Women in Physics

Interview by Career Girls: Youtube.

How I became a physicist and what I do as a physicist: A short-bio of Dr. Margaret Cheung

Grade school: When I was about 10 years old, my mother subscribed to a monthly science magazine for children. I was fascinated by the beautiful photos and pictures that introduced me to science. I enjoyed many visits to science centers and museums with my parents when I was in grade school. The planetarium of the Hong Kong Space Center was definitely one of my many favorite places to be.

Middle and High School: I attended an all-girls high school and participated in science fairs. I also participated in a biology outreach program and was attracted to the science of molecular biology. How biology works at a molecular level motivated me to pursue a chemistry major in college.

College and graduate school: The chemistry professor who taught me introductory chemistry is a woman and she encouraged me to pursue a science career. Driven by my curiosity deeply rooted in biology, I wanted to understand how materials become life-like through physics. Physics is a very powerful tool to study biology because physicists use many systematic ways to measure the properties of matter and to model how they will behave under different conditions. In my case, I want to know why the behavior of living matter such as a protein is so complex while it can be very adaptive to its surroundings at the same time.

Postdoctoral training and faculty at UH: I was mentored by many great professors who guided me into this career path. After receiving my Ph.D. degree in Physics, it became clear to me that I would like to educate future generations of scientists as well as work in a challenging career through innovation and research. I have started a research and education program in theoretical biological physics and soft matter at the University of Houston. I mentor undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. My group members study the behavior of biological molecules in a cell using physics theories, modeling, and computer simulations. We can help experimentalists better understand their measurements on biological molecules in living species. This may impact disease-related research because we can investigate how symptoms start at a molecular level. I teach both the undergraduate and graduate courses. I also serve in departmental committees to recruit best and diverse students. In addition, I am also very passionate about being a positive role model for young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Family life: My husband and I have two small children, Liam and Sean. We enjoy playing outdoors, reading, and singing.