Seeking new angles

March 2013
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Dragos Velicanu likes to look at just about everything from a fresh perspective.

“Outside work, I like to travel, go camping, hiking, skiing – basically see the world from all elevations, seasons and angles,” says the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship recipient at MIT.

What’s more, he’s fortunate that his advisor is Gunther Roland, a member of the CMS Collaboration at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. In Roland’s laboratory, Velicanu has joined an international research team that’s always looking at physics from new angles.

Velicanu’s impulse to examine landscapes and life from new points of view comes from his parents, who passed on their love of hiking and camping. They left their home in Romania and brought Dragos with them to Massachusetts when he was about to enter elementary school.

He had to adapt quickly. “There was a little bit of a language barrier,” he says. “I knew one word: apple.” But his English improved during summer camp, and by the end of first grade he had the language in hand.

Velicanu’s pursuit of physics seems to be a natural result of aptitude, parental encouragement and the influence of family friends who happened to be mathematicians and physicists. “I was always curious about how the universe works, especially in black holes and things like that,” he says. “In high school I had a very good physics teacher. He was very passionate, and that’s what convinced me to go into physics.”

Now a U.S. citizen like his parents, Velicanu looks forward to the coming decade. The LHC has been shut down for upgrades, but in two to three years it will be running with twice the energy and an increased collision rate. “That can open up some new physics,” Velicanu says, “and the field will become much more exciting.”

And Velicanu will be looking at it from as many angles as possible.

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About the Author

Andy Boyles is contributing science editor for Highlights for Children Inc. and a freelance science writer and editor.

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