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Winter 2023

Dr. Nick Edison, Purdue Physics alumnus
Dr. Nick Edison, Purdue Physics alumnus, recently came to the West Lafayette campus to speak with students in the PHYS 235 class. Dr. Edison enjoys mentoring and comes back often to help next generation of Boilermakers prepare to make their own giant leaps.

Alumni Spotlight: Nick Edison, Ph.D.

Purdue education opened up a world of travel and experiences for Purdue alumnus

Story by Cheryl Pierce

Although he graduated Purdue University in 1985, Dr. Nick Edison is a familiar element in the halls of the Physics Building at Purdue University. He loves returning to campus and routinely meets with students and faculty, often advising students.  He is welcomed back annually to mentor the next generation of Boilermakers.

“I love returning to campus either for a sports event or to meet with students and faculty,” says Nick Edison, Ph.D., who is a Senior Scientist at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane).  “I try to catch one football and one basketball game every year as well as meet with the PHYS235 class.”

Dr. Edison credits his undergraduate degree with Purdue Physics as a steppingstone that opened up the world to him.  His degree and subsequent education has allowed him to travel the world.  He arrived at Purdue University in the fall of 1981 and graduated in 1985 with a B.S. in physics.  This led to acceptance in the Applied Science Department in the University of California, Davis and a Department of Energy Fellowship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory leading to a Ph.D. in plasma physics.  He grew up in South Bend, IN and currently lives in Bloomington, IN which he affectionately calls “enemy territory.” 

“My physics degree from Purdue has opened up a world of travel and experience that I never would have dreamed of as a student,” he says.  “In the course of work, I have had the pleasure to visit many interesting and beautiful places and people all over the world including France, the UK, Germany, Siberia, Italy, Norway, and the list goes on.”

At the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Edison works with hardware-in-the-loop simulators.  The simulators are used to economically evaluate the operation of hardware and software prior to deploying material in fielded systems. He also enjoys mentoring young scientists and engineers.  His goal with mentoring is to help these young people become highly valuable employees who will eventually become leaders and experts in their fields research.

“All of the roles that I have had since graduating Purdue have been a combination of physics and engineering.  My work is highly technical and requires a good understanding of the basics of physics especially mechanics, optics, heat, and thermodynamics,” says Edison.

He finds that he often uses lessons he learned at the undergraduate level in his day-to-day life.

“I have found that even the simplest of physics concepts can be used to understand the operation of many complex systems,” he says. “For example, the simple physics behind parallel wires carrying current interact with their mutual magnetic fields describes how the high current discharges in the Z-machine produce extremely energetic implosions.”

While at Purdue, Edison was advised by Prof. Arnold Tubis and Prof. Nicholas Giordano, both of which are now emeritus faculty and once chaired the Physics Department. Prof. Giordano advised his senior research project which later resulted in a paper published in the Journal of Low Temperature Physics. 

When asked what advice he would give to current Purdue students studying Physics, he says, “I hope that the reason you are studying physics is because you love the subject and want to learn what makes the universe go. I came to Purdue wanting to make a career in particle physics or astronomy.  During my sophomore year, I fell in love with light and the magical things you can do with lasers. There are so many interesting fields that involve physics that you should never be at a loss finding something new to investigate. Purdue is a highly recognized institution around the world. Use that to your advantage in pursuing employment and graduate level education. After graduating, be flexible and creative in how you approach employment. Not all paths lead to academics. Lots of jobs out in the real world ask for a particular degree that can easily be performed with a solid background in physics. Most of my post-doctoral employment has involved engineering to one degree or another.”

While at Purdue as an undergrad, Edison formed many fond memories. He participated in intramural sports at Wiley Hall and Harrison Hall. He spent a year in the Army ROTC and participated on the AROTC rifle team club.

“I have many fond memories of student life at Purdue, selecting among them is difficult,” says Edison.  “However, during my freshman year at a home football game, I was searching for one of my high school friends on the field.  Instead, I discovered a different friend that I played high school football with suited-up as a back-up safety. The following year I was thrilled to see another classmate on the sidelines cheering Purdue on as a member of the Pep Squad. It was really exciting seeing students from my high school performing in visible roles for the University.”