Advice from our Alumni

Roshan L. Aggarwal

Ph.D. 1965 Physics

Advice to Students:

In my opinion, the most important courses for success in science and technology are physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology at the Freshman level. The most important avenue for success in professional life is the lifelong commitment to do your best in the field of your choice including science, technology, medicine, law and business.

Value of Degree:

A Physics degree has been invaluable not only for my occupation, but also for providing an informed outlook on life (personal and community).

Comments:

Purdue provides excellent educational opportunities to a large number of young men and women from United States and abroad. Purdue graduates have done very well in their professional careers after graduation. Particularly, I loved the quiet atmosphere of West Lafayette, a big plus compared to the urban setting of many other well-known schools.

Roger Alig

B.A. Wabash 1963
Physics M.S. Purdue 1965
Ph.D. Purdue 1967

Advice to Students:

  1. Science students would do well to take writing and speaking courses.
  2. Generally the best scientists use science to convince others to support their ideas.

J. Trent Anderson

B.S., 1962, Purdue Univ. - Physics
L.L.B., 1964, Virginia - Law

Current Job:

Corporate Lawyer in large Chicago law firm.

Comments:

While I have not used my Physics degree directly in my profession, I continue to believe that the discipline required in the sciences is a very good basis for a lawyer.

Kenneth Chad Bastian

B.S., 1990, (Physics (Honors)
Purdue M.S. 1992, environmental Engineering, Purdue
Ph.D., 1996, Environmental Engineering, Purdue

Current Job:

At present, I work as a mass spectrometrist in the pharmaceutical industry; most of my work involved method development and validation and metabolite and degradant identification.

Career Path

M.S. 1992, environmental Engineering, Purdue
Ph.D., 1996, Environmental Engineering, Purdue
Post-Doctoral Scientist, U.S. Geological survey Organic Geochemistry Laboratory, Lawrence, Kansas (1996-1998)
Scientist, Oread Laboratories Mass Spectrometry Department, 1998-present.

Advice to Students:

One of the courses that was most valuable to me was the senior research project. This gave me experience in real-life physics objectives and challenges, both theoretical and experimental, that truly helped direct my post-undergrad education and career.

Pawan Bhartia

Ph.D., 1977, Physics
M.S., 1977, Computer Science

Career Path:

Between 1977 and 1991 worked for private companies in the Washington, DC area on NASA projects. The focus of the work was remote sensing of earth in ultraviolet to measure atmospheric ozone. Was involved in the discovery of Antarctica Ozone Hole. Since 1991, A NASA employee working on similar projects.

Current Job:

Head of the Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, located in Greenbelt, MD, just outside Washington, DC. The Branch, consisting of 19 NASA civil servants and 60 other employees, who work for affiliated universities and commercial companies, conducts research in atmospheric ozone and other trace gases, by employing data from satellites, and ground and aircraft instruments.

Value of Degree:

The Physics degree is directly relevant. The work involves knowledge of modern optical instruments, spectroscopy, molecular physics, and radiation transfer (scattering, emission, and absorption of radiation) in earth's atmosphere.

Advice to Students:

1) particular courses that would be valuable 2) avenues for success Suggest taking courses in the Atmospheric Physics, meteorology, oceanography, geophysics, numerical analysis, and statistics. These disciplines are in need of bright young Physicists who are comfortable with modern optical (UV, visible, and IR) and microwave instruments and who have experience in analyzing complex scientific data.

Kevin Bollhorst

B.S. in Physics 1983

Career Path:

  • 1983-1987 Staff Scientist, Eastman Kodak
  • 1987-1989 Process Development Engineer, Advanced Imaging Program, Harris Graphics Corporation.
  • 1989-1995 Manager of Advanced Technology Labs, Grimes Aerospace.
  • 1995-1999 President, Noetic Press Inc.
  • 1995-1997 Senior Optical Engineer, LaserMike Inc.
  • 1998-Present Senior Process Engineer, The Neff Company.

Current Job:

Chief Engineer for the Neff Company. Research, develop, and implement advanced manufacturing processes to improve product quality and production throughput. Annually establish manufacturing engineering capital equipment and operational budgets. Develop, publish, and implement strategic project management plan on an annual basis. Research and develop manufacturing automation processes on an as-needed basis. Create, test, and engineer new products using advanced digital imaging and wide-format (>52") digital printing technologies. Publish all technical findings on a regular basis. Train staff personnel as required.

Value of Degree:

My training at Purdue University has proved an invaluable resource over the last 17 years. The educational experience acquired via my B.S. in Physics instilled in me powerful problem-solving techniques. Said training has given me an added edge over classically trained engineers through out the years. Simply stated, my training at Purdue University taught me the following: 1) How to learn; 2) How to identify professional areas requiring additional training; 3) How to define a problem (an important skill required in industry yet lacking amongst many engineers); 4) How to strategically plan and implement problems solutions; and 5) How to communicate and publish the solution(s) to said problem(s). Last but not least, Purdue's Physics Program provided me an excellent education in classical and modern.

Advice to Students:

Although I do not recall Purdue's precise Course Numbers, I would recommend the following: 1. All recommended Physics Courses for a B.S. degree in Physics. Said courses should included: Lecture and laboratory courses in Optics, Kinematics & Dynamics, E&M Theory, Thermodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, and Relativity. 2. All the advanced Mathematics courses you can get your hands on. Strive to attend courses up to and including study of Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems. 3. All the computer science courses one can muster. The ability to harness computer software and hardware in the workplace is a masterful skill that few conquer. 4. All the English composition courses possible. Unfortunately, I have seen a disturbing trend over the last decade. What is this trend? The decline in and growing apathy towards skills in written and oral communication amongst college graduates. I must make this absolutely clear: The ability to clearly communicate, publish, and distribute one's technical findings will mean the difference between maintaining the status quo and advancing your career/ideas! Although many technical professionals hate to write, I recommend that you conquer your fears and overcome your communication weaknesses.

Robert Brubaker

Ph.D., 1996, Physics, Purdue University BS., 1989, EE, University of Maryland, College Park

Career Path:

I joined Eastman Kodak Company after graduation, in the Image Sensor Solutions division (formerly Microelectronics Technology Division). My job title was "Product Engineer", which really meant that I characterized CCD's and answered customer questions about how they work. I now work at Sensors Unlimited, Inc. in Princeton NJ.

Advice to Students:

Minimize the number of courses you take, and concentrate on finding a good professor. Do the best you can with the courses you do take. The most important things for your career are to produce solid papers and to get patents.

Comments:

Understand how graduate school works before you get into it. Specifically for the Purdue Physics qualifier, get 10 years of problems and solve them yourself before taking the test. Do research you find interesting, but be realistic about where it will lead you. If you go to Purdue, visit the XXX (restaurant) at least once late at night, and sit at one of the fountains when you get stressed.

David C. Cassidy

B.A., 1967, Physics, Rutgers Univ.
M.S., 1970, Physics, Rutgers Univ.
Ph.D., 1976, Physics, Purdue Univ.

Career Path:

Grad work in physics and later history of physics (in conjunction w/Dept., hist/sci, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) Post doc, UC Berkeley, Post doc, Humboldt Forwd., Germany; Asst. Prof., Germany; Assoc. ed., Einstein Papers, Princeton at Boston., Prof., Hofstra Univ. (etc.)

Current Job:

Professor of Natural Science, Hofstra Univ., Hempstead, NY. Teach - Science/Physics for non-science majors and future teachers, with emphasis on history and nature of physics. Research - history of physics, German science, publications for professional historians, physicists and general public.

Value of Degree:

Essential. One cannot write about or research the history of physics without understanding the physics. One cannot teach or write for non-scientists on the subject of physics without a full appreciation of and firm grounding in the subject.

Advice to Students:

History of physics and of science in general has become more professionally defined since my day, but the opportunities, exp in history of physics, are still essentially wide open. Generally it is recommended that students have a strong background in physics, preferably through the Masters degree before transferring into a history of science doctoral program.

Dan Fleetwood

B.S., 1980, Physics (Honors)/Applied Math, Purdue
M.S., 1981, Experimental Physics, Purdue
Ph.D., 1984, Condensed Matter Physics, Purdue

Career Path:

1984 - 1999: Senior (84-90) and Distinguished (90-99) Member of the Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1999-Present: Professor of Electrical Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Current Job:

Undergraduate and graduate teaching. Research on the effects of ionizing radiation on Si based microelectronics, and on electronics long-term reliability. Areas of specialization include thermally stimulated current measurements, defects in microelectronic materials, and low frequency noise. In addition, computational simulation of radiation effects on electronics is of increasing interest.

Advice to Students:

Today I would be taking classes on electronic and photonic materials, computers, and the internet. I would also take classes in biology/biophysics, since that is an exploding area of research interest. In addition, one should pay attention to economics, finance, psychology, and the stock market. Use your analytical capabilities to their full advantage, but understand their limitations when they are applied to a field in which psychology is as important, if not more important, than numbers (e.g., the stock market)

Carlos Guzman

M.S. 1975, Physics, Purdue University
B.S. 1974, Physics, University of New Orleans

Career Path:

Worked at LSU Chemistry Dept. running Gas chromatograph, mass spectrometer, nuclear magnetic resonance apparatus used in analyzing compounds synthesized in chemical research (1976) Part time physics instructor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans (1976-present, part time). Geophysicist with Shell Oil Company since Feb. 1977.

Current Job:

I work in a multi disciplinary team made up of geologists and geophysicists exploring for Oil and Gas in the Offshore Gulf of Mexico. Many geophysicists at Shell have a physics or electrical engineering academic background. We learn the geology on the job and in courses offered by Shell or in continuing education programs (mainly on the job training).

Value of Degree:

Very valuable. The process of exploring for oil and gas uses wave physics, signal processing, rock physics, and analysis of three dimensional seismic reflection data. The scientific method is present throughout the entire process: gather data, make a model and predictions, and test predictions/model with a well(nowadays, deep targets 25000- 30000 feet below sea level in 5000- 8000 feet of water).

Useful Web Sites:

Society of Exploration Geophysicists SEG American Association of Petroleum Geologists AAPG American Geophysical Union AGU

Kara Hoffman

Ph.D. Purdue, high energy physics, 1998
M.S. Purdue, physics, 1994
B.S. University of Kentucky, 1992

Career Path:

I spent 6 years in grad school, where I did my thesis research on the CDF detector at Fermilab. I then took a postoctoral fellowship at CERN where I worked on the OPAL collaboration at the LEP electron positron collider (which is now being converted to scrap metal). I am now a research associate at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago. I am working on CDF again as well as doing some accelerator research. (It's always exciting to try something new!)

Value of Degree:

Essential

Advice to Students:

If you are a high energy experimentalist, learn as much theory as you can while taking classes at Purdue. Most of us in HEP are now doing our Ph.D. research off campus, so it is impossible for us to take courses after the first few years.

Michael Humnicky

BS 1970 Physics Purdue Univeristy
BS 1971 Economics Purdue University
MLS 1995 Library Science Indiana University

Career Path:

  • 1970-1971, Data Management Analyst, Rockwell International Space Division, Apollo/Saturn S-II Programs.
  • 1971-1978, R&D Engineer / Network Operations Analyst, Ford Aerospace, NASA/JPL Deep Space Network supporting the Mariner, Pioneer, Helios, Viking, and Voyager Programs.
  • 1978-1983, Engineering Specialist, Ford Aerospace, Air Force Satellite Control Network.
  • 1984-1994, Engineering Specialist, Ford Aerospace, Ballistic Missile Defense development programs.
  • 1994-1995, Graduate Student, Library and Information Science, Indiana University.
  • 1995-1996, Operations Analyst, Lockheed Martin, Air Force Satellite Control Network.
  • 1996-1997, Systems Engineer, Lockheed Martin, Satellite Test Engineering Contract.
  • 1998-2002, Systems Engineer, Lockheed Martin, Space Based Infrared System program.

Current Job:

I developed and maintain the Space Based Infrared System - Integrated Test and Evaluation Plan for the program Systems Engineering group. I help maintain the Systems Engineering portion of the program Intergated Master Plan and Integrated Master Schedule. I coordinate system test and planning activities with the government acquisition agencies and Air Force Space Command.

Advice to Students:

Business Management courses are useful. Promotions to intermediate and higher technical positions are often determined by non-technical expertise, such as leadership skills and management/business acumen. Technical proposals, plans, and reports demand good communication skills. You might not appreciate those lab reports or English term papers, but good writing skills are appreciated in the business and scientific/engineering community.

Jonathan Meyer

B.S., 1979, Physics (Purdue)
J.D., 1982, Law (Arizona State)

Current Job:

I am the head of the intellectual property law section of Motorola's law department. My title is Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel.

Advice to Students:

In my view, an undergraduate education in physics should be viewed as solely "basic training" that can provide the foundation for a large number of options for continued study. Students should not focus too narrowly, especially early in an undergraduate program, on a particular set of career goals. I would encourage any physics student (and any engineering student) to treat courses English, specifically those focusing on writing skills, as precious and scarce opportunities to improve a critical skill. Very few good jobs in the sciences and engineering can be performed successfully without good communication skills.

Karen Visnovsky

B.S., 1988, Honors Physics Received
M.S. in Astronomy from University of Arizona, 1990

Current Job:

Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, determining critical mixing conditions for wastewater discharge permits, modeling dissolved oxygen response to wastewater discharges.

Value of Degree:

A Physics degree is not the usual path taken to work in an environmental field, but it stands up well next to my colleagues' engineering degrees.

Advice to Students:

  1. I suggest taking courses from as many different areas as you can. You may discover new interests before receiving your degree.
  2. Never feel locked in to one particular field.
Last Updated: May 2, 2016 11:13 AM