Growing up, Apurva Gaikwad was fascinated by physics and appreciative of the role science plays in bringing leaps of technological progress to humanity. She participated in a number of science programs in school as well as a summer camp in science education. She was able to converse with scientists at a very young age and this bolstered her passion for science and especially physics. After receiving a bachelors degree in Engineering Physics from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi she joined Stony Brook’s Physics and Astronomy Dept. where she is now a PhD student.
Apurva is currently working under the supervision of Prof. Vafaei-Najafabadi in the Plasma Accelerator Group on Plasma Wake-Field accelerators. This technology opens up huge opportunities in accelerator science by producing accelerating electric fields gradient magnitudes up to three orders of magnitude (an improvement of a factor of 1000) than the conventional RF accelerators. This drastically decreases the size of accelerators while also bringing down costs. Her current research aids in direct observation and analysis of plasma-wakefield structures. Apurva is interested in exploring computational accelerator physics in the future.
Apurva has completed credits for the Experimental Accelerator Physics and Engineering track of the Ernest Courant Traineeship Program, which she found to be a highlight during the master’s program. The program is supported by High Energy Office of the US Department of Energy and provides plethora of opportunities like funding during masters and doctoral program, academic and industrial employment etc. Courses were quick overviews of the extensively large working mechanics of accelerators but also were really fun and engaging. Also, during the pandemic a course was taught by Fermilab scientists under the traineeship program.
When asked why should young people study physics, Apurva replies “physics decodes the laws of nature and drives the evolution of technology. It demands creativity, a wide range of knowledge in different fields, and critical thinking; it is challenging but it is also rewarding. Hence, physicists are well versed in many skills and can find opportunities across fields. This is especially true for an accelerator physicist, where one can simultaneously engage in theoretical, computational and experimental work.” In terms of her education at Stony Brook, classical mechanics taught by Prof. Teaney was quite challenging and rewarding at the same time. She is taking the electrodynamics class taught by Prof. Verbaarschot this semester. Electrodynamics is one of the toughest courses offered by the department, but it is an essential basis for her research and hence performing well in a difficult course like this would be extremely gratifying to her.
Apurva cherishes the community that SBU has built. In her research, the guidance of Prof. Vafaei-Najafabadi and Dr. Petrushina has been really nurturing and helpful in navigating through a young field like plasma accelerator physics. Apurva says working with Prof. Xu Du has been really enlightening, as she had the opportunity to explore device development with topological materials. Learning accelerator basics with Prof. Vladimir Litvinenko has been an absolute delight. Prof. Dawber and Mr. Sheehan are very supportive in guiding the PhD students through the doctoral program, and their assistance has been invaluable. Though the work is challenging, the professors and staff in the Physics Department at Stony Brook University have really provided a very unique, positive, and nurturing, learning experience.
Living in the Stony Brook area located in Suffolk County, New York, on the north shore of Long Island is “quite peaceful” Apurva notes and there are a great many historical places, shopping locations, picturesque beaches and parks as well as a variety of good restaurants and grocery stores nearby. New York City and other great locations are accessible by train. There is a train station the edge of campus.
When asked what advice Apurva would offer students interested in furthering their education with a more in-depth specialization in Accelerator Physics, she says “if you are looking for a career in an exciting field which combines theory and experimentation simultaneously, definitely study Accelerator Physics at Stony Brook University.”