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2021 Physics Graduates
Krislyn Sourivong came, as a freshman, to Radford University from Honolulu, Hawaii. She has majored in Physics with a concentration in Earth and Space Science; minoring in both Mathematics and Astronomy. She is a member of the Society of Physics Students and has had several roles within the Physics department, including Teaching Assistant and Planetarium Operator. Spending “…summers in the local library …trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible…” She was able to discover her love of Astronomy and her desire to become an Astrophysicist was born.
“During my time here at Radford University, I was lucky enough to gain a considerable amount of experience in undergraduate research.” From Dr. Herman’s (“…nothing but supportive and encouraging) classes in physics and her job in the Planetarium, to research projects with Dr. Liss (“…a wonderful mentor figure and role model for women in the STEM field.”) and Dr. Wirgau in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS), Krislyn been able to learn and gain experience with professionals in her chosen field, which will help her gain employment and further her education. “With each program, I had the opportunity to present my findings at a variety of locations, ranging from local to out of state conferences.”
Her future plans include gaining her Ph.D in Astronomy. “If things go well and I get accepted to a university for my Ph.D, I can easily see myself dedicating 8+ years to earning that degree. Gaining employment allowing her to “…work with specific instrumentation relevant to [her] field of study…” would be another option depending on which direction her life flows. Advice for future freshmen or transfer students interested in Phyics or Astronomy is to “…stay motivated and confident in your own abilities.” “There is no shame in asking for help and Radford University has a reliable net of support with professors who deeply care about your performance in the program and fellow classmates who all want to help each other succeed.”
Chris Mattson, from Willis, Virginia, enrolled in Radford University’s Dual Degree program for Physics and Engineering, along with a minor in Mathematics. Graduating with distinction, Chris has been a member of the Society of Physics Students, here at RU along with being a tutor for the Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC).
“I thought that was a lot of fun and built up some teaching skills as well as helped me solidify my understanding of the basics which I found very valuable.”
In high school, Chris decided on Physics during his sophomore and junior years. “I wanted to do something related to either space or aviation and I felt Physics would be a good way to get introduced to both. I also started to hear about getting a degree in engineering along with the physics degree and thought that was the best thing I could do.” Now, five years of college later, Chris has earned two degrees; one in Physics from RU and one in Engineering from Virginia Tech.
During his time here at RU, he was able to participate in a study abroad research program in Utqiagvik, Alaska. Building on previous student’s work and devising original research is the goal for each student traveling to Utqiagvik. This week-long expedition takes place every other spring and Chris “…worked with Dr. Herman to develop a plan for making a non-invasive method of measuring sea-ice…”
Future plans for Chris include gaining employment; possibly with the Space Force section of the U.S. Air Force. For upcoming and present Physics students, his advice is simple “Get ahead on your work and form good habits. Also, start applying to internships earlier.”
Hunter Brandon, from Galax, Virginia, will be graduating with a double major in Physics and Chemistry this Spring 2021. When he first came to RU he was only majoring in Chemistry. Traveling to Utqiagvik, Alaska on a research team from the Physics department was the starting point of his interest in physics. “In [his] junior year, with a lot of encouragement from Dr. Shawn Huston, [he] decided that [he] wanted to further [his] physics education and added it as [his] second major.” Citing Modern Physics as his favorite course, he adds that “It was all of the amazing faculty members we have in the department that really made me love physics.”
Staying on top of his grades, he was able to participate in several research projects throughout his college adventure. After his research trip to Alaska in his freshman year, he was able to work with Dr. Cindy Burkhardt in the Chemistry Department “…to develop a method using ion chromatography to quantify the amount of phosphorous containing pesticides on basil leaves. Then in my senior year, I explored inorganic synthetic routes that could produce xenophilic metal clusters with Dr. George Harakas.”
His future plans are to be starting a career in chemistry or material science. “I want to have a job where I can learn something new about chemistry and physics every day.” After making his footprint in the science world for a few years, he plans to go back and work on a Master’s degree in Material Science. His advice for future physics majors? “Get involved. Get to know as many people as you can, either passively or actively, so you can make study groups or to just have a community that you can complain about homework with and laugh.”
Caitlynn Fischer came to Radford University from San Antonio, Texas. She has graduated with a major in Physics and a minor in Astronomy. During her time with us, on top of her studies, she helped the department as a Teaching Assistant in Physics and Astronomy Labs and was a part of the Summer Bridge program. She was able to earn a membership in the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma. Caitlynn “…decided to become a Physics major after taking two high school level physics classes. I was so intrigued by the subjects and projects that I knew I wanted to study physics.”
Her favorite classes include Astronomy and Quantum Mechanics because “…they genuinely make you think and are just fun in general.” She was able to take advantage of a summer undergraduate research opportunity that dealt with interacting dwarf galaxies, with her Astronomy instructor, Dr. Sandra Liss. Just one of the many research prospects here at Radford University. After graduating, Caitlynn plans to become a High School Physics teacher. If a position doesn’t come along right away, she plans to “…go to graduate school to obtain my Master of Science in Education and work towards my teaching license.” Her five-year outlook is to be teaching high school Physics and get her “…students interested in STEM subjects.”
Her advice for future Physics Freshmen is to “…not be afraid to ask your professors for help and take the more challenging classes since they are so much fun and worth the time and effort!”
From Virginia Beach, VA, Aaron Bricker majored in Physics here at Radford University. While learning in a governor’s school STEM program, Aaron’s interest in Physics and Mechanical Engineering began. “I…look to people like Edison, Graham-Bell, or even Franklin and imagine how different the world might be had they not been curious about…the way things work or behave.” The Physics program at Radford University was just the ticket for Aaron to let his curiosity run wild and learn about our world. First interested in mechanical engineering, physics took priority and, “…I have not looked back.”
One of the factors that led to Aaron’s success was the professors that “…truly care about their students and their education. Each one is incredibly knowledgeable and more than willing to work with you to ensure you are getting the most out of your education.” Putting knowledge into action with real life applications and research is a big part of the Physics education. Dr. Herman’s Thermodynamics class was able to navigate a project to study “…the albedo of asphalt and the potential effects on the surrounding atmosphere should all roads and parking lots be painted white.” “Each group had to independently create a structure to observe and record data for their specific aspect, which was culminated into a larger picture at the end of the semester.” Aaron’s future holds many possibilities. If Aaron was able to have more time at Radford, he would like to “…take a higher-level thermodynamics course or a fluid dynamics course.” One ambition is to work “…abroad before returning for graduate school.”
Five years is a large stretch of time that can always take different routes. When asked what his plan was Aaron responded, “Life is unpredictable. Something could happen tomorrow that changes everything you had planned for, so I think it is more about making the most of what happens today and exploring all opportunities along the way and wherever that may take me, I am certain I will be happy.” To future freshmen that are considering a physics education, he advises them to “…go for it.” “You are constantly learning, seeing, and doing something new in a variety of different fields, and if you don’t care for one particular course, just push through because the next one might be something that you truly…enjoy.”
Inspired by his high school teacher, Mrs. Hotchkiss, Anith Muthalaly came to us from Warrenton, VA; “Deep down, I want to make her proud of me…” and with a major in Physics and a minor in Mathematics, we are sure that he has accomplished that goal. One thing that connects the two fields of study for Anith is “How mathematics is applied to our physical world…” Serving as an Academic Coach for the Harvey Center, he is also able to help others achieve that deeper understanding of our world.
One of the research projects Anith was involved with was “…researching the urban heat island effect on our atmosphere,” during the PHYS 330 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics class. This experiment involved designing, building and utilizing electronic equipment to “…draw conclusions about the infrared radiation warming our atmosphere, specifically quantifying how much heat energy would be reflected rather than absorbed.” Another class, PHYS 406 Geophysics, surveys that created data for the NRV Commerce Park to determine “…whether it is safe to begin constructing a new building…” This is academic research that is being used in real time with collaboration from the city of Radford and businesses surrounding Radford University.
Future plans for Anith include finding a job and pursuing graduate school part time. His five-year outlook is bright as he looks “…forward to solving more equations in my free time and continue learning more about physics and math independently before and during graduate school, and for the rest of my life.” His advice for Physics majors that follow? “Take initiative to learn the necessary mathematics before you take any physics or math class for college credit. This will put you leagues ahead of your classmates and make you stand out academically.” “No matter how outstanding or poorly you perform on graded assignments and exams, never give up on yourself if you really want to pursue this, and talk to other professors for multiple ways to understand problems.”
With a Physics major and a Mathematics minor, Quinn worked extensively as a laboratory teaching assistant, as well as the upper level Electronics class. He was able to demonstrate his own understanding of all aspects of physics, even helping out remotely during the 7 weeks of completely-remote learning during the spring of 2020.
Quinn participated in a number of research projects. His first was the 2018 Arctic Geophysics research experience. Quinn had a gift for repairing the initial cart that the students had designed and built. The cart kept breaking apart in Alaska in the extreme cold on the sea ice when it was deployed. He was able to improvise in his repairs with the extremely-limited resources that the group had in Alaska. Other research projects include a microclimate project in PHYS 301 (Atmospheric Physics) and an Earth-albedo project in PHYS 330 (Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics). Both of these required the design and construction of Arduino microcontroller-based sensors, which fit well with his natural abilities in electronics and building things. You can check out one of his electronics design projects in the “Minerals of Virginia” display in the Museum Of The Earth Sciences in the Center for the Sciences. Every time you light up the big board in that display, you should think of Quinn!