Two students - one standing in front of an academic building and the other kneeling beside a robot.

Physics students share experiences from competitive national internships

Created: March 22, 2024  |  Last Updated: March 26, 2024  |  Category: ,   |  Tagged:

WASHINGTON, PA (March 22, 2024) – Three Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students completed high-profile Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) at various institutions across the country last summer.

Below they reflect on their personal experiences, learning outcomes and how their W&J education helped along the way.

Student stands in front of an academic building Maddy Ramsey ‘25
Physics and mathematics major

Where was your internship?

  • University of Rochester

What was your internship job title?

  • REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) Student in Quantum Information

Provide a brief overview of your internship experience.

  • I completed a ten-week research internship at the University of Rochester, where I worked in a lab studying quantum information. I worked with signal processing, preparing electrical signals to enter a quantum computer. My work primarily involved coding, as these electrical signals are created and altered using computer software. The REU Program I participated in focused not only on research itself but also on professional development and graduate school preparation programs.

What was the most valuable part of your internship?

  • The most valuable aspect of the REU Program was the opportunity to experience research at a big research university. I learned about a wide range of physics subfields and research projects. Additionally, I met other physics students from colleges and universities from across the world. My favorite aspect of the REU Program was the community-based collaborative environment that came with working and living with other physics students.

How did your academic experience at W&J prepare you for your internship?

  • Because W&J is a small school, I have had the opportunity to work closely with many of the physics professors. This has led to countless research and leadership opportunities over my time at W&J. The ability to participate in research here at W&J gave me the confidence and skill set to participate in the REU Program.  Additionally, at W&J, I am able to take a variety of STEM classes, ranging from chemistry to math to physics to computer science. Many of these courses were centered around the key concepts I needed to participate in the REU Program last summer.

What is something from your internship that you can bring back to benefit you and your peers at W&J?

  • One of my favorite parts of last summer was the friendships I made with the other physics REU students. The sense of community I experienced inspired me to get more involved with physics at W&J. I currently work as a PAL tutor, which has given me the opportunity to interact with physics majors and minors outside of my graduating class.  Additionally, I have been working to plan various events for the Society of Physics Students on campus, including a new STEM colloquium that fosters community among STEM students and faculty at W&J.

Aimee Toscano ‘24
Physics major; mathematics and chemistry minor

Where was your internship?

  • University of Kentucky

What was your internship job title?

  • Research in Symmetries REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) Participant

Provide a brief overview of your internship experience.

  • In this internship, I wrote a Python program to calculate the minimum energy configuration of a lattice of Skyrmions, a special type of particle in certain solid-state materials that acts like a microscopic magnetic vortex. To find this configuration I used a computer cluster to simulate the annealing, or heating, of the lattice and created graphs to visualize the findings. I also gave presentations and presented a poster to REU peers, UK faculty & students and REU students attending the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure REU Conference.

What was the most valuable part of your internship?

  • This internship allowed me to experience research in an immersive experience. It also showed me how hard research can and will be. My code didn’t work more times than it ever succeeded.

How did your academic experience at W&J prepare you for your internship?

  • My experience in Python, labs and my chemistry minor were all extremely helpful in preparing me for the knowledge of the internship, while my experience in upper-level classes allowed me to keep pushing and [ultimately find success through failure and adversity].

What is something from your internship that you can bring back to benefit you and your peers at W&J?

  • The amount of presentations and public speaking that we did at UK was extremely helpful in preparing me for the presentations I know I have to prepare for my classes this [year].

Student kneels alongside robot Gannon Ziviello ‘24
Physics and mechanical engineering major; philosophy minor

Where was your internship?

  • Brookhaven National Lab, Nonproliferation and National Security Department

What was your internship job title?

  • Summer Research Fellow 

Provide a brief overview of your internship experience.

  • Autonomous robots like the Boston Dynamics (BD) robot “Spot” have emerged as versatile tools with applications across various fields, including the domain of nuclear safeguards. My project focused on the development of a code structure to assist in the application of Spot to nuclear non-proliferation efforts. The project’s primary objective was to craft a modular code framework, facilitating the enhancement of Spot’s core abilities and revealing Spot’s potential to augment current safeguards technology. Along with this project, I was given the opportunity to participate in a Nuclear Safeguards training course, where I played the role of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector in conducting inspections of several declared nuclear facilities.

What was the most valuable part of your internship?

  • The ability to learn from and work with the professionals at Brookhaven National Lab (BNL), and more specifically, the Nonproliferation and National Security (NN) Department, has been extremely valuable to me.

How did your academic experience at W&J prepare you for your internship?

  • My instruction as a physics and dual degree major prior to this internship was incredibly helpful when it came to the technical aspects of my internship. Learning about modular code structures and nuclear science at W&J certainly helped me in this role. Furthermore, I am continuing this internship in the fall, which is largely attributed to the soft and hard skills I developed at W&J College.

To learn more about the physics program and related academic programs, visit washjeff.edu/programs/physics.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pennsylvania, is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu or call 888-W-AND-JAY.