Degree/Year: B.S., Physics, 2007
Current Employer: ProCure Treatment Centers
Title: Medical Physicist
Initially, I was attracted to the idea of being able to figure out how the world works. After seeing enough Discovery Channel specials about black holes and the mysteries of the universe, I decided that I wanted to know that stuff, too. In obtaining my degree, I found that the stuff you see on TV is generally not what you learn as an undergrad. What kept me interested was the challenge of physics. There was always something new to learn and a different way to do something I already knew. And rather than learning long lists of facts, I was learning new ways of thinking and problem solving. It was very satisfying to know that I was training myself to think in a new way.
Medical physics, my line of work, is a specific sub-field of physics. I use physics to ensure that radiation cancer therapy is safely delivered to patients. This requires knowledge of the specific equipment used but also a general knowledge of particle physics, electromagnetism, basic kinematics and several other general areas of physics. What I enjoy most about this line of work is using my knowledge of physics in an applicable way to help others. I’ve always enjoyed physics on its own, but practicing in the medical field in a clinical setting is very gratifying.
My physics degree is probably the most directly beneficial aspect of my education to my career. While there are other ways to break into the field, having a B.S. in physics is the easiest. But more than simply earning the degree, my time at Bradley helped me learn how to be resourceful and work with the people around me. Outside of physics, these are probably the most valuable skills I learned. Whether or not you pursue physics beyond the undergrad level, these two skills are always applicable.
Physics is not the easiest discipline to study, but it can be one of the most rewarding. You will get a lot out of it, but you have to be willing to put in the work. Make friends with your classmates. Learn from them and let them learn from you; you might be surprised at what you can figure out by talking to someone else. If you can, sign up to be a tutor. The best way to make sure you know something is to teach it. Talk to your professors because they’re there to help you and nothing gets on their nerves more than students who don’t ask questions.
Finally, always remember that even if it doesn’t seem like it, everything has a solution.
Dr. Kevin Garcia
Degree/Year: B.S., Physics, Minor Mathematics, 1985, Bradley; Ph.D., Optical Sciences, 1999, UA
Current Employer: Breault Research Organization, Inc.
My attraction to physics stems from my early childhood interest in astronomy. My original goal was to become an astronomer. Astronomy is basically an observational science of the universe that utilizes a number of optical instruments to make those observations. Unfortunately, the field of astronomy at the time had limited job opportunities, but through astronomy I became very interested in the field of optics, which is a branch of physics. I was fascinated by the computational capabilities of optics to describe the behavior of light interacting with optical materials and decided to pursue a career where I could actually use a substantial amount of my mathematical education.
As the CEO of an optics technology company, I am required to not only set the corporate strategic direction but also to make technology related decisions on a daily basis. Markets are served by products that are predicated on technology. Therefore, key strategy and management decisions start with technology because it provides the basis of all product development. My general background in physics, with a specialization in optics, allows me to set strategic direction and make those decisions because I am able to understand and speak the technical language of the scientist and engineer. I am an informed manager and I am able to make better decisions because of my technical background. Furthermore, my technical staff knows better than to try to “pull the wool over my eyes” on technical issues and they respect a manager who has done and can do their jobs.
There are several items that I most enjoy about my work. One is related to what attracted me to the field of physics and optics in the first place: the ability to compute optical phenomenon with exceptional accuracy and then to see those computations realized in actual devices and products. I enjoy the mixture of technical and business aspects of my position and the fact that my field of specialization in physics/optics, is an enabling, enhancing and enriching discipline that virtually touches every market space. From the automotive to biomedical to telecommunications markets, optics enables us to do things we could not do with other technologies while enhancing the experience and enriching our lives in the process. The world depends on optics, and of course, physics.
There are several aspects of my Bradley education that I have found beneficial to my career. One was Bradley’s commitment to a quality education that placed emphasis on the student as opposed to research. This commitment was evident in the dedication of the faculty and the small class sizes. I never had a graduate assistant teach a course; all of my instructors were professors. The individual attention I received as a student from a very accessible faculty helped me to efficiently and effectively master my course materials, which allowed me to function competently as an engineer in industry and to continue my higher education.
Bradley continues to support me in my current endeavors, especially through their alumni outreach efforts. Bradley representatives frequently visit the area and keep me apprised of campus happening and activities. I still feel a part of the Bradley “extended” family even though I am thousands of miles away. Moreover, as a hiring manager, these interactions allow me to provide feedback to Bradley on important areas of education and career preparation, which potentially will benefit my company or some other company in the future.
If you are interested in how things work, then a degree in physics might be just for you. But physics is not just about understanding how things work, it is also about exploiting that knowledge in a positive way to build better understanding of our universe and a better society. An undergraduate degree in physics provides an excellent, broad-based technology background in a world that depends upon technology. Although an undergraduate degree in physics provides a sound scientific background, be prepared to obtain a master’s degree in an area of specialization. But be confident that an undergraduate degree in physics will provide you the necessary foundation for employment or continuing your studies in physics or another area of specialization in the sciences or engineering.
Finally, don’t choose your career path entirely based upon a high probability of getting a job or a salary. Also choose it based upon something you like to do. After all, you will be doing it for quite some time. Getting involved in a work-study or internship program will allow you to evaluate first-hand your career choice before committing to a degree while simultaneously providing you with experience and a demonstrable maturity that will set you apart from your competition in the job market.
Degree/Year: B.S., Physics, 2001
Current Employer: Intel Corp.
Title: Test R&D Engineer
I was unsure of where I wanted to go with my education until I took an astronomy course in my second year of college. After taking this course, I consulted with a few professors in the Bradley physics department and decided to enroll in an introductory physics course. I really enjoyed the course materials and the challenges they presented. Gaining a fundamental understanding of the physical world around me was exciting. I liked the vibe of the department as a whole. Following that semester, I decided to major in physics.
I deal with a variety of mechanical and electrical problems in my line of work. Being that my job doesn’t specifically draw on my graduate research, I often rely on my fundamental understanding of physics to solve problems with practical solutions.
Being an industry leader, Intel is regularly facing novel challenges that require innovative solutions. A portion of my job entails working with outside suppliers to create and evaluate technologies that meet Intel’s technical needs. I enjoy surveying the technologies that exist and working as part of a team to develop and deliver robust solutions.
When I think back on my time at Bradley, what sticks out most is the small and almost family feel of the department. Whether it was for help with a class or for career advice, I felt like I could go to any professor. The small class sizes resulted in a lot of individual attention. Once I went to grad school, I felt that I was well prepared for the graduate level physics courses. Additionally, I got my first taste of research at Bradley working with Kevin Kimberlin on an ultra-high vacuum system and I still lean on much of what I learned from my time in the lab there.
Physics is an interesting and exciting subject that takes commitment if chosen as a major. If graduate school is a possibility, then there are countless areas of research to get into, many of which can be directly applicable to a future career. In my case, my job is very different from my graduate research, but I consistently draw on my education and experiences from undergraduate and graduate school.
Darryl K. Francois
Degree/Year: B.S., Physics, 1977
Current Employer: Office of Offshore Alternative Energy Programs, Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, U.S. Department of the Interior
Title: Chief, Projects and Coordination Branch
I work in developing government regulatory policy related to the development of renewable energy resources on the ocean environment. It requires attention to detail, critical thinking skills, and an understanding of the physics of the earth and how engineering solutions enable business entrepreneurs to develop the earth’s resources.
In Bradley’s Department of Physics, there is an emphasis on one-to-one interaction between faculty and student that engenders an ongoing pursuit of understanding of the physical environment. That approach was key to my success at Bradley and continues to influence my career today.
I get to work on issues of national and local significance – developing the nation’s renewable energy resources, helping to build a new industrial infrastructure that benefits local economies along the U.S. coastline.
I encourage today’s students to study physics broadly, and try to see the everyday world through a physics lens. Math is important. Engineers are your friends. Read as much as you can now, and try to learn something new every day.