Aman Agarwal | Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies

Aman Agarwal

Advice for Prospective Grad Students...

I would ask them to follow their interest when faced with a career choice. My Master's thesis was in quantum physics. In my experience, a Master’s thesis and research do set a precursor for one’s Ph.D. but one can still explore other fields if the opportunity arises. Another piece of advice would be never to be afraid of asking. I applied for my current position past the deadline date but I would have lost this opportunity if I had not mailed my professor and asked him if I could still apply. And the last thing, never think you do not deserve to be where you are, it's your unique journey that exactly makes you worthy of where you are.


PhD Physics

Why did you choose to complete your graduate studies in your program at the University of Guelph? 

I had two offers for graduate studies, one in quantum physics and the other in astrophysics. I chose the latter. A big reason for this choice was the interesting and novel research being conducted by my supervisor Dr. Daniel Siegel. In an interview for my graduate position, I got introduced to his research and exciting projects I could work on if I joined the group. The excellent strong gravity research group at the University of Guelph and Perimeter Institute was an added bonus for holistic growth in this field. I am extremely happy that I chose this position because in the past few semesters I have become a part of a community that is extremely welcoming and positively research-driven.

Tell us a bit about your path... 

I have always been partial to astronomy and astrophysics from a young age. My fascination with stellar objects, started when I was little and used to sleep in the open on the roof due to daily power cuts. It was difficult to sleep in the heat, so I used to stare out in the open sky and be amazed at the huge expanse of the universe out there. I used to read about the constellations and meteors in the morning and gaze at them at night. My father and elder brother were educated in elementary physics and used to teach me about planets, stars, and galaxies. My mother brought me an encyclopedia and reading material to research these systems. My parents were highly instrumental in cultivating an inquisitive mind in me with a heavy focus on education. From thereon, my interest grew and broadened to mathematics and theoretical physics as a tool to understand astrophysical systems. I did a Masters in Physics at BITS Pilani K.K. Birla Goa Campus. I kept my observations of the night sky on and became an active member and sub-coordinator of the astrophysics club on campus. In the end, I had to choose a specialization and my long-held enchantment of stellar systems led me to choose a Ph.D. in astrophysics. 

Tell us a bit about the work you are doing here... 

I simulate the collapse of rapidly rotating massive stars and analyze the material ejected from these systems for the signature of heavy elements, the origin of which is still a mystery in astrophysics. These systems are extremely complex to model and sit at the conjunction of strong gravity, turbulence, and magneto-hydrodynamics. There are a lot of novel physics insights that can be obtained from these simulations. It excites me that the research and simulations I currently do, predict observational implications for telescope and detector missions planned in the near future. Hence in a few years, when these detectors and telescopes start operations we can conclusively verify the predictions we are making, which is super exciting. It is also important to advance the theoretical modeling and outcomes to a sufficient level so that when we start receiving data from future missions, we can swiftly analyze it.

How do you think your research can potentially improve life? 

I believe there is a lot of potential in translating astrophysical research to human societal development in general. There are several implications of astrophysical phenomena on the human species and understanding them helps us prepare for the future. In particular, the research our group does, answers questions in nuclear physics that can provide insights into the extraction of environment-friendly energy from nuclear systems. Apart from that, understanding these astrophysical systems also helps us answer fundamental questions in physics which have wide implications in other aspects of life. As an example, our modern-day navigation system(GPS) relies heavily on the general theory of relativity which was verified observationally by looking at stars around the sun during an eclipse by Dyson and Eddington. 

What is it like to work with your advisor?

My academic relationship with my advisor is based on a mutual interest in physics and education. One thing that has been clear to me from the beginning is that I am not expected to know it all but I am expected to explore it by asking questions and reading about it. I can always express my doubts about something to him which is extremely important in my opinion for a healthy academic relationship. He is always there to guide me whenever I need it but also encourages me to take initiative. I feel quite lucky in that aspect.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I plan to continue my research as a postdoc and gain a faculty position as I also have a passion for teaching. The University of Guelph has helped me immensely in networking with like-minded people and helped me understand the opportunities that await in an academic career.

What it is like to be a graduate student at UofG 

It is quite fun to be a grad student here. You get to meet so many new researchers and students, and most of all you get to be a part of novel research initiatives.

What do you like best about the UofG campus? 

The campus is beautiful and being a nature lover, I find myself right at home in the arboretum and garden areas of the campus.