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Meet our Physics Undergraduate Students

Mark Giovinazzi, BS Physics '18

Mark Giovinazzi

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a fifth year Physics major with a concentration in Astrophysics and a minor in 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 previously as President of both Circle K and 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 conducting my senior research project with Stephen McMillan, PhD, to make various simulations depicting both exoplanets and star clusters. In addition to this, I have worked under Naoko Neilson, PhD, as a computational data scientist for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory collaboration. The best part about working for IceCube was the vast amount of presentation experience I gained; being a part of such a large collaboration allowed me to speak at three different reputable physics conferences! Before that, I was part of 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. The coolest part about this was building components that will fly up to the edge of space (December 2017, the project is called BLAST; keep your eyes peeled!). I have also done computational research involving the modeling of star clusters. This was a wonderful research experience because while it was only my first, it happened to be the type of research which I now realize is what I wish to pursue in the future.

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

I am the recipient of the annual A.J. Drexel Scholarship, the one-time Drexel Family Scholarship, the M. Russell Wehr Physics Award, the Henry S.C. Chen Memorial Award for Physics, 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; I am also 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 proud 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. Most recently, though, I had the privilege of being sponsored by both Drexel and the Society of Physics Students (SPS) to attend PhysCon in San Francisco, California. This trip allowed me foremost to present prior astrophysics research that I had completed; more memorably, though, I had the chance to explore a city which was thousands of miles further from home than I had ever been before. Thanks to funding and successful travel grants from Drexel and SPS, I was able to attend one of the world’s largest undergraduate physics conference to present my work, learn a lot about what other physics undergraduates around the country are researching, and explore one of my new favorite cities in the world!

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. In addition, I have also worked at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories to gain research experience in electronics warfare (something outside of pure physics for good measure). I feel that I have gotten the most out of the program; respectively, I have done research in experimental cosmology, computational astroparticle physics (which are truly opposite ends of the physical science spectrum), and a different, more industrial area of research which is predominantly engineering based. In this way, I have been able to learn not only how physics research in all capacities are structured, but how research outside of physics is run. This conglomeration of experiences has taught me that researching astrophysics truly is what I wish to do for the rest of my life. 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 physics graduate schools.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with on campus?

I am very active in both Drexel University Circle K and the Society of Physics Students (both of which I have previously been President of). In addition, I have also been captain of Drexel Intramural teams such as softball (2017 2nd place finish!) and football.

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 being the Physics department’s own 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 at Drexel. 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 here 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 will diversify them in job or grad school applications. 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.

Eesha Das Gupta, BS Physics '19

Eesha Das Gupta

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am currently a fourth year physics major here at Drexel. I'm an active member of the Drexel chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), and Vice President of the Drexel Women in Physics Society (WiPS). I'm interested in computational physics research and physics outreach, and like to explore both as a part of the Drexel physics department.

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

I am currently interested in computational astrophysics research, and I would like to be involved in a related project for my senior research and my third co-op.
I worked with the IceCube Collaboration and Naoko Kurahashi Neilson, PhD, as a STAR scholar, my freshman year, and then worked with a condensed matter group at Drexel under Goran Karapetrov, PhD, for my first co-op. The IceCube Neutrino observatory at the South Pole, detects fundamental particles called neutrinos of astrophysical nature and those produced in interactions between cosmic rays and earth's atmosphere. My job was to analyze the effect of density and temperature variation in the atmosphere on the count rate of the neutrinos IceCube detects, and observe a seasonal variation in the data.

My co-op involved growing thin films of Titanium diselenide, a layered material, which displays superconductivity at lower temperatures when doped with copper. Over the summer, we grew thin films as thin as 4 nanometers, and characterized it under optical microscope, atomic force microscope (AFM), and other techniques. As a co-op student, I got to work very closely with these and more equipments and that was a very cool experience!

Both these projects were very different from each other, one was heavily computational and the other required extensive lab work.

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

I was a STAR scholar my freshman year and received the opportunity to work with Professor Neilson, as mentioned above. I have also been a Peer Mentor for incoming physics students and have been a TA of the University 101 course, as a part of it. I was the Physics Fellow for the 2016-17 academic year, and assisted freshmen with physics and math coursework.

I have also received the Larson Endowed Scholarship, Russell Wehr Physics Award, and the AJ Drexel Scholarship.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

I have been to three APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics, at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Wesleyan University, and Princeton University. I have also been to the 2015 APS April Meeting in Baltimore, MD and SPS Quadrennial Physics Congress in San Francisco, CA.

How was your co-op experience?

My first co-op with Professor Karapetrov was very helpful in broadening my scope of physics research. The intersections between condensed matter physics, chemistry, chemical and material science engineering, gave me a broader perspective and helped me tone my work interests.

My second co-op was at AmeriQuest Business Services in Cherry Hill, NJ as a programmer intern in IT, and it helped me identify industrial applications of a physics education. I am planning on going to grad school, but the co-op program helped me explore alternatives to research, in case I ever need to move to industry.

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.

Emily Harkness, BS Physics '20

Emily Harkness

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Swarthmore, PA, a small town in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I came to Drexel as an Engineering major and switched to Physics after my first year. I love spending time with my a cappella friends, studying with the other physics majors and playing with my cat, Steve French.

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

I'm currently doing biophysics research with Frank Ferrone, PhD. I'm revamping our laser photolysis experiment (once used to observe polymerization rates of sickle cell hemoglobin) in order to look at how sickle hemoglobin behaves under different pH environments.

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

I received the A.J. Drexel scholarship upon entering Drexel and in 2017 won the Walter R. Coley award for academic excellence in physics.

How was your co-op experience?

My co-op experience has been fantastic! I've discovered a lot about my own ambitions through co-op while also learning about what it's really like to do research. While it's often frustrating in the moment to deal with a particular roadblock in research, looking back I realize that I've accomplished so much in a very short period of time.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with on campus?

I'm the PR chair for my a cappella group, the Drexel TrebleMakers. I joined when I was a freshman, and I'm so glad I did! A cappella is a great outlet for my otherwise STEM-oriented life.

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

What makes Drexel unique, to me at least, is the community. Drexel is a place where students really support each other in all endeavors because the programs are so challenging. We know how difficult it can be to keep up here, so we really make efforts to help each other out.

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

The Physics community at Drexel is fantastic. It's a small, close-knit group of people with a passion for learning and scientific thought. My professors know me and greet me in the hall, I work with my TAs during co-op, and I'm a mentor to younger students. If a prospective student wants a supportive community in a difficult and rewarding major, I would recommend the Physics program whole-heartedly.

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

My advice for a high school student interested in Physics would be to keep an open mind. Coming in to the program, I had a lot of ideas about the major that turned out to be totally wrong. I thought I wanted to be a theorist, now I'm leaning towards medical physics. Before that I wanted to be a teacher. There are so many possibilities in physics, so try to explore every opportunity so you know what's out there!

James Minock, BS Physics '20

James Minock

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a third year undergraduate physics major who has been working in neutrino physics research. I am pursuing a minor in computer science, I maintain a part-time job during academic terms at Hagerty Library, and I am the Event Coordinator/Director of Outreach for Drexel’s Chapter of Society of Physics Students. In addition, I am also a part of the Honors Program. In the spare time I can find, I like to play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends.

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

Currently, I work under Michelle Dolinski, PhD, for the PROSPECT Collaboration. It is a sterile neutrino oscillation detection experiment that will be collecting data at Oakridge Laboratory. For my part, I have mostly been on the computational side, comparing simulation and real data and analyzing methods for best Pulse Shape Discrimination. I have also had the privilege to travel to Yale University for assembly work for components of the detector.

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

Since the first term, I have been able to maintain Dean’s List.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

Yes, I have spent a total of 5 weeks at Wright Laboratory at Yale University. It was a wonderful experience where I learned from a hands-on perspective how particle detection works (and particle detector construction). I was able to meet other members of the collaboration along with other particle physics collaborations, and sit in on lectures from distinguished Yale alumni and physicists.

How was your co-op experience?

It was an excellent experience! I learned much regarding nuclear and particle physics, and I learned even more about the general research experience. This experience gave me a taste for graduate school, and it really helped assure me that this is something I would love to do with my life.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with on campus?

I am a member and officer of Drexel’s Society of Physics Students. I act as the Event Coordinator and the Director of Outreach. The club helped break me out of my shell and helped me become more involved with the physics department, fellow undergraduates, and volunteer service in general. It is my goal for the club to be a source of camaraderie among undergraduates interested in physics, and for the club to give back to the community in the best way that we can. If you are interested in physics, feel free to stop by a meeting! We love new and old faces!

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

The most important part of my Drexel physics experience has been the stellar professors that are a part of the physics department. From the faculty that I have had and worked with, there is a real sense that they care about student education and experience. This collaboration also helps with their research and how they do it – it makes Drexel physics an excellent department. Aside from that, the STAR Program and co-op have allowed me to do actual research work and hands-on construction work at Yale, things I never thought I would be doing in college.

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

As I have said before, I am a big fan of many of the professors of physics at Drexel. I have found a significant difference between departments, and in general the professors of physics are by far my favorite. Also, due to the co-op terms, it can give students hands-on experience that is very hard to get as undergraduates. I feel very relieved knowing that I will have research and work experience under my belt when applying to graduate schools, even when applying for a non-research job. Experience to me seems to be crucial, and this department and University provide that experience.

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

If you are certain or not about what you want to do with physics or even if it entails physics, join a program that has more to offer than just classes that give you credit. You should enroll with the expectation to have a variety of experiences. These experiences can range from making connections with professors, learning and becoming inspired in the classroom from excellent lecturers, being able to do research, being part of a community that matches your love of physics, and being exposed to the different branches of physics or things that can be done with a degree in physics (education and policy). In looking for an undergraduate physics program, choose one that offers a variety of experiences.

Andrew Pellegrino, BS Physics '18

Andrew Pellegrino

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a senior in Physics concentrating in Astrophysics; I am planning to continue my Astrophysics studies in grad school. I also love coding, and I’m minoring in Computer Science.

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

For my current co-op I’ve been studying the large-scale structure of matter in the universe and how it relates to quasar black hole mass through the two-point correlation function. In the process I’ve written my own software package for computing the correlation function which we’ll be releasing soon. Last year I worked on a new comprehensive simulation of star cluster formation which included the effects of stellar winds, radiation and supernovae, and is now being run on Cartesius, the Dutch national supercomputer.

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

This year I received the Lorenzo M. Narducci Memorial Endowed Scholarship from the Physics department, and an honorable mention for the Goldwater Scholarship.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with on campus?

I’m the secretary for the Society of Physics Students. We do things like educational outreach for high school students and the general public as well as social events for undergraduates. I’ve also been involved with CRIBFLEX, an undergrad research project to study the effect of cosmic rays on computer memory at high altitudes.

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

For me, the co-op program has been absolutely crucial to starting a career in physics. If you’re thinking about grad school, co-ops might be the best thing you can do make yourself more qualified. It’s said that research experience is the most important part of a grad school application, and you’ll get plenty of research experience by doing three co-ops. We have faculty at Drexel doing some pretty important research, so it’s great to get involved now, and the practical experience is rewarding in itself.

Keziah Sheldon, BS Physics '19

Keziah Sheldon

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a 4th year undergraduate physics major, I’m also a cellist, and I love coffee!

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

My current research project is exploring the ICA weight space of 75,000 quasars to find possible luminosity correlations, which would be useful in constraining cosmological parameters. I’ve also been working on an archival search for existing HST quasar spectra to be used in a large scale with ground-based spectra for a further comprehensive analysis of the quasar population.

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

I’ve been a recipient of the Drexel Undergraduate Physics Fellows, and the Performing Arts Scholarship.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

I was able to go to Canada for part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program with the University of Toronto’s Astronomy department, and it was awesome! On a shorter term scale, I’ve also been to the 2016 SPS PhysCon in San Francisco, and the APS April 2015 meeting in Baltimore.

How was your co-op experience?

My co-ops have been with Gordon Richards, PhD. For my first co-op I did an analysis of 24 new HST quasar spectra and an archival search for existing quasar spectra taken with the HST. My second co-op was part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the University of Toronto. I worked on using quasars as a possible standardizable candle for cosmological constraints.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with on campus?

I’m a cellist in the Drexel University Orchestra and president of the Women in Physics Society.

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

The co-op program at Drexel has facilitated great opportunities to get involved with active research groups, and spend the co-op period as a student researcher. The six month period of co-op is a great opportunity to tackle a project.

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

I would recommend the physics program at Drexel as a great starting point to get computational experience, as well as the opportunities for working as an undergraduate researcher within the department.

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

Don’t be shy about contacting the student group leaders (Society of Physics Students, Women in Physics etc) about their experience and the student dynamic. They are there to help!

Riley Stanford, BS Physics '19

Riley Stanford

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Riley Stanford and I am currently a junior. I am pursuing minors in mechanical engineering and math in addition to my physics major. I love food, dogs, concerts and exploring Philadelphia! My favorite topic in physics is optics, so I started a petition to add an optics class at Drexel, which I got to take in the winter 2016 quarter!

 

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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 Brigit Urbanc, PhD, in the physics department studying proteins in the brain and how their mutations can contribute to neurological diseases.

How was your co-op experience?

I did my first and second co-ops in the Weapons Systems and Command & Decision departments at Lockheed Martin; I have had a great experience there. Also, the interview process was really educational for me. I really like getting to interview at a diverse range of positions, it helps you make the most informed decisions about your career and helps you quickly decide what you do and do not like in an employer.

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.

Cuong Trinh, BS Physics '19

Cuong Trinh

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Cuong Trinh, I’m currently a fourth year Physics/Chemistry double major at Drexel University. As a fourth year student, I had two co-op opportunities, which I spent working on particle physics research.

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

My current research project is named PROSPECT, or Precision Reactor Oscillation and SPECTrum experiment. My part of the project is working on a calibration system that injects short pulses of laser light into the main detector. I’m also experimenting with a neutron simulation that may be used for PROSPECT calibration. Along with that, I’m also developing a slow control system that can monitor and control the PROSPECT detector (this is perhaps the coolest part of my research). During my freshman year, I worked on a biophysics project that used atomic force microscopy.

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

I have received the Drexel Dragon Scholarship and AJ Drexel Scholarship.

Were you provided with opportunities to travel?

During my research, I had a number of travel opportunities. Several of these were to Yale University to work on a prototype of the PROSPECT detector and to do some preparation work for the assembly of the full-scale detector. One major travel opportunity that I had was to go to the APS Division of Nuclear Physics conference in Vancouver to give a presentation on the laser calibration system. This was pretty cool, as I got to meet a lot of people in the field, including other students who are also doing research in particle and nuclear physics.

How was your co-op experience?

My co-op experience was pretty cool. The entire process places you in a job-seeking simulation, which to me was interesting. Personally, the co-op that I have been doing for two years now is great because, as stated earlier, I got to travel to different places to present my work as well as work on other projects. Additionally, I got the opportunity to work with several professors and postdocs who are more knowledgeable in the field, and from them I’ve been able to learn and experiment with new ideas. Overall, the work I’m doing is teaching me a lot, in this case about neutrino physics.

What extracurricular activities are you involved with on campus?

I’m involved in several clubs and organizations on campus. Some of the ones I’m most active in are the Society of Physics Students, the Vietnamese Student Association, and the Asian Student Association.

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

I feel like what made my experience at Drexel unique was the large number of research opportunities at this institution. Additionally, the small class sizes provided me with a good environment to explore and develop.

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

If you are going to attend Drexel, I would recommend Physics over other majors. One major reason is the smaller class size in Physics, which is a better learning environment compared to the larger class sizes in some other majors. I feel another reason to major in Physics is that you can be a part of a research team more easily than in other majors at Drexel. Overall, Physics is just a wonderful major.

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

The best advice given to me was never hesitate to ask a question or ask for help from other people, and never be afraid to try something. I feel like that same advice is valuable to any graduating high school student.