Complete Podcast Interview Transcript:  

clare yu, phd, uci theoretical physicist

Announcer:                        00:06                    

Welcome to the Purpose Nation Podcast. Inspiring conversations with Christians in science, technology and industries of the future. For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit PurposeNation.org.

Brad Cooper:                     00:19                    

And today I'm very excited and we're all blessed to be joined by Professor Clare Yu. Welcome Professor. Thanks so much for joining the podcast.

Clare Yu:                              00:27                    

Well thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Brad Cooper:                     00:30                    

Likewise. OK very good. So I'm looking forward to a great discussion about faith in science. Perhaps we might be able to talk about some basketball a little bit later on. And depending on how your warriors are doing tonight, but yeah very excited to talk to you. Just real quick a little bit about Professor Yu's background and it's very impressive. So she's a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California Irvine. She studies biological physics. Condensed matter. She's got a broad range of experience in her studies and her research interests includes things like disordered systems and biophysics and quantum computing all kinds of really cool stuff. I also saw lots of mentions of things like glass and noise which I'm interested in hearing about how you study those things and also something called a Monte-Carlo simulation. So I really don't know what any of those people have to hear about some of those.  So look forward to that. She has a bachelor's and a Ph.D. from Princeton University so home of Albert Einstein and some other famous physicist and very prestigious school for physics. She's published many scientific journal in many scientific journals but recognizes it's an Alfred P. Sloan fellow. Just lots of great experience and published many articles on some really important topics including medical research and we're going to talk about that a little bit in a moment. Just to start off here. You know if imagine you sit down next to somebody on a plane if you ever take trips and they ask you they tell you a little about what they do and they say so what do you do? What's your usual response to somebody when you know if you only have a few few sentences to tell them what you do.

Clare Yu:                              02:02                    

Well I usually just tell them I teach because I don't want to intimidate them. What I do is theoretical physics. And we try to understand how things work. So we try to teach the next generation and also try to push back the frontiers and try to understand the world and nature and you know how does it all fit together. How did God make all this stuff and all intricacy and beauty that he did. And we tried to get into the details. And it's exciting.

Brad Cooper:                     02:33                    

And you normally what kind of response you normally get and then what are the additional questions that come after that usually?

Clare Yu:                              02:41                    

Well if I don't usually tell people I do theoretical physics, because that kinda intimidates them too much.  I say I teach and then they might say what you teach and I'll say well you know I teach physics. They might ask what level and I told my teacher at the college level. But usually if you start out with a theoretic physicist that usually shuts things down.

Brad Cooper:                     03:00                    

OK, it sends them off the rails at that point.

Clare Yu:                              03:03                    

So once somebody said to me they were kind of teasing they said oh yes well that means we have a lot to talk about.

Brad Cooper:                     03:11                    

That was probably the worst plane ride of your life.

Clare Yu:                              03:13                   

No no no that was right. That was at a party. They were pulling my leg there.

Brad Cooper:                     03:20                    

OK. So when did you decide that this is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific point was you know just sort of you had a general interest in maybe science or was there a specific point in your life in childhood or whenever where you said I really wanted to be a physicist.

Clare Yu:                              03:34                    

I think when I was 8 years old you know when I was little my mother would read me little being you know in my mind when reading books about the stars and about Newton sitting under a tree and the apple fell on its head and the thought of gravity or big red balloon goes one way and the air goes out the other and every action there's an equal opposite reaction. So that's what I got exposed to.

Brad Cooper:                     03:58                    

Well that's pretty heavy duty stuff at 4!

Clare Yu:                              04:02                    

Well you know I can look at the pictures and my mom read to me at night before I went to bed. So that is a great benefit. When I was eight I read a book called A real book of science it said interesting things such as in outer space. You can't hear anything because there is no air. I thought that was really interesting so I remember when I was eight you had to write a little essay about what you want to be when you grow up and I asked how do you spell physicists. I think that's where it started. And then when I was a little older I guess in fourth grade at age nine I used to read I didn't know why I read everything the kid across from me read he would as we sat at tables and I'm at one point I started reading biographies about scientists like Galileo was the first one and so I started reading biographies about scientists and I think that also excited me and then I read a biography about Einstein when I was 10 and that really set my imagination at work.  I didn't really understand what I was reading but I started asking questions like What is space and what is time and I'm getting in these long discussions with my 11 year old babysitter who believe that she's a rich lawyer now earning much more money than I was.

Brad Cooper:                     05:12                    

Anyway interesting conversations with the babysitter about space time. OK.  Did your family, your parents, were they in science and technology at all or no?

Clare Yu:                              05:28                    

No, my father was a professor of accounting and my mother also taught accounting for a while and then she became the first woman CPA in Gainesville, Florida. So you know I came from an academic family background. We always lived in university town so I was familiar with that but not science.

Brad Cooper:                       05:44                    

And then as far as you know from that age then 8 you thought you wanted to be in that kind of a career?

Clare Yu:                              05:44                    

Right.

Brad Cooper:                       05:53                    

And you mentioned the Einstein biography was that didn't play at all into your decision to go to Princeton?

Clare Yu:                              05:58                    

I mean obviously I'd heard about Princeton. I applied to a number of five good schools. And I this was really just the guidance of the Lord on I and I went to some of the tours. We were too poor then to go visit colleges. Butsometimes a representative would come to his city nearby and overseeing the presentation a little movie about Princeton and I liked that I think.  But what really made me go to Princeton was really the Lord. I just heard very clearly you're going to go to Princeton and there was just kind of no doubt reveals a little voice which was the Lord.  So that's why I went.

Brad Cooper:                       06:33                    

Got it. OK. And now tell us a little about the Christian Basque background and went when. When did that intersect? I guess if it did with your desire to go into physics was it do you have a very specific or you get experience or whatever it might be or was it more gradual over time where you somehow you know were thinking about all of these things you were seeing in science and kind of saying was there something more behind this I mean what was it for you?

Clare Yu:                              07:00                    

I think again it was my mother at a young age. I believed everything I was told. I mean I believe Santa Claus and everything else. My mom said there was a God and I believe that. And she said that God had a son Jesus. And I thought that I believe that a lot of people have kids God has a kid. She made me memorize the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer when I was little. So I believe God cared about me and he knew me personally. But I don't think I understood the message of salvation because we never went to church. My parents didn't make me go to church. My friends had to go to church. I thought I was kind of lucky I didn't have to do that. Then in the 1970s there was a lot of bumper stickers and billboards saying Jesus saves and that got me curious, saves you from what? so I was pondering this.  And my mother subscribed to guideposts magazine. I love reading first person stories so I would read the magazine and one of the stories was by Kenneth Taylor who wrote the living Bible paraphrase and he said at night he was tormented by nightmares and sort of demonic visions and I said Oh Jesus save me from the devil. I'm sort of trying to piece this together better. Then my classmates told me about a Baptist preacher in town. This is in Florida. So they suggested we go and we went on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving when I was a junior in high school and after the service the friend and I my classmate and I got in a debate about whether you had to be baptized in order to be saved and were running around the church looking for a Bible to prove our point.

Clare Yu:                              08:42                    

And the pastor saw us he asked what we were doing and we told him he had us sit down next to him. I remember he smelled strongly of Clorox bleach because he had scrubbed down to get rid of the chiggers which is a nasty little bug in the woods of Florida. And he then presented the four spiritual laws which were quite popular at the time and saying basically you know God has a wonderful plan for your life but sin separates God and man. But Jesus is a way to be reconciled to God and He wants you to be part of this family and go to heaven. And I was so perturbed by that the Holy Spirit was working. I remember going home that night and I couldn't really pick up the newspaper and read a paragraph and really concentrate on what it meant. So the preacher had invited us to return that Sunday and I did that and it's good Southern Baptists or independent Baptist Church.  They give a message and invitation at the end and they sing many verses of just as I am and I remember wanting to go forward but I was too embarrassed. So I didn't go forward. But then it really bugged me and I love me all week and I decided.  Better to be embarrassed than to be bugged and so I went for the next Sunday and accepted Jesus into my life and was baptized.

Brad Cooper:                     10:00                    

And after  that's great and despite the bleach and the chiggers you still went back to the same church which is good which is good.

Clare Yu:                            10:09                    

And I guess the one question I had I remember was OK I accept Jesus but do I have to surrender to the Lord? I mean you know how much you do it doesn't mean that I have to surrender my will of my life and stuff like that. And I remember having that sort of question very early on. I found out the answer is yes but whole

Brad Cooper:                     10:29                    

Probably took a little while longer to accept that.

Brad Cooper:                     10:32                    

Yeah I did. It's a bit of a struggle.

Brad Cooper:                     10:35                    

Well ok now fast forward a little bit into some of your current work in terms of the fields that you're involved with so maybe you can talk about some of the projects you know outside of your teaching. What are some of the things that you're involved with?

Clare Yu:                            10:45                    

Well I'm with theorist's theoretical physicist. Physics is a field which is divided into two categories of people those who do experiments and work in labs and those who do theory and do calculations or either with pen and paper or on the computer. SoI'm a theorist. I mean in the latter category we would I like working with experimentalists to understand and describe their data. One of the things I work on currently is we're trying to work on quantum computing try to make quantum computers which if you could make one would have all sorts of exciting possibilities. It would be possible to make unbreakable code and the National Security Agency of the government are quite interested in that but you also care when you type in your credit card on the Internet you don't want anyone else to be able to decipher that. And it would be nice to communicate in a way that no one else can possibly break the code and that would be possible with a quantum computer. But right now some of the materials aspects there's little contaminants on the surface that are making noise and sort of screwing things up. So we're working with experimentalists to try to find out what those pieces of contaminants, magnetic contaminants are and how to get rid of them. So

Brad Cooper:                     12:01                    

When I read the noise is that the noise we're talking about in your in your bio there. Yeah that's one aspect of the noise.

Clare Yu:                            12:06                    

We've been actually interested in many aspects of noise but that's certainly the one that we're focused on now with noise. We've also looked at as I usually think of noise as some annoying nuisance and trying to get rid of but sometimes we've tried to look at it as a probe of what's happening microscopically. Another aspect of noise is in biology. I'm also interested in biological physics if you think about a developing embryo there are chemicals called morphogens which signal what should happen produce various patterns like arms and legs and so forth. But these chemicals diffusing around you'd think would be not very kind of noisy and maybe not well-ordered and yet we come out looking very symmetrical your arms are about the same length, your legs are the same length your eyes at same position on your face, and so forth you know where it has this wonderful symmetry come from in the face of so much such a noisy system. So there are many, many aspects of noise which are which are interesting and going back to the quantum computing.

Brad Cooper:                     13:08                    

So just so folks understand I don't know if it's possible but in terms of in layman's terms what exactly is a quantum computer anyway.

Clare Yu:                            13:15                    

So quantum computer is when you have a regular what we call classical computer like the computers we have nowadays. If you have a question or a calculation you know you put in your input and you get out what you put in. Another question, put another input another output and so forth so you have to do this what we say is in series one after another and then you get your outputs one after another. With quantum computers what the nice thing is is if you have a whole set of questions say a whole bunch of little different inputs you want to put in rather than putting them one at a time you could just combine them all together in one big combination have one big fat input stick that in and then just get one big fat output which you then have to sort of tease apart to get the answers to all your inputs but it would just be so much faster you could just put in one input and get one output. That'sthe beauty of quantum computing.

Brad Cooper:                     14:10                    

And how far away do you think we are? I mean if you do make predictions on this in terms of one we would have a workable one?

Clare Yu:                            14:18                    

There's someone said I might have been Bill Phillips. He's a Nobel laureate in physics. Maybe he said there's a 50/50 chance by which he meant there's a 50 percent chance that in 50 years we'll have a quantum computer. I think we're actually making surprisingly good progress. Ihave colleagues up in Santa Barbara and Google and other places who are really making amazing strides to try to really bring a real quantum computer into existence. So I think it's something that's actually quite doable in our lifetimes.

Brad Cooper:                       14:52                    

It'sexciting. And now talk about a little bit about some of the biological physics that you work within. And it's fascinating because obviously biology is made out of cells and molecules and atoms that all. At the core of it is physics I guess.  Talk about some of the work that you're doing there and even some of the medical aspects of what you're doing.

Clare Yu:                              15:12                    

Right now we're working on cancer. In the past I've worked on things like transportation system inside your cells it turns out there are little roads and little corridors little proteins. Proteins are like little citizens or workers. A cell is like a city for the workers in that city of proteins and little machines that carry stuff on their head and walk along little ropes in all things. So we've done that in the past. We've also worked in what's called developmental biology trying to understand how embryos develop from you know just a single egg or little pieces of tissue into a whole living organism. Right now our group is being turned to work on cancer and we've teamed up with some other physicists and medical doctors medical oncologist to try to understand how to make immunotherapy more effective.  Hardest thing in cancer research right now is what's called immunotherapy getting your immune system to attack cancer to attack tumors. There are now drugs actually on the market being used in a clinic to get your immune system to attack tumors. But we're a long way from really getting that to be effective. The immune system is very complicated and we're trying to understand under what conditions. Immune cells infiltrate the tumor they don't they can't really be effective unless they're sitting there in the tumor and are able to attack the tumor or recognize a tumor. And so we're trying to understand under what conditions that happens by looking at the what's called the tumor microenvironment. A tumor is not just a big ball of cancer cells it's also a lot of support cells. And what matters is the company you keep and it goes for tumors as well. And

Brad Cooper:                     16:53                    

How does this relate to physics? Are some of these processes and molecules so small that somehow a quantum physics take over or how does it relate to physics?

Clare Yu:                            17:03                    

Well it's not quantum.  It's too big for that. We're talking about cells which are huge compared to just the electrons and atoms. But it's a good question to ask you know what can a physicist do? Right now the hope is that physicists can bring their bag of tricks their tools or approaches to provide new insights new perspectives into cancer biology. You know there's been a lot of money and a lot of time and effort spent on trying to cure cancer and yet one in four people died of cancer in the U.S. every year so obviously we need some new perspectives and there's recognition that maybe physical scientists like physicists,  mathematicians and engineers can do that so the experimentalist can develop new tools to help with cancer diagnostics and treatment after all x rays came from physicist. Lasers which are used widely in medicine came from physics but we also as a theorist we have a lot of statistical tools as well as ways to do computer modeling to try to understand what's going on in a very quantitative sense. Alot of things have been very qualitative and we want to put some numbers on things and be a little more exact and try to get insights that way.

Brad Cooper:                     18:20                    

For you personally I understand this has a specific importance to you as well if you don't if you don't mind talking about that as well?

Clare Yu:                            18:27                    

No not at all. I actually had breast cancer in 2010. I had gone in for a routine mammogram and I was called back. They went to look at something close more closely and then they did a biopsy. So then I went to a breast surgeon's office to find out what the verdict was and residents walked in and looked at the chart and said, "Well since the results are positive" and I'm like "Wait, what? The results are positive?" " You may have cancer" and he's like, "Oh you didn't know? I thought you knew". Then things went downhill from there because he wasn't very sure of himself and that's the last thing you want.

Brad Cooper:                     18:27                    

Not the best delivery of bad news, sounds like.

Clare Yu:                            19:06                    

No, there's no good way to tell someone they have cancer but that's certainly not it.  So after a while I was thinking you know I want to talk to the real doctor so kind of had to send him out and go get the get the attending physician. So then Dr. Karen Lane came in and you know talk to me for a while and then I think everyone went out of the room while I changed into a gown and she came back and I had my head down. I think I was just you know reeling from the news. And she unprompted, just came out and said to me, "You're going to be just fine." That were those were really words of hope that I hung onto. So I had a very early stage. Stage 1 cancer. I was very fortunate that they caught it early. I just had a lumpectomy to remove with some radiation. I'm fine now but I think all of a sudden cancer was no longer that thing that happened to other people was actually something that had happened to me and that certainly piqued my interest and that's given me a passion to try to make a difference in this field.

Brad Cooper:                     20:00                    

It's great story obviously not great for anyone to have cancer but it's obviously something where now you have a chance as you say to to maybe make an impact and so pray praying for you that that journey and many of us have family members friends it one way or the other answers it's impacts about you know 50 percent of us. So the more brainpower and prayer we can put against it the better. Great to hear that you're working on that very important aspect of what you're doing.  OK. So shifting your years back a little bit to the science versus faith question that inevitably comes up. You know whenever we talk to scientists who are also Christians, some people experience the occasional you know people in your field and I wouldn't say discriminating but you know somehow looking at it differently and not understanding why you believe what you do.  And then from the other side, you know Christians who may not be in the science field thinking that most scientists don't believe in God and you know that science is their God and there's no room for faith. I mean what for you personally has been your experience in that situation or have you had situations where you know colleagues or what have you. You know have somebody doubting what you're saying or get in debates or is it really not even been an issue for you or where do you stand on that?

Clare Yu:                           21:17                    

I guess. I think it's true that most people in academia are not Christians. I think there's more of an anti-Christian sentiment over perhaps in the humanities less so in the sciences. But still I think there is. I've noticed a bias against Christians and believers certainly among my fellow scientists. A lot of times or sometimes when they say those things I just keep my mouth shut and I don't say that I'm a Christian but I remember hearing one colleague sort of talking about some of the Christian graduate students in his group and he wasn't very impressed with them. I guess they were doing a very good job. And after hearing that for a while I finally said, "Well, I'm a Christian" and he looked at me said, "You are?" He said, "Oh that's great!" He was glad to see that there was a broad distribution and not everybody was you know all Christians were slacking off.  But other times I've I haven't necessarily spoken up. You know if I asked I certainly say something so maybe I've been a little bit cowardly in that sense. But I think you know when they do find out I'm a Christian they you know they respect that. I don't necessarily get people in my presence making disparaging remarks about that.

Brad Cooper:                     22:30                    

And you you obviously you know we interviewed one of your colleagues who is also a Christian so I imagine you've also run across a good number of Christians in your field as well.

Clare Yu:                            22:39                    

Yeah. So that's always encouraging to see others who are Christians and who are believers in my field and Jonathan Feng is my colleague, is a great colleague. And you know it's always nice to know that he's a Christian. And you know we we try to do our best. And I think you know walk in integrity. So even if people don't know we're Christians maybe they found out later or something. You know you want to be a good witness and in everything you do and I should say you might say that scientists are not necessarily believers in Christ but I do remember my Ph.D. adviser. He's not a believer but he was talking about a theory once and he said well I believe that and I was sort of shocked. I thought in science everything's either facts or they're not facts.  And yet you find after a while that there's so many things we don't know. You have a theory. Someone else has another theory. Which theory you believe in? There is a belief in that. There's a certain leap of faith to say that's the right one.

Brad Cooper:                     23:39                    

Yeah and many of these theories kind of drift into philosophy I guess and yeah there's there's you know string theory and the multiverse and all of these things where we may not be able to prove some of those things so. So yeah there's definitely belief that goes on it seems. 

Clare Yu:                            23:54                    

I think some of my friends who were atheists or scientists I had debated occasionally with them and I've come to the conclusion basically people believe what they want to believe.

Brad Cooper:                     24:04                    

Right. What have you seen in science that has supported your faith and maybe even shown you aspects of God and God's creation in the science and the work that you've done?

Clare Yu:                            24:14                    

You just look up at the stars at night on a really dark sky and you see the Milky Way and it says in Psalms 19. "Heavens declare the glory of the Lord." There are so many things how even in biology how well we're made. My mom used to say you know the baby is born and it's so well made and then the baby is hungry and the mother has milk. I mean there's so many just down to the not only individual cells but inside the cells such intricacy. I remember one person telling me that when the light hits your retina of your eye and the back of your eye all that light actually does damage to the retina of the surface of it. And so there's a little garbage cleaners that pick up all the debris and clean it out. And there's a genetic disease where those little garbage collectors don't do their job and those people go blind and I never knew that oh never occurred to me you even needed to have something to take care of all the debris from that that just you know the marvelous intricacy we don't understand how the brain words every neuron talks to or is connected to 10,000 other neurons and we don't have a clue as to how we are able to think or add or or anything but everything we learn is just it's just amazingly intricately we made in such detail and such exquisite workmanship.  So I think it really does point to support the belief in God.

Brad Cooper:                     25:38                    

Absolutely, well yeah. Well Francis Collins is another kind of famous Christian has written many books and like you he's talked about you know the intricacies of DNA and genetics and cells and some of the amazing things there that that to him point to to a creator. Were there either physicists or scientists you see you mentioned biographies that you read. Anybody in particular that was something that you looked up to you know historical or present day and were there also mentors for you?

Clare Yu:                            26:11                    

Yes in terms of scientists you know you read about Kepler about the harmony of the stars. But I remember when I was in high school at the University of Florida they started a frontier and science lecture series where they would bring very notable scientists to campus and they would give these large public lectures and the first speaker was, a can't remember his name, Robert Wald or George Wald. Anyway he was he was a Nobel Laureate. And in the question answer session I remember him saying that if he was stuck on a desert island and could only have one book he would want to have the Bible and the second book would be the CRC Handbook.  But first one was the Bible I was quite surprised to hear him say that but it sounds like you know he had certainly some faith there. That's one thing that I can remember. I think Faraday was a Christian, you know Newton wrote a book about 1st or 2nd Timothy 3:16. So you know there's been a lot of them down through history who were often seeing their work in science as a way of uncovering the beauty of the world and universe that the Lord had made.

Brad Cooper:                     27:21                    

And maybe not Christians what it sounds like you at least had some mentors for you in in certain situations and maybe you could find some of those.

Clare Yu:                            27:27                    

Sure. I think you know you can't succeed really or get where I've come without having certainly mentors. I think about my Ph.D. advisor.  He's not a Christian but he has a Nobel Prize and is very well known is a physcist in condensed matter physics. Just learning how he thinks, learning to think was a big impact. You know the people I've worked with I think of another guy. So my advice was Phil Anderson and my guy work with one summer and who was an official mentor from the lab and I was in a graduate research program for women at Bell Labs at the time where they tried to encourage women to go into science. Agash Ashraf, he was encouraging. I think there's been encouragement from people through the years my post-doc reviser Tony Leggett and others that you know just learning from them. I think working at Bell Labs and as or as a student after I graduated from college you could see it was a very exciting place to be. Very exciting research place. And that was very stimulating. So I've certainly been blessed and benefited from working with some very excellent scientists and learning from them.

Brad Cooper:                     28:36                    

Part of what we're doing is looking to encourage Christians to go into science as we talked about there's not a high penetration let's put it that way of Christians but also women, right? So encouraging more women to take up science. So you have the combination of both.  So are you finding it hard to find Christian women colleagues in science or are you seeing more or is that anything where you've you know made it a point to reach out to young women or Christian woman to encourage them to go into science. 

Clare Yu:                            29:03                    

You know there's so few women in physics. In biology there are a lot more women. I'm racking my brains to thinking do I know any Christian women in physics?

Brad Cooper:                     29:13                    

OK. You maybe the one. OK. Well we'll try to find out.

Clare Yu:                            29:17                    

But certainly I think you know it's been important to me I have some very good friends who are women physicists whom I've known graduate school and in some sense they have been my mentors they're certainly now leaders in the field and I still look to them for advice and counsel. So I think it's important to have a support system. Support system not just in science among your classmates but also to church and other things small groups. I think that's very important I think especially I think for anybody I think especially for women.  Women have I think much more difficulty with self-esteem and confidence. At least I find that among some of the women that I mentor or that I've crossed paths with that are that of students. They did a survey once asking undergraduate men and women how well do you think you're going to do on this test that you're about to take.  And the men tended to rank themselves with scores five times higher than what they actually made and the women estimated their score be half of what they actually am. So I think this is a real there are real differences. And also I think there is in physics it's been a traditionally male dominated field. So it's been hard for women to get the recognition and to get you know equal pay equal lab space. So it's been a struggle. I just found out that a colleague another woman I know that has a member of National Academy in prison American Physical Society you know just a wonderful lady. I didn't realize she had done a really important groundbreaking experiment that was never cited. I was shocked she said of their best work. But I think it's because she was a woman at the time that she never got the credit for that she was there.

Brad Cooper:                     31:03                    

Hmm. Well I was going to ask so in terms of your students I mean are you seeing any more women entering physics? I mean is there is any trends in that direction?

Clare Yu:                            31:16                    

I think so, yes I think there are more women. When I was a woman there were maybe a handful of other female graduate students. Right. Were five. I just found out that the physics department here at UC Irvine we have 25 women graduate students. So that's very encouraging. But you know I think they're facing some some struggles just because they are women and in some of the atmosphere they face. And so those are still issues that I think need to be addressed. But definitely there are I think more women and we need more women in that society.

Brad Cooper:                     31:51                    

Absolutely. What are some of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of what you do. And then I guess a little bit on the flipside what are some of the challenges for someone and in light of someone thinking about physics and having an interest in it. You know what what what are they in for?

Clare Yu:                           32:08                    

I think if you go into the field, you've got to do it because you want to do it because you think it's fun, because you have the passion and the desire to learn new things to be creative, and come up with new ideas too. It's sometimes like a puzzle you get hear about experiments which have puzzling results that you didn't expect. And I always like questions which are easy to state but perhaps harder to answer like one question I ask is why does a tumor occur where it does and in an organ it's not random. And there are more than half of breast tumors occur near the armpit and the upper outer quadrant so you know why is that? I love thinking about those kind of intriguing questions and being able to be creative about ways to approach them and new ideas about what caused it.  Working with other colleagues and collaborators and being able to discuss what they're working on or what I'm working on what we're working on and that can be very stimulating and a great deal of fun. A lot of time you make good friends. You go to meetings and conferences and all sorts of really enjoyable places around the world. So those are some of the really fun things. I think that really just always be learning, always seeing new ideas and fresh things to be able to be creative because you know God is our creator and so he wants us to be creative.

Brad Cooper:                     33:23                    

And so some of the you know, in all full disclosure here, were somewhere that some of the challenge aspects and one of the talks I gave you talked a little bit about the college work being pretty difficult but I mean what are some of those things that are to be prepared for?

Clare Yu:                            33:38                    

As a student. Ithink you know there are challenges places where you're going to fail. I mean I think young people have to realize that successful people are not people who've never failed before. But there are people who are resilient who have come back from great failures. So you fail a test you don't do as well. And of course since you think you should do this and you want to do, I think that's a challenge. I'm got to be asking yourself do I really want to do this. My willing to rise and meet that challenge. Am I really willing to be resilient and bounce back after failures. You have to have I think the discipline to focus on the task and be dedicated to it and not say well is more fun to hang out my friends and go see the movie rather than studying for the exam tomorrow.  And that takes discipline so I think and you've got to do it discipline over the long haul. So it's got to be a real passion. I think as you get older and once you get to academia I think one of the things that not just me but a lot of people are struggling with is a reduced funding for research. The economy isn't as good as it used to be so there's less money for research and there's more people chasing fewer dollars. Writing a lot of grant proposals often getting rejected. So I think that for me currently that's one of the I think challenges and struggles and also just a lot of demands on your time and wanting to spend more time doing research with you know having to spend it on committee work or something like that.

Brad Cooper:                     35:02                    

And what are some of the prospects for people who have degrees in physics in terms of job prospects?

Clare Yu:                            35:09                    

Oh I think there are a lot of job prospects and I think one of the misconceptions is that you know if you go into physics you can't get a job you ought to be an engineer or something. I've heard parents or uncles and aunts telling the younger generation that it's just not true. I think physics in a lot of ways equips you to be able to think to be able to figure things out. One of the most valuable things I learned as a graduate student was that you could learn anything. We didn't have any required courses in graduate school I went to.  You just had to pass these exams. And if you wanted to take courses they offered that to them. They offered them to you but you know you didn't get a grade which meant you didn't feel like doing homework after a while. But what you learned was that there's a library, now there's an internet, you can learn anything you want to learn you just get the book. You start working with reading through it. And I think because I learned that valuable lesson it gave me the confidence to go into biological physics. I was never trained in this. I never took a biology course in college. But you know you go get a book and read a book about biology and talked to a biologist and sit in of course and you can learn things. So I think it's been very valuable.

Brad Cooper:                     36:18                    

And you mentioned there's lots of careers to go into after physics and it does help. I mean the engineers theyall at least have to have some level of physics and you have you know people who go off and do other things. So Elon Musk being one example of that uses used to be a physics major I believe.

Clare Yu:                            36:39                    

There are a lot of careers I think physicists can of course go on to graduate school and engineering if you want but you can work for a lot of tech companies. You can work for Google. A lot of the software companies. There's also careers in finance. I've actually had a post-doc who now works and he worked for a while big financial firms and now he has his own company with a partner and a small company that analyzes I think oil and how companies should invest in different pipelines and so forth. A colleague of mine who was a professor here now works for a hedge fund Renaissance Hedge Fund so you learn how to learn things you learn how to figure things out. You have a quantitative background and you're very versatile. You learn how to do problem solving and their problems everywhere. Soalso consulting companies computer companies we learn how to write software there are people who learn software called Mathematica which is able to do calculations and their proficiency and that gets them a job. I mean there's a whole host of things people learn how to do. For example Elon Musk was a physics major and of course he owns Tesla and Space-X now.

Brad Cooper:                     36:39                    

He did pretty well I think.

Clare Yu:                            38:02                    

He did all right. Actually when I was a grad student some of my colleagues were secretly writing Windows like programs as it was in the early 80s. So there was no Windows and so they started a little company after they left graduate school and they got bought out by a little bit bigger company called Microsoft. And now they're all multimillionaires. I mean that was one of those things I'd been just a failure in academia, I would maybe join them and now I'd be rich.

Brad Cooper:                     38:30                    

Well you're very rich in experience in what you're doing and I'm sure impacting a lot of your students's lives and hopefully many more through your research and through this podcast. We'll see you then. Yes. It a good number of very successful people. You know I started in physics and obviously beyond that as you said being able to study the wonder of God's creation and to learn more about Him and that maybe I don't know for you maybe one of the more rewarding aspects.

Clare Yu:                              38:57                    

Oh one other thing is teaching. You know we don't have enough teachers and what are what's called STEM and science and technology even just the high school level. You make a big impact on people's lives. Some things I really lay down the law on is no cheating and integrity and I fail more kids than anybody else in the department for academic dishonesty,  cheating on things. But I do that because I really want them to learn the importance of honesty and integrity. I say that's much more important than any physics I'm teaching you and occasionally you know they get it. They really understand the importance of doing the right thing and I think it makes a difference. Some of their lives and that's rewarding.

Brad Cooper:                       39:35                    

Well absolutely and you know in the real world you know there are lawsuits if you know the different companies stealing intellectual property from other companies and high tech and places like that.  And so yeah better to learn my lessons like that now!

Clare Yu:                              39:35                    

Or faking the data, right? We heard about Volkswagen.

Brad Cooper:                       39:57                    

Oh yeah. Scientists faking data. That's that's happens unfortunately occasionally. So yes the integrity aspect that'sa very valuable lesson you're teaching them. Yeah. Anything else in terms of what next steps you'd recommend to somebody who's looking to look for a career in physics?

Clare Yu:                              40:14                    

I guess one of the things you can, one of the things that helped me was being able to work in physics labs or just science labs. If you're near a college or university if you can just as a student at the high school student be able to spend some time there just as a pair of hands even if you're just washing dishes you could just the atmosphere to see whether it's you know what you're interested in what you like to do. Nowadays we have the Internet there's a whole host of things you can see on YouTube I recommend Khan Academy. It's free wonderful little 10 minutes lessons on all kinds of things. All the way from learning the number lines through college calculus and physics, chemistry and biology. That's a wonderful resource for people or kids of any age. So yeah being able to do our little experiments just be exposed to see if it's what you like to do.

Brad Cooper:                     41:03                    

That's great advice! Anything coming up for you? So you talked about some of the research. Anything that you'd like to highlight that you know coming up here on the horizon. Big projects that you have conferences. What are some of the things coming up for you?

Clare Yu:                            41:07

This summer I'm looking forward to going to Aspen they have a center for physics there it's always fun to hang out with other physicists and talk to them. You know we're excited about some of the results we're getting on our cancer research. We're getting results that we don't understand why we're getting the results we are. And somehow we can tell the difference between good outcome and poor outcome. Tissue from cancer patients with good outcome, poor outcome we're seeing a difference. We don't understand where that comes from. So we're excited to try to understand you know what's going on here what's the underlying mechanism. 

Brad Cooper:                         41:45                    

Do you have a timeline on like a research paper or some outcome that you think you might publish or what sort of the timelines look like on them?

Clare Yu:                              41:52                    

There are some papers I need to quote out there. I think I have to write three papers in the next couple of months or something.

Brad Cooper:                       41:58                    

Okay great. A lot of great information about your background and your Christian faith and just continue to pray for you and your work especially the things that relate to cancer. It'svery exciting and now hopefully we can have some impact there and pray for your work there and also with your work with your students and encouraging them.

Clare Yu:                              42:19                    

The place where I think my Christian faith really enters in is not so much you know seeing God in the science but just partnering with him on a daily basis in all aspects of life. And he really wants a relationship where you walk hand-in-hand with him day by day moment by moment and I think he can guide me in the research. But also in all other aspects of my life and I think that's really where my Christian faith is an important part of my life.

Brad Cooper:                       42:45                    

You mentioned at some of the key points in your life where you had to make some decisions about you know which school you attended and whether you were going to give up on physics and go be a medical student or something like that it sounds like there's a great point where you really just finally surrender to God and real quick can you tell us about a couple of those.

Clare Yu:                              43:02                    

I think some of the events such as getting cancer and so forth shortly before that I remember being in church and I had a collaboration with a colleague of mine where I had a big grant and he was a co-principal investigator and I'd given him a lot of money from the grant but due to lack of communication you know he did publish the papers without me being part of that work and I felt like I had poured all the resources into his effort and his his work and got nothing and I remember the Lord sort of saying to me that he poured a lot of resources into me and got nothing in the sense that I hadn't really communicated with Him and partnered with the Lord and that really cut me to the quick and kind of hit me between the eyes and you know when out got a prayer journal and started doing quiet time every day and I think that was wonderful preparation because you know in a few months my dad would move in with me because he was having some health issues.  And then two months later I get diagnosed with cancer so I think I really needed that undergirding. So those are places I think where the Lord has really entered in. I remember also once when I was applying for jobs permanent jobs faculty jobs and I was coming up completely empty handed. No doors were opening and I thought you know maybe that's it. I have to go do something else. And I was lying in bed in a hotel room waiting for my roommate to finish using the bathroom. The Lord asked me, "Well you didn't ask me what I think?" and I'm like OK fine, "What do you think?" And the Lord said "Wait."  And I'm like, "Great. I have been waiting for you know months, what kind of answer is that?" And yet later that day in the afternoon I was told I would get an offer from UC Irvine which is where I am now. So you know the Lord has come up and times when it's been critical and crucial and he's been there and that's made all the difference.

Brad Cooper:                      44:52                    

That's great to hear. Thank you so much Professor Yu for sharing your story sharing your both the work that you're doing and encouraging work and as well as sort of your journey and how you got there and encouragement hopefully for others. You know if they have an interest as you said if it's a passion of theirs either in science or physics biology and some of the things you talked about you know to pursue it I go where calling you and hopefully you'll be open to the folks that are listening will be open to that. Thank you so much for your time. It's been a blessing and I look forward to talking to you again soon, hopefully. And we'll also I guess we should pray for your warriors.  We'll find out I guess if they won or not?  We'll post the score on the podcast here. But seriously, thank you again for your time and best to you and blessings to you and your work that you're doing.

Clare Yu:                              45:42                    

Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to talking to you.

Brad Cooper:                       45:45                    

Likewise. Thanks Professor Yu and we'll talk to you soon!

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