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Meet our Physics Undergraduate Students

Riley Stanford, BS Physics '19

Riley Stanford

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Riley Stanford and I am currently a sophomore. I am pursuing a minor in mechanical engineering in addition to my physics major. I love food, concerts, and exploring the city! My favorite topic in physics is optics, so I started a petition to add an optics class at Drexel. We will now be offering optics starting next year!

 

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What’s your current research project? Please tell us about other research projects you were involved in.

I'm working with Professor Urbanc in the physics department studying polypeptides in the brain and how mutations can contribute to neurological diseases.

How was your co-op experience?

I have just received my first co-op in the Weapons Systems department at Lockheed Martin, and I am incredibly excited about it! The interview process was really educational for me. The co-op position I accepted is the one I was most interested in having, so I feel really honored to have the opportunity to work for such a well-known company.

What has made your experience at Drexel “special” or “unique?

The quarters definitely go by very quickly, and that has been a rewarding challenge. This way, I'll be able to take more classes in my time at Drexel than at another university. I'll also have the opportunity to gain experience through co-op. You can get so much more out of 5 years at Drexel than 4 years at another university. It's a great fit for anyone who wants to have a competitive resume coming out of college

Why would you recommend the Physics program at Drexel for undergraduate school?

I found that having a smaller department is extremely beneficial. The size allows for easy communication with professors and fellow students. The professors are extremely willing to make sure that each student understands their lessons, so long as you can show some initiative and ask for help. In my first year, I learned that asking for help is extremely rewarding and integral to the learning process. There's a strong sense of community, and everyone is very helpful.

What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?

I would strongly recommend visiting schools that you are considering and sitting in on classes ahead of time, so that you get a good feel for things.  Visiting Drexel on my own allowed me to see a physics class in action, as well as meet various people in the department that I would continue to see when I enrolled. It was by far the most important part of my decision making process.

Daniel Douglas, BS Physics '16

Daniel Douglas

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a senior undergraduate in the physics program at Drexel University. I have always been interested in science, mathematics, and computation, and physics has been an immensely rewarding pursuit because it combines all of these things. As a senior, I have completed three co-ops: one at the Proton Treatment Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, another as a data analyst at Bristol Myers Squibb, and lastly, as a research assistant at Drexel University for the international IceCube Neutrino Observatory Collaboration During my third co-op, I found an immense passion for pure research and the field of particle physics that has allowed me to travel, produce meaningful research, and has propelled me towards graduate school, which I will be attending in the coming year. My interests within physics include differential geometry, group theories of fundamental particles, computational methods, and teaching.

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What’s your current research project? Please tell us about other research projects you were involved in.

I am currently working on my senior thesis under Professor Kurahashi Neilson. I am working on an analysis of the diffuse astrophysical flux of neutrinos utilizing a predicted feature of the neutrino cross-section known as the Glashow Resonance.

Some of my past research has been with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, working on novel treatment planning techniques and new detector materials. I have also been involved in the Society of Physics Students (SPS) undergraduate projects, including CRIBFLEX, a balloon-based cosmic ray bit-flipping experiment.

Have you received any awards or scholarships while here at Drexel?

I have received the A.J. Drexel Scholarship for the entirety of my stay at Drexel. I have also received International Experience Funding from the Office of International Programs, to join our research group and present my own research in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

In October of last year, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen to present my work at the Fall IceCube Neutrino Observatory Collaboration Meeting at the University of Copenhagen.

How was your co-op experience?

My co-op experience has been extremely crucial in helping me figure out my career path. I have tried to choose co-ops with a variety of flavors within my field, and in doing so, I've learned more about the things I don't want to pursue than about those that I do.  I don't consider the time spent in co-ops in which I am less interested to be lost, rather I am really grateful that I was given a venue — and encouraged — to try my hand at different applications of my education.

What has made your experience at Drexel “special” or “unique?

I’ve discussed this a bit above. Additionally, I believe that most students approach the co-op program from a different angle than I have taken, often working with the same professor for four summers in a row. That is an entirely valid approach for an individual with different goals than my own. I admit that delving into medical physics or business analytics did not lend itself entirely to the kind of academic research that I've fallen in love with, but without trying them out, I would never have known they weren’t right for me.

Why would you recommend the Physics program at Drexel for undergraduate school?

I would recommend Drexel's undergraduate Physics program for its focus on computational methods, its attentive and involved faculty, and the co-op system. 

I've been an avid programming enthusiast since high school, and the undergraduate program's focus on computational physics piqued my interest. It wasn't until I became involved in research efforts, that I grew more and more aware that these skills and methodologies are indispensable in this field. Having a strong coding background has come up more than a few times in interviews as a huge advantage. It wasn't until talking to undergraduates from other institutions that I realized that this computational focus is fairly unique to Drexel, and really sets the program and those who attend far apart from their peers.

The faculty at Drexel are another huge advantage, in my experience.  The department itself is rather small, which allows for a more one-on-one experience with the various faculty when it comes to office hours, academic advisement, or research guidance.

As I've addressed before, there are few other opportunities to explore the breadth of your field than those that are presented by the co-op system.  It has helped me to always keep an eye towards the application of my education, as well as explore new applications.

What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?

The most important thing for an upcoming freshman, I think, is to learn about the culture of the department and find what works for you.  You will be spending 4 or 5 years working alongside the same group of people, and to get the most out of this time, it is advantageous to become involved in the department's activities.

Eesha Das Gupta, BS Physics '19

Eesha Das Gupta

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I'm from India and I'm a sophomore physics major here at Drexel University. I'm an active member of the Drexel chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), and treasurer of the Drexel Women in Physics Society (WiPS). I'm passionate about physics research and outreach and like to explore both of those areas of physics. Aside from physics, I like to sing and I'm an alto in the All-College Choir.

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What’s your current research project? Please tell us about other research projects you were involved in.

I have actively worked on two research projects in the past: analysis of seasonal variation of atmospheric neutrinos for the IceCube Neutrino Collaboration, and on CRIBFLEX, the SPS undergrad research project.

The Earth's atmosphere gets bombarded by high-energy particles from space, known as cosmic rays. Neutral and almost massless particles known as neutrinos are created in interactions between cosmic rays and the atmosphere, and are referred to as atmospheric neutrinos. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole detects these neutrinos. My job was to analyze the effect of density and temperature variation in the atmosphere on the amount of atmospheric neutrinos IceCube detects and draw conclusions about the seasonal variation of these interactions.

The other project I'm associated with is an undergraduate-run project by Drexel's Society of Physics Students (SPS). Cosmic Ray Induced Bit Flipping Experiment (CRIBFLEX) is about analyzing how cosmic rays affect modern day electronics and if these effects vary with altitude. We'll be sending a weather balloon with a solid state drive and a Geiger counter to measure cosmic ray activity.

Have you received any awards or scholarships while here at Drexel?

I was accepted into the STAR summer program my freshman year. It is a summer research program organized by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Pennoni Honors College. I worked for Professor Naoko Kurahashi Neilson and the IceCube collaboration and analyzed seasonal variation of atmospheric neutrinos.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

I have been to conferences organized by the American Physical Society, such as the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) and the APS April Meeting, 2015. I have been to CUWiP twice, and I got to visit Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and Wesleyan University, Connecticut. The 2015 APS April Meeting was in Baltimore.

How was your co-op experience?

Since I'm still a sophomore, I'm yet to start my co-op. I will be joining the Condensed Matter research group here at Drexel and will be working on analyzing data from the Scanning Tunneling Microscope.

What has made your experience at Drexel “special” or “unique?

Being a part of the Physics program makes my experiences at Drexel special! The department is very close-knit and the people are very helpful, both academically and otherwise. As a part of the two student organizations within the department, I'm always involved with something or the other, be it cool physics demos or interaction with physicists from other universities. Something exciting is always happening and there are always opportunities if you are looking for them. That's what makes physics and Drexel unique for me.

Why would you recommend the Physics program at Drexel for undergraduate school?

The Physics program at Drexel focuses quite a bit on computational aspects of physics, which is very useful for both academic and industrial research jobs. The department has a variety of research groups that provide opportunities to be involved with developments in science. Besides, the department is quite inclusive and efforts are always being made to increase diversity in the Drexel physics community.

What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?

Consider all aspects of a college education! Although academics will be, and should be, a significant part of your college life, there are other things to consider as well, such as finance, housing, community, etc. I would recommend choosing a program that offers you a decent housing and financial package in addition to good academics. You'll be gaining a lot of experience in college, both academic and non-academic, so it's important to choose an option that seems like the best combination of all those aspects.

Edward Callaghan, BS Physics '17

Ed Callaghan

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a fourth-year undergraduate student (out of five years) studying physics. My research interests are in experimental particle physics. Outside of school, I enjoy traveling, painting, and reading books.

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What’s your current research project? Please tell us about other research projects you were involved in.

Currently, I study a shadow of the moon in cosmic rays using the IceCube detector under Naoko Kurahashi Neilson, PhD. In the past, I have done background and optical model studies for the MiniCLEAN dark matter experiment and helped to construct an underground chemical purification plant at SNOLAB for the SNO+ neutrino experiment, both under Professor Joshua Klein of the University of Pennsylvania; and studied degradation in photomultiplier tube performance under Professor Charles Lane at Drexel.

Have you received any awards or scholarships while here at Drexel?

I was nominated for the Goldwater Scholarship (2016), named a Physics Fellow (2015-2016), received the M. Russell Wehr Physics Award (2015), was co-champion of the (2014) Math Department Integration Bee (of which I am particularly proud), and was a STAR Scholar (2013).

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

Yes. Due to the co-op program, I spent two summers in Canada and will be spending one soon in California.

How was your co-op experience?

Phenomenal. For the two co-ops I've already completed, I worked at SNOLAB, located in Canada, on the SNO+ neutrino experiment and the MiniCLEAN dark matter experiment on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania. For my third co-op, I'll be travelling to Stanford to work on nEXO, on behalf of Michelle Dolinski, PhD, of our own physics department at Drexel.

Why would you recommend the Physics program at Drexel for undergraduate school?

There are two reasons, both in the spirit of learning actual science. First, the computational aspect of the coursework is unmatched — I've met students from many other schools and they just haven't had the same training with computer programming. It's critical for professional research nowadays, and so becoming proficient at it early on allows you to be more successful in a research setting than you would be otherwise. Second, the co-op program is an awesome opportunity to actually learn about the field you want to go into. Whether it's academia or industry, the time spent on co-op lets you learn what's actually necessary for a successful career, and build a network.

What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?

Find a departmental representative for the schools you're considering and ask them the questions. They won't lie — if their department lacks something important to you (programming, research opportunities, a certain class), they'll tell you. From there, your priorities will guide you.

Brian Goddard, BS Physics '16

Brian Goddard

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a senior physics major graduating in June 2016. I’m originally from a suburb of Philadelphia. After graduation, I will actually be applying to medical school, and I believe the physics major trained me to think critically in a way that will be extremely useful as a physician or in virtually any career.

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What’s your current research project? Please tell us about other research projects you were involved in.

Currently I am doing my senior research with Professor Dolinski on the PROSPECT collaboration, which is doing a high-precision measurement of the antineutrino spectrum from a nuclear reactor to search for the existence of sterile neutrinos. I also completed my third co-op with Professor Dolinski on this same project. My first and second co-ops were with the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, MD doing experimental nuclear isomer research. Finally, I also participated in the STAR program the summer after my freshman year and did research with Professor Lane on cosmic muons.

Have you received any awards or scholarships while here at Drexel?

I have a full tuition scholarship to attend Drexel as a National Merit Finalist. I have received three separate departmental awards from the physics department for achievement in physics since my freshman year, as well as awards of excellence as a math tutor from the mathematics department. In addition, I was one of four campus nominees for the Goldwater Scholarship in my junior year.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

I have traveled to attend and present my research at several conferences, as well as at collaboration meetings. I have presented posters on my research at the American Physical Society's Division of Nuclear Physics Conference in Virginia in 2013 and Hawaii in 2014 and gave a talk at the American Physical Society's (APS) Mid-Atlantic section meeting in 2014 at Penn State. Complete funding for travel and lodging was provided for each of these conferences through a combination of the Department of Physics, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and the APS's Conference Experience for Undergraduates program. In addition, I had the opportunity to travel to Oak Ridge, Tennessee (the site of a national laboratory and the PROSPECT experiment) during my third co-op for a collaboration meeting.

How was your co-op experience?

I loved all three of my co-op experiences. My first was with the US Army Research Laboratory doing nuclear isomer research. I was very excited to immediately be given a project that I really felt was "mine" as an undergraduate with little past research experience. I ended up enjoying my experience so much that I returned for my second co-op. My most recent co-op was with Professor Dolinski and I could not have asked for a better advisor. She truly cares about her students and really wants to see them succeed in everything that they do. I have learned an incredible amount working with her and have truly enjoyed it.

What has made your experience at Drexel “special” or “unique?

I feel that I was exposed to such an incredible diversity of experiences and opportunities while at Drexel. Whether it was opportunities offered by the physics department, the Office of Undergraduate Research or any other part of the University, I believe I was provided countless opportunities to excel.

Why would you recommend the Physics program at Drexel for undergraduate school?

I had no idea as I was beginning my undergraduate career what an excellent choice Drexel would turn out to be as a university at which to study physics. The department is large enough to have exciting research in several different areas of physics so that you will be sure to find something you would like to work on, and yet small enough that it's easy to get to know everyone and all the professors are very approachable. The co-op system in particular is a huge advantage for someone studying physics because it gives you the opportunity to have a full 18 months of full-time research under your belt before graduation, which is much more than you would have at a traditional university and is critical if you will be applying to graduate school.

What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?

I would definitely recommend looking into what areas of research the department you’re considering has to offer to make sure they have multiple different areas, because you never know how your interests might change and develop over your undergraduate career. I would also recommend talking to current students to get their impression of the department because they can provide invaluable insight.

Mark Giovinazzi, BS Physics '18

Mark Giovinazzi

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a third year physics major with a double minor in astrophysics and mathematics. My current research interests include astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology; after Drexel, I plan to pursue my PhD in one of these fields. Since coming to Drexel, I have been very involved with both my community and school, acting last year as President of Circle K and currently as President of the Society of Physics Students. I grew up in a rural area in southern New Jersey and in my spare time, I enjoy going to baseball games, playing sports, listening to music and spending time with friends and family. For the record, my favorite physical constant is the speed of light.

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What’s your current research project? Please tell us about other research projects you were involved in.

I am currently a computational data scientist for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory collaboration. In addition to this, I have worked in an experimental cosmology lab to assist in the design and construction of a balloon-borne telescope in order to study the effects magnetic fields have in star formation. I have also done computational research involving the modeling of star clusters.

Have you received any awards or scholarships while here at Drexel?

I am the recipient of the annual A.J. Drexel Scholarship, the Drexel Family Scholarship, the M. Russell Wehr Physics Award and the One Year Circle K Scholarship. I have also been admitted into the Pennoni Honors College and STAR (Students Tackling Advance Research) Scholar program. Most recently though I was recognized as a Supernova Undergraduate Research Fellow.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

I took part in Drexel’s Alternative Spring Break program to build houses for a week with Habitat for Humanity in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This was a life-changing experience in which I had the pleasure of befriending some exceptional people in the Bridgeport community as well as making some lifelong friends from Drexel. In addition, I was granted the opportunity to attend the American Physical Society’s Mid-Atlantic meeting at the beginning of my sophomore year to present prior research I had done. This was a great chance to display my hard work, learn more about research and network with other physicists from around the world. While I have never studied nor completed a co-op abroad, I was asked to come to Antarctica to assist in the launch of a balloon-borne telescope. Even though the trip wound up falling through, Drexel would have approved for me to take the necessary time to complete such an extraordinary adventure for co-op.

How was your co-op experience?

The co-op program has treated me phenomenally. I have completed advanced physics research at both Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. Currently in my second cooperative opportunity, I feel that I have gotten the most out of the program. Respectively, I have done research in experimental cosmology and computational astroparticle physics, which are truly opposite ends of the physical science spectrum. In this way, I have been able to learn how physics research in all capacities are structured. Through these experiences I have networked with a multitude of graduate students, researchers, scientists and faculty from all over the world, many of which have helped me tremendously as both a student and a person. My experiences have prepared me for life after Drexel and will have made me a much more competitive candidate when the time comes for me to apply to graduate schools.

What has made your experience at Drexel “special” or “unique?

Since the first week of my freshman year, I have held an officer position in two different clubs, one of which is the Society of Physics Students. I have also played various intramural sports. Joining these clubs and teams early has been such a fun experience and has afforded me the chance to meet and befriend many new students from different disciplines. I have also held a position at Lincoln Financial Field as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles for three years now, and it has rooted me to the City of Brotherly Love more than I ever thought possible. Whether it has been volunteering at the Philadelphia Science Festival, seeing the Philadelphia Tall Ships Festival, attending Phillies games, walking across the city at night or admiring the skyline at three in the morning, Philly has become a second home to me and it has made my time here truly unique. Engaging myself in both the Drexel community and Philadelphia has helped me to make the most of my time here in college. To future students: get involved early and love this city, I promise you will not regret it.

Why would you recommend the Physics program at Drexel for undergraduate school?

For starters, the faculty within the Drexel Physics department are exceptional as professors, mentors and researchers. As far as the course load goes, physics majors at Drexel have access to the same level of education as any top program in the country; however, I find that Drexel has many top Physics departments beat in a number of ways. One of the first things Drexel physics majors will learn how to do is program computers, primarily in Python and C++; this is a very up and coming skill that many Physics departments do not require. I really want to emphasize the importance of this though, because physics majors who can write code are far more valuable to employers and graduate schools than those who cannot, seeing as many real physics problems nowadays involve calculations that only a computer can solve. Of course, this answer would not be complete if I failed to mention Drexel’s co-op program, which does wonders for physics majors since many do not have a great concept of what can be done with a Physics degree. Co-op here provides a taste of either physics research or physics in industry (or even work in another discipline should a student wish to try something other than physics). Fortunately for physics majors who choose to come to Drexel and take advantage of the cooperative experience, they can try multiple things to decide for themselves what they do and do not enjoy, and sometimes the best internships are the ones that students do not like. For this reason, I would advise students to try new and different things on their co-ops. Regardless of the outcome of a physics major’s cooperative experience here, they will have a tremendous amount of hard work to boast about on their résumé when it comes time to apply to jobs or graduate schools.

What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?

I would tell any high school student that the most important aspect of an undergraduate education cannot be learned by sitting in a classroom, but rather experienced outside of one (and no, I do not mean skipping class). When looking at colleges and universities, I advise students to look for programs and opportunities that can diversify them come the time to find a job or further schooling after graduation. For me, it was the Physics department and co-op system that I felt would set me apart from other candidates when applying to graduate school after Drexel. If you have questions about the department or college before applying, students should not be afraid to contact a professor; it makes for a good show of initiative and he/she will be more than happy to help out.