Dimitri Dounas-Frazer

I’m a PhD candidate here at Cal. My research is the measurement of
parity violation in atomic ytterbium, one of Professor Dmitry Budker’s
projects. “Parity violation” basically means that an experiment and
its mirror image give different results, a property of the universe
that shocked the physicis community when it was discovered
in the 1950s. The effect is due to the electroweak interaction and is
very small in atoms, requiring careful, high-precision measurements in
order to be observed. By measuring parity violation in ytterbium, I
hope to test predictions of the Standard Model at very low energies.
Such tests are complementary to high-energy tests performed at
big particle colliders like the LHC.

My path to Compass is a bit complicated; it involves making lots of
friends at Cal, falling in love with teaching, designing college-level
physics courses for incarcerated men at San Quentin State Prison (ask
me about this some time!), and getting LOTS of emails from Compass.
The fact that both my roommate and my swimming partner were
former Compass teachers probably helped, too. I joined Compass in the
beginning of 2011 and was one of the teachers for the summer program
that year.

Since then, I’ve taken on several leadership and teaching roles.
Together with an awesome team of undergraduates, I helped pioneer
Compass’s first high school outreach activities in Fall 2011. In
Spring 2012, Geoff Iwata and I co-designed and taught “Introduction to
Scientific Measurement,” Compass’s first-ever spring semester course.
Right now I’m working with a group of Compass grads and undergrads to
design and implement team-building activities and professional
development workshops for mentors and mentees, making the mentoring
program even better than it already is.

Joining Compass was one of the best decisions I made as a grad
student, and I’d like to share a story that illustrates a sliver of
the type of support I get from our community. One of my biggest
complaints about grad school used to be that I sometimes felt isolated
or lonely in my lab. When I mentioned this to my Compass friends, they
started dropping by randomly, brightening my day a bit with every
visit. Among the more regular visitors are my mentees, which always
strikes me as a bit ironic. Aren’t I supposed to be a resource for
them?