Ph.D. candidate Cheuk-Ping Wong traveled more than 8,000 miles from her hometown of Hong Kong to study high energy nuclear physics at Georgia State University.
Now that she has received her doctorate, Wong says the moment is bittersweet. Moving to Atlanta was her first time living without her parents, but Georgia State welcomed her with open arms.
“I’m going to miss Atlanta so much. Georgia State is such a mixed community,” Wong said. “People are so respectful to each other. I’m going to miss the students I teach, the people, the music. Everything.”
When Wong moved to Georgia in 2014, she said it was a culture shock.
“I remember I moved here on a Sunday and when I got here there weren’t a lot of people on the street and I thought it was amazing,” Wong said.
“Hong Kong is very busy. Very crowded. You don’t have a lot of personal space. You can’t afford personal space in Hong Kong. But you have personal space here. In general, I like it [here] more. There’s more communication between people.”
After graduation, Wong plans to move to New Mexico to work in the Los Alamos National Laboratory to continue working in nuclear physics.
Wong’s parents, who still live in Hong Kong, were initially confused at their daughter’s decision to leave home to study science in America.
“Now they’re more comfortable for my choice of continuing my research,” Wong said. “Hong Kong is the city of banks, business and the stock market, but not for science.”
Wong recalls being in high school when she read a science magazine about elementary particles. She said it blew her mind. When she went to college, she focused on high energy physics, the study of what happens to nuclear matter at extreme temperatures and densities.
She eventually began work developing detectors, which are instruments designed to detect the presence of a particular type of particle and can be used to study the structure of proton and neutron.
“I enjoy the process. You have a conceptual design, then build a prototype and test it, then you perfect your design again. You collect data,” Wong said. “Building a detector can take up to a decade.”
As Wong prepares to move to New Mexico, she recalls a conversation she had with her grandmother. When she graduated from kindergarten, she asked if she was done with school. No, her grandmother replied. Wong still needed to earn her high school diploma, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and, eventually, become a doctor.
“It finally happened,” Wong said. “Here I am. I did it grandma!”
— Story by Horace Holloman. Photo by Melanie Fan.