You did some research with Richmond faculty before you even came to campus—how did that happen? 

I did research as a pre-freshman at Yale University with Richmond physics professor Mirela Fetea. I had interviewed with Mirela for Richmond’s Science Scholarship, and she offered me a chance to experience real physics research for six weeks before I got to college.

Yale was a great environment to learn in, and I was able to observe the research being done by some big names in the field of physics. By the end of the experience, I had a much better idea of what being a physics major was going to be like, which made me more focused once I got to Richmond. I started my own physics research with professor Con Beausang during my first year here.

As a student doing physics research, what made you decide to participate in LURE, a research program geared toward math?

Well, I’ve always liked math and, similar to my feelings about physics as a pre-freshman, I was curious to see what math research was really like. LURE was perfect for me since the program is designed to give students experience in math research, which helps them figure out whether math is a discipline they want to study. You participate in a two-year group project under the guidance of a professor in the math department.

How did you find a math professor to work with?

My research project was led by professor Jim Davis, who I knew pretty well from my freshman year classes. I thought he was an excellent teacher, and I was excited about his research. Dr. Davis was great— he emphasized us working together in a group because research often means collaboration and learning how to split the workload. Two students in our group were programmers, while I worked on the theoretical side.

Now that you’ve done research in both of your majors—physics and math—which do you see yourself continuing during the rest of your academic career?

I love math, but I want to do physics in the future. The application of physics, to me, is more enticing than pure mathematics. I’ll continue to work on the LURE project throughout this school year and summer, though. LURE has been, and continues to be, a great experience and definitely has connections to physics research.

So you took physics classes while you were abroad—how did the department in Edinburgh differ from Richmond’s physics department?

I loved my time in Edinburgh but it was definitely a very different academic experience. There were around 250 students in my physics classes, as opposed to the 10 or 20 at Richmond—it was a little overwhelming. The professors there didn’t know whether or not I showed up or did the assignments. Students there might have the chance to do research in their senior year but funding is extremely competitive and nearly impossible for undergrads to get.

The physics department here at Richmond is much more personal and there’s a lot of research happening. The professors are so accessible and eager to talk to students. They go out of their way to encourage students to get involved in research. Also, because we’re a smaller department, I know everyone pretty well. I think it’s important to feel connected to people in your major—it helps you feel comfortable collaborating in class or getting together to study.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

To be honest, I would go back to Edinburgh! It’s so beautiful and there’s so much to do there, I think it’s the best city in the world. While I was studying abroad, I took an archaeology class and had the opportunity to do some hands-on projects that took me all over the city. I loved walking everywhere and the whole way of life in the U.K.

I also got to do a lot of hiking while I was abroad and some of it was pretty intense. What they call “hill climbing” in Edinburgh is actually hiking through ice and snow with crampons strapped to your feet! I got to do a lot of new things there, and I’d love the chance to go back.