Sonali Parashar

  • Master’s student
  • CDM & EQUS
  • University of Western Australia
  • Road-tripping around QLD (2023)

What do you do?

Hey, do you know what a race car does?  It speeds up quickly to go faster, right?  Well, a linear accelerator is kind of like a race car for particles that are known as protons or electrons, but instead of racing on a track, it helps particles go super-fast in a straight line.

Imagine you have a tiny, tiny ball, smaller than anything you can see (electron/proton).  The linear accelerator is a big machine that gives this tiny ball a huge push forward.  It’s like a giant slide that helps the ball gain a lot of speed.  The ball goes faster and faster as it slides down the slide.  Inside the linear accelerator, we use special tools (known as accelerating structures equivalent to racing cars) and magnets to give energy to these tiny particles.  We design these tools so that particles keep moving in a straight line (sometimes the length of several kilometres; International Linear Collider is 20 km long) and gain momentum faster at a lesser distance.  The particles get faster and faster until they reach an incredibly high speed (which is 0.99 times the velocity of light).

Why do we want to make particles go so fast?  Well, they use these fast particles to learn more about how things are made.  They can study the tiniest building blocks of everything around us, like atoms and molecules.  By studying these particles, scientists can discover new things about the world and how it works.  Along with that, they could be used in various other applications, like cross-linking of polymers, making diodes used as a fast-switching device, and food product irradiation.

Linear accelerators are used in different places, like hospitals and research centres.  In hospitals, they can help treat people who are sick.  The fast particles from the linear accelerator can target and destroy harmful cells in the body, like cancer cells, to help make people better.

So, in a nutshell, a linear accelerator is a machine that helps tiny particles go really fast in a straight line.  It’s like a giant slide for particles, and we use it to learn about the smallest things in our world and help people stay healthy and in various other research applications.  Pretty cool, right?

How did you get to where you are today?

With a deep love and passion for physics, coupled with a firm determination to keep learning despite all obstacles and challenges, I pursued a major in physics and electronics.  The pursuit of research, which often presents itself as a scary task due to the uncertain outcome, has become my greatest source of fulfilment.  The process of exploring a phenomenon or unraveling a paradox requires extensive brainstorming, pushing the boundaries of mind and intellect.  Yet, the profound satisfaction that arises from contributing even a small droplet to the vast ocean of knowledge is truly indescribable.  I developed a love for experimental physics which is applied physics.  Applied physics is a very interesting topic as it has various application which is used in day-to-day life.  One of the remarkable aspects of applied physics is its broad range of practical applications.  It invades numerous aspects of our daily lives; from the technology we use to the energy we consume.  Applied physics has a vital role in the development of cutting-edge electronics, telecommunications and computing devices.  It contributes to the advancement of renewable energy sources, helping us harness clean power from the sun, wind and water.  It enables the design and optimisation of transportation systems, making them safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly.  The quest for quantum applications and the search for dark matter demand rigorous brainstorming, experimental exploration and collaboration with fellow researchers.  Together, we push the boundaries of understanding, constantly seeking new insights and breakthroughs.  The joy and satisfaction derived from moments of discovery are immeasurable.  Quantum applications have the potential to reshape technological landscapes, revolutionise secure communications and simulate complex systems with unparalleled precision.  Applied physics also has a crucial role in the search for dark matter, a mysterious substance that makes up a significant part of the universe.  We use advanced detectors, particle accelerators and precise measurement devices to detect and understand dark matter.  By studying physics, we contribute to unraveling its secrets and understanding its impact on the universe.  As every field applied physics through some challenges of research.  Discovering something new brings immense joy and satisfaction.  In this ever-evolving world, physics offers endless possibilities for exploration and discovery.  It demands curiosity, creativity and perseverance.  It requires staying at the forefront of advancements in technology and collaborating with professionals from various disciplines.  By choosing applied physics, I embrace a path that not only allows me to follow my passion but also offers a gateway to contribute to the betterment of society through practical applications and scientific breakthroughs.

What’s the best thing about your role?

The joy of embracing new outcomes awaits just beyond the threshold, reminding us that the true essence of knowledge lies in our ceaseless exploration of the unknown.

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