Physics Recruitment

Meet Our Graduate Students

Meet Kaeli Hughes

Short bio: 

What have you been studying or researching as part of your program?
My research focuses on the radio detection of astrophysical neutrinos at extremely high energies (above 10 PeV). I have built and calibrated radio detectors deployed in some of the most remote locations in the world, including the South Pole, Summit Station in Greenland, and White Mountain in California. As part of my work on an experiment called the Askaryan Radio Array, I developed a targeted low-threshold neutrino search that improved the previous ARA efficiency at low energies by nearly a factor of 10.

Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
The research here was exactly what I was looking for. I had worked on radio detection experiments as an undergraduate and was excited by the idea of continuing that in graduate school. I also love the city of Chicago, and as a lifelong Midwesterner I was excited about living here while I was a student! I felt like the UChicago graduate students I met had hobbies outside of research and took advantage of some of the best events Chicago has to offer, and that appealed to me as well.

Please describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
Going to the South Pole for two months in 2018-2019 to fix and calibrate one of our detectors was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Digging experiments out of the snow and debugging cable connections is especially difficult at -40 degrees C! I had never been a very adventurous person, so this trip was well outside of my comfort zone, but I ended up loving it. I hope I get to go back someday!

What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
Recently I’ve been training for a half marathon- my first since 2016 – and it’s been wonderful getting back to the habit of running a few times a week. I also love doing jigsaw puzzles and spending time with my two cats. My friends and I also do weekly trivia at the UChicago pub!

What are your plans post-UChicago?
I’d love to continue working on radio neutrino experiments! I think my ideal job would be as a full- time researcher or professor at a university, but I’m also open to working at NASA or the NSF.

What support have you received at the UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
The support I’ve had from my research group has been really crucial to my success and happiness as a grad student. Even when I was first starting and had some very basic questions, I was always treated like an equal. Because of this support, I feel like I’ve been able to thrive here. It’s also been lovely to have so many friends in the program. It’s hard to imagine passing all the first year classes without the help of the other students, and nothing forms friendships quite like suffering through a particularly long problem set together.

If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
Talk to the people in your prospective research group at UChicago! You learn a lot about a lab group’s dynamics by asking the people in the lab. The expectations and culture can very drastically, and that will impact your experience. I know some labs that expect students to work on the weekends, and others where weekend work is very rare.


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