Alumni Spotlight – Cenji Yu

Meet Cenji Yu, medical physics PhD student at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Cenji graduated from the Wake Forest Department of Physics in 2018. Professor Salsbury discusses with Cenji his experiences as an undergraduate and how Wake prepared him for graduate studies.

Prof. Salsbury: What are you doing now career-wise?

Cenji: I am currently a medical physics PhD student at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. My research focuses on automation in pancreatic and liver radiation treatment using artificial intelligence. I am hoping to enter a medical physics residency this coming summer.

Prof. Salsbury: How did Wake Forest Physics help you get where you are today?

Cenji: The physics department at Wake Forest introduced me to academic research. I worked on computational molecular dynamics research with Dr. Fred Salsbury for two years. This research experience helped me immensely in transitioning into the graduate school. The extensive coding, presentation, and writing experience enabled me to hit the ground running as I start my research at a graduate level. In addition, our rigorous academic curriculum set a solid foundation for graduate level coursework. I still refer to our modern physics curriculum sometimes when preparing for board exams. Our department molded us into well-qualified candidates for the field of medical physics.

Prof. Salsbury: Do you have an anecdote you would care to share either from your time at Wake Forest physics or from afterward relevant to Wake Physics?

Cenji: I was introduced to Dr. Bourland by Dr. Salsbury during my junior year of college, who was an adjunct faculty in our physics department. I had no idea what the field of medical physics was at the time. Dr. Bourland and Dr. Munley introduced me to the field and showed me a radiation oncology clinic for the first time. I ran into Dr. Bourland again last year at our annual meeting and he is now the president of American Association of Physicists in Medicine. I mentioned how he impacted my career, and we even took a photo together. Also Dr. Oana Jurchescu’s general physics class! She used Formula 1 examples for laws of motion back in 2014. It was so hard to find a Formula 1 fan back then. That moment sealed the deal for me to become a physics major at Wake Forest.

Prof. Salsbury: Is there anything you would like to share with prospective or current students?

Cenji: One of the unique aspects of Wake Physics is how integrated we are within the college and the medical school. You will have friends who are taking upper-level chemistry and biology. Your professor might be working closely with the medical school. We are fortunate to have this environment where the department encourages us to try out interdisciplinary work. Our rigorous curriculum also cultivates quantitative skills which are becoming crucial in interdisciplinary research. I think studying physics at Wake is a great opportunity for students to grow and find out what we truly enjoy before we embark on our career.