Physics Recruitment

Meet Our Graduate Students

Meet Yunjia Bao

Short bio:

Hi there! I’m Yunjia, a 2nd-year Ph.D. student studying particle theory at UChicago. Growing up in China, I completed my undergrad in the U.S. at Reed College and a master’s program at Brown University before joining the theory group at UChicago. Currently, I’m focusing on high-energy particle phenomenology, piecing together puzzles that could explain mysterious dark matter, baryon asymmetry, cosmic inflation, and elusive new particles. I’m exploring novel experimental signatures and bridging formal theoretical frameworks with exciting future experiments.

Who inspires you?
While my favorite physicists change from time to time, I find it to be true that I am most often inspired by people around me—my friends, mentors, collaborators, mentees, and family. I quietly but gratefully learn from their wisdom and characters.

What are you fans of?

Besides physics, I enjoy classical music a lot. My favorite composers include Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, etc. I was introduced to classical music when I was young and was very fortunate to have it by my side all along. I also enjoy cooking; being able to simmer or stir-fry delicious dishes always makes my day.

Why did you choose to study Physics?
It was more accidental than by choice. I was never good at math growing up, as I could never think rigorously and come up with proofs and counterexamples. But when I used math to describe things around me, it felt different. I later learned that physics is precisely the subject that uses mathematical tools to do this, and that kicked off my journey.
Why did you choose UChicago?
UChicago has a very “noisy” environment with a large group of phenomenologists, cosmologists, astrophysicists, formal theorists, etc. They collaborate and invite colleagues to share new ideas. I knew that research is a balance between the sharply-honed dedicated focus and the free open-minded dive. Since I am generally a quiet person, I know that I need a “noisy” environment, in the hope that it will pull me away from my little corner and drag me into ideas that other brilliant people are interested in.
What are the best things about your PhD program?People around me! The theory group makes a great effort to create a closely-knit community. We dine at the same table every lunch, chat during coffee breaks, and knock on each other’s doors to bounce off random ideas and ask questions. These, in my view, are the most important interactions one needs as a researcher in theoretical physics.
What was the best surprise about UChicago or life in Chicago?
CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) is the place you should go if you like classical music. It is the right amount of commute to draw you away from the academic bubble and enjoy a performance delivered by a world-renowned group of musicians. But even if you are not into music, a brief commute into a major city still brings you a fresh breeze while you are submerged in academics and research at Hyde Park.

If you could share any advise to your colleagues, what would it be?
Work diligently but not hard. Find what you love and enjoy it. As a wise man once said, “Physics is not the most important thing. Love is.”




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