My Favorite Thing about IU

I think one of my favorite things about IU is the sheer amount of activities to do in Bloomington!  I have a lot of interests, and I have a pretty adventurous spirit.  I like to try new things, and Bloomington has a lot of great opportunities to explore.  Even better, student discounts and free events are the best!  I just recently went to an Itzhak Perlman (check him out playing Schindler’s List theme) for $20 on a student discount.   Just on one campus, you can experience D1 sports teams, world-renowned musical performances, art exhibits, cultural festivals, indie bands, and much more.  When I need a break from academics, I can pick and choose what types of events I can spend an evening with.

Some great links that I check out from time to time:

The IUB events calendar:

Athletics Calendar: Performances:

Bloomington Community Events:


A Tale of Two Cities

As a disclaimer, this post has nothing to do with the book.

Image courtesy of Google Maps. Edited by Tiphani D

Image courtesy of Google Maps. Edited by Tiphani D

I am a Kansas City native (from the better, more functional Missouri side, not the dark, desolate Kansas side), and I used to be a fair weather fan; I didn’t want to be there when I was in high school, but when I went off to college and  then graduate school, I missed it terribly. What can be said…often times, the adult longs for the crib as it were; recalling a place where life was all about coloring, watching Disney movies (without analyzing it down to the pixels), and eating cereal, laden with refined sugar.

I almost didn’t trust myself on this topic, due to the extreme bias it permits me to take, without really having to provide any empirical evidence, or legitimate scholarly insight. However, I will attempt to make this post somewhat informative, in that it will hopefully assist as a guide for how to get through the “This city is (insert colorful adjective, noun, or noun phrase here)” inner dialogue, that will without question, plague your mind at least twice a week.

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Cooking! Affording grad life through eating.

Cooking in graduate school. Photo courtesy of

Through my assistantship, I am fortunate to have a stipend.  However, I am not rolling around in cash, and my stipend is just enough to feed me, house me, and have a little lift for entertaining me (movies, dinners with friends, and yes, shopping).  Yet, I have to be Continue reading

Foodies’ Alert: Lucky Express

After nearly four years living in Bloomington, I’ve been very fortunate to find individuals who I connected with not only on an intellectual level, but bonded by one of our most basic needs: food. Some eat to live, we live to eat. And thus the first of many “Foodies’ Alert” begins.

Growing up in the Bay Area, the culture of supporting mom-n-pop establishments is ingrained into the fabric of our food souls. I am not just taking about small businesses. Thinking about a lackluster exterior that has seen better days with an eclectic medley of furniture forming the interior, yet the irresistible aroma of food and chattering of excited patrons in lines snaking around the small establishment fills the air. Such pure and soulful dwellings of culinary excellence must be recognized. In need of a Chinese fast-food fix? Look no further, Lucky Express is the answer to those cravings.

So much soul for one tiny hole-in-the-wall. Photo by Marta Shocket and Rashid Williams-Garcia.

Located on 3rd and Lincoln across from the Bloomington Police Headquarters. Image from Google Maps.

Handwritten menu items with Mandarin included just in case you are in the know. Photo by Marta Shocket and Rashid Williams-Garcia.

The small venue provides seating for your eating pleasures. And yes, that is faded mossy oak on the front counter panels. Hilarious. Photo by Marta Shocket and Rashid Williams-Garcia.

The necessary tools of the culinary bliss trade. Photo by Marta Shocket and Rashid Williams-Garcia.

A typical delicious meal at the establishment. Photo by Nancy Q.

An action shot! Hot wok over an industrial gas range stove. Photo by Marta Shocket and Rashid Williams-Garcia.

Remember to bring cash to help your local establishment Rage Against the Machine! Photo by Marta Shocket and Rashid Williams-Garcia.

It has been hailed “The best Chinese fast-food in Indiana,” the place is owned and operated by a very nice Chinese family whose likeness I will challenge you to get acquainted with. If you are a capsaicin fiend, this place will be absolute heaven. If not, they have alternative that will still blow your minds. My girlfriend and I recommend the eggplant w/ garlic sauce (not spicy) and double pork w/ dried tofu and jalapenos (spicy). Have fun and have a wonderful new year!

Chicago … a metropolis only a short drive away!

For those who enjoy large, bustling cities, Chicago is only a short drive away.  On a recent trip to the windy city, only over three hours drive from Bloomington, I enjoyed a dinner, theatre, shopping, and cultural! Firstly, I enjoyed dinner at Russian Tea Time before laughing out of my seat watching The Book of Morman at the Bank of America Theatre around the corner.  After a wonderful night of music and food, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile has all the shopping to offer plus the Christmas spirit at the ice-skating rink in Millennium Park.  Thank goodness the weather wasn’t too cold, windy, or snowy … Chicago can be brutal with all three.  My day was also accompanied with culture with a dim sum lunch in Chinatown and tacos in La Villita.  With only a short drive from Bloomington, Chicago offers a change of pace to students who are looking for a weekend away.  Don’t forget to stop by near by Indianapolis along the way!

Gluten-Free Dining

First, allow me to state that I am neither gluten-intolerant nor celiac.  I do, however, have several family members who have been gluten-intolerant/celiac for a number of years.  Family get-togethers often involve switching to a celiac-friendly diet for the duration of the visit.  Plus, since celiac, or as I like to call “gluten-intolerance set on high,” runs strongly in families, it’s better that I don’t eat much of the stuff and will often go for days without gluten.  I don’t even know how to work with gluten anymore, only the gluten-free stuff.  The good gluten-free stuff tastes waaay better than the regular stuff anyway.  For example, I prefer Tinkyada brown rice pasta over regular pasta.  It doesn’t get mushy.  Period.  In other words, I may not be gluten-intolerant, but I know how to live like a celiac.

So, what’s the dining scene for celiacs?  You’ve probably know by now that Bloomington has an extensive list of options.  Well, while gluten-free options are not as advertised as vegetarian options, Bloomington has a lot to offer.  My sister, a celiac, says that she has an easier time eating out here than in East Lansing, MI.  I’ll go through a small selection of places that aren’t national chains in increasing order of difficulty.

Very easy:

Darn Good Soup:

Outside of Darn Good Soup. Photo taken by Lori.

It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s darn good, and all made from scratch.  If you cook much, you know that soup can easily be made without flour as long as it’s made from scratch.  Darn Good Soup changes its menu regularly, so it’s best to walk up to a worker and ask what’s gluten-free for the day.  The worker will point out anywhere between 5 to half the soups listed.  The hard part is picking a soup.

Bloomingfoods Market and Deli:

If your looking for a snack to pick up, Bloomingfoods is a good place to go.  All gluten-free items and snacks are labelled on the shelf.  The deli portion often keeps gluten-free cookies and muffins available, too.  Bloomingfoods must have dedicated cooking materials somewhere because I have not run into any cross-contamination issues with the cookies.

Gluten-Free shelf at Bloomingfoods. Photo taken by Lori



Mandalay restaurant. Photo taken by Lori

4th street is a street full of restaurants, many of them ethnic, not psuedo-ethnic.  As long as the place isn’t a buffet, gluten-free options abound.  Mandalay is a good example.  The restaurant specializes in Burmese cuisine and only uses fish sauce for the fish dishes, not soy sauce.  So, anything with fish and no wheat noodles is gluten-free.


Ami is located on 3rd street and, last I recall, kept gluten-free soy sauce available.  The workers may be a bit wary when hearing about the dietary restrictions, but they can do gluten-free.  If you’ve been to Japanese restaurants before, this is neither a surprise nor a reason for alarm.  Just remember to say, “no barley,” as well when ordering.

The Owlery:

Talking to vegetarians about gluten-intolerance is often a two-fold scenario.  On one hand, vegetarians are more likely to know what gluten is and are aware of how dietary restrictions work.  One the other hand, vegetarianism often replaces meat with more grains, especially wheat, the exact opposite of what living with gluten-intolerance requires.  So, vegetarian places understand, but may have trouble accommodating.  The Owlery, however, tries to accommodate both at the same time.  The vegetarian restaurant keeps a separate gluten-free menu and ships in breads from a gluten-free bakery in Florida.  I haven’t been able to test this place out on any celiacs yet, but it looks like a good possibility.

The Owlery is a newer restaurant in town. Look for the small building on the square. Photo taken by Lori

Le Petit Cafe pick-up window:

During the Farmer’s Market, Le Petit Cafe opens a pick-up window along a path to the Farmer’s Market.  The pick-up window offers small items for a couple dollars.  It’s a good place to pick up breakfast after going to the market.  Anyway, this past year the cafe began offering gluten-free quiche.  I haven’t come across any contamination issues here, just yummy quiche.

“Gluten-free,” but not recommended for celiac:

Chelsea’s bakery:

Chelsea’s specializes in making a variety of organic baked goods.  This bakery makes some good gluten-free items … next to some items with gluten.  So, while the bakery has options for those with gluten-intolerance, I would not recommend this place to celiacs who cannot have any cross-contamination whatsoever.

4th St buffets:

As stated before, 4th street has numerous ethnic restaurants, but some are buffets.  A situation begging for cross-contamination.  If you arrive at a buffet just as it opens and before anyone else arrives, you can collect your lunch before anyone else has a chance to mess up the buffet.  My sister and I did that with an Indian buffet on 4th St.  She can test for gluten at a distance (I have no idea how she does it) and collect the gluten-free curries before the naan gets spread around.  I would not recommend this for anyone new to the whole no-gluten thing or celiacs in general.

Studying and Sustenance

You may have heard that Bloomington has a fantastic restaurant selection, and it’s true. However, we students often don’t have time to sit down a leisurely lunch, so today I’m going to highlight some of my favorite places to grab a quick bite near campus. Here’s a map to get you oriented…

#1 – Bloomingfoods Co-op

To get to the Co-op, head down the alley on Kirkwood next to Tracks. Careful! It’s easy to miss.

Bloomingfoods is a cooperatively owned grocery store that specializes in organic food. They have several locations, including this smaller store right near campus. They have a soup and salad bar, sandwiches made to order, coffee, pastries, and pre-made items that you can grab and go. Very convenient!

Interior of Bloomingfoods, photo taken by me

#2 Sweet Claire (no same-name bias here!)

Sweet Claire’s on 3rd Street

I love this place for several reasons – great iced tea, great sandwiches (with vegetarian options), quiet atmosphere, and free wi-fi. It’s location on busy 3rd Street means that many people zoom right by it, especially since parking is hidden in back. But it’s an easy walk from campus, and a good place to either take a study break or bring your laptop and get some work done.

#3 – City Bakery

The City Bakery, tucked into the corner next to Bear’s Place

City Bakery is also easy to miss because it’s a tiny corner shop, but once you’ve discovered it you won’t forget it. The pastries – some sweet, some savory – are made from scratch every day, and they are delicious.

Spinach feta croissant? A chocolate chip scone with hints of orange?

Maybe it’s not the healthiest place to grab a snack, but their prices are very reasonable. And you can even get a super-speedy breakfast of eggs and toast – they steam their eggs with the wand on the espresso machine. If that sounds crazy, you’ll just have to go and see!

A look back at the 3rd Annual International Particle Accelerator Conference

In the late spring of 2012, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending an annual international conference held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC) was established in 2010 to join together the world’s largest organizations working on topics pertaining to particle accelerator technologies and applications. Among them includes CERN, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, IEEE, and countless national laboratories, physical societies, and accelerator facilities around the globe.

Conference poster for the 3rd annual International Particle Accelerator Conference held in New Orleans, LA, USA.

It was here that I was given the opportunity to showcase my research as well as get acquainted to the research of fellow scientists in the field. There were over 2000 participants in all. I ran into old professors and advisers, friends, and colleagues I met along the journey. I presented on the compact radio frequency accelerating structure that I built at the Center for Exploration of Energy and Matter (message me if you are interested in reading the paper). To the best of my knowledge, it the the most compact accelerating structure of its kind in current literature. Overall is the wonderful, humbling, and empowering experience for a young scholar. On the flight back to Indiana, still buzzing with excitement, all I can think of how I can keep pushing and contribute further to the accelerator physics community. I hope you’ll one day get to experience the same.

The Ernest N. Morial Conference Center setting up for IPAC 2012. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

Both researchers and vendors prepare their booths for IPAC 2012. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

The conference’s opening ceremony. Somewhere in the crowd I am sitting, absorbing the experience. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

The conference included both oral presentations and poster sessions. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

There is a coffee break between every scheduled session. This is where we grab a pick-me-up and chat. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

The billboards to the left are for research posters that rotates between specialized topics for every given day. Researchers, including myself, typically stand by their poster to answer questions. All conference proceedings must be be accompanied by a journal quality 3-page report. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

All the big vendors like Agilent and Tektronix were there to showcase their latest and greatest gadgets. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

In copper, a beautifully machined radio frequency quadrupole structure. And in Niobium, encased in glass, sits a superconducting radio frequency structure. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

It is conference tradition to pass on the ceremonial bell to each successive conference chair. The chairperson for this year’s conference is Victor Suller, the associate director of the CAMD facility at LSU. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

Victor would chime the bell giving the participants a 5-minute warning that the next session is about to commence. It was hilariously like herding cows. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

“Networking” with some fellow colleagues on Bourbon St. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

And oh, did I mention seafood? Cajan spiced deep-fried oysters with blue cheese. Photo by Cara S. Maffini.

Seafood! Soft-shell crab eggs benedict. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

SEAFOOD!!! In retrospect though, all-you-can-eat crawfish wasn’t a great idea after a long night of “networking.”

No NOLA trip is complete without a visit to the Cafe Du Monde. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

Iced coffee and sugar-coated beignets. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

Graduate Recruitment Day…Good for Current Students too!

As a current student, I always look forward to graduate student recruitment day. My department gives me a chance to partake in some of the events. Not only do I get to hear about the awesome projects of a lot of up and coming, bright, future grad students, I get to also practice my five minute spill of my work (helps me sharpen my “big picture” skills). In addition to these wonderful benefits, I get FREE food (and as a grad student, this is a big plus!!!!)

For lunch we went to the Tudor room at the IMU (here’s a link, they have such good food!!! This evening a potluck has been organized by the faculty in my specific program, and I will get to enjoy more free food, a glass of wine, and get to hang with people in my program and the prospective students.

If you are doing interviews right now, don’t worry, soon you will be on the other end, and you will be able to enjoy this process without the anxiety 🙂