicago?
I chose UChicago based from my experience in the MRSEC REU program in the summer of 2016. During my time, I thoroughly enjoyed working with my now current advisor Paolo Privitera in the DAMIC collaboration. The research and day to day work was a great fit, and my mentors were highly supportive and welcoming. I knew that choosing to come to UChicago would allow me to work in my field of interest with a great group, learn from some of the best researchers in the world, and also (not research related) allow me to explore a new city in Chicago!
What are the best things about your PhD program?
Some of the best things about my PhD program have been the opportunities and resources which I have had access to since entering the program. There have been plenty opportunities to meet people and expand your network, to participate in departmental activities and outreach events, opportunities for travel, and of course the yearly Forget the Year event in the physics department!
What was the best surprise about UChicago or life in Chicago?
The best surprise of about life in Chicago was just how much there was to do and explore around the city! Coming from a smaller city, I wasn’t used to this so I am definitely taking advantage while I have the chance. One of the great things, is the University and the PSD continuously organize events and activities (usually for cheap!) around UChicago and the city of Chicago; these are great opportunities to go out with the people you’ve met within the department and/or mingle with students from other departments.
If you could share any advice to your colleagues, what would it be?
Some advice I would give to my colleagues is to take advantage of the resources which UChicago (and Chicago!) provide to further your career. There are plenty of networking and career-oriented events throughout the year. In my opinion it’s important to expose yourself to as many opportunities as you can; do the work now so you don’t have to stress about it later! But most importantly, have fun; a PhD is a marathon and it is important to take care of your mental and physical health!