I was born and raised in New Mexico, my family (great-grandparents) are of Mexican origin, while the younger generations such as my father and myself are mexican-americans. Ever since I was young I was always interested in attending college. In order to stay close to my family I took classes in graduate with both a B.S. in Engineering Physics and an M.S. in Physics from New Mexico State University. While at NMSU, I studied computational mineralogy, specifically the mineral wadsleyite, which is found in the Earth’s transition zone.
I was then accepted in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD program in Nashville, TN. At Fisk I was involved with the Materials Science and Applications Group. Here I used more of my engineering and materials background to learn about and work with radiation detectors. My knowledge of crystal theory provided a background in understanding the growth processes of these crystals and how this can affect their performance. I primarily worked with strontium iodide doped with europium (SrI2(Eu2+)) and became interested in applications of detectors and instrumentation in general for astronomy. I was able to use this interest in two opportunities to intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. While working with my mentor, Dr. Ann Parsons, I was able to apply my engineering physics education, my materials science background, and experience at Fisk in working with gamma-ray detectors.
Currently, at Vanderbilt I am being co-advised by Dr. Keivan Stassun in Astronomy and Dr. Todd Peterson in Radiology (Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Sciences). With this cross training, I am gaining another dimension in my instrumentation experience, as this involves work with not just obtaining a spectrum from a gamma-ray detector, but also using positional information to form an image. I am also learning to work with a different type of detector; a high purity germanium double-sided strip detector, HPGe. My work with Dr. Peterson will allow me to improve and expand my skills as I learn about projections, position estimation calculations, image reconstruction, and behavior of strip detectors.
Ultimately what I hope to gain over the course of my doctorate career is to become experienced in imaging sciences. This is a broad field in which I hope to be able to apply bio-imaging and/or astronomical imaging applications. These fields seem to be at different extremes, and in reference to the imaging object they are; however the detectors and image reconstruction methods are very similar, not to mention some of the required performance characteristics of the detectors. My strength is in detector physics, but understanding what the application for the detector will help in instrument design and performance and interpreting the output (is the result real, or artifacts due to the instrument?) is essential for a successful detector system.