Physics and Astronomy Alumni Testimonials

This is what some of our alumni and current majors have to say about studying Physics at USF

Clementina Russo (written in 2014):


I have many rich stories I might tell, but rather some wise words to convey are these- the requirements of an undergraduate education are fulfilled when the student learns to comprehend what he or she reads and in turn conveys that information in the written form, clearly and concisely, with carefully intended thought; this rubric applies irrespective of discipline. The job of an undergrad is to absorb the knowledge that teaches him or her how to think critically, and if it is the desire of he or she to acquire that skill, USF will provide it, whole and round.... should someone want to learn, learning is there at that institution for the partaking, without obstacles.

Note: Clementina graduated in 2003. She defended her PhD in Physics from the University of Maine in 2011 and currently works as a research scientist in a small research and development firm in Washington DC.


Kanani Lee (written in 2014):


What I liked best about my time at USF was the (extremely) small classes in Physics: as few as just two of us in class for some of the upperclassmen courses. We were such a small department at the time! I am happy to see the growth in faculty, students, as well as subject areas. I also remember a few pizza parties we had as a department. I recall Dr. Camperi being a huge fan of "American" pizza, especially because you could get a LOT of meat on it should that be what you fancied. He ordered a pie which looked to have a couple of pounds of thinly sliced beef. He was in heaven! I am also a fan of the colloquium series that Dr. Camblong organized. He instilled the importance of our attendance at these seminars that I try to instill in my own students today. How lucky we were to have a Nobel prize winner speak to us!  I may not have understood everything in all seminars, but I appreciated what I could grasp. The great seminars taught me how not to talk to a general audience. These are different skills to learn and it does take a lot of experience to master. This is an ongoing journey for me! If I were to give any advice to any current students, I would say attend as many of these colloquia that you can. It really is a great opportunity to hear about what's going on in Physics!

Note: Kanani graduated in 1999. She completed her Ph.D. in Geophysics at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, a Humboldt Fellow at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany, and an assistant professor in the Physics Department at New Mexico State University. In 2008 she joined the faculty of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University. Currently, Kanani is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University.


Alan Leggitt (written in 2014):

Best advice I can give: Learn to use to check your work on those long integration problems.

Note: Alan graduated from USF's Physics Department in 2012. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in neuroscience at UCSF and is a part-time instructor at USF.


Christine Isborn (written in 2014):

I really enjoyed Professor Camperi's quantum mechanics classes. His notes were extremely helpful as a refresher when I started my graduate studies after taking a couple years off from academics.

Note: Christine graduated from USF in 2001. She is currently a professor at UC Merced, developing a research group in computational quantum chemistry, to model how molecules interact with light in complex environments.


Daniel Merthe (written in 2011):


I knew from the beginning that my experience studying physics at the University of San Francisco was rather unique. Many of my friends attended a range of other universities, and in our discussions about our lives in college I always seemed to have difficulty identifying with their grievances. I was never crowded out of a lecture hall. I was never ignored by professors. And I was never confined to a common path. Instead, I found that I was always able the take the classes I needed, even finding some interesting detours along the way. Moreover, because class sizes were modest, professors had the liberty (and capability!) to make lectures accessible and engaging to all students. The best education is interactive, and USF Physics makes it happen. For me the best classroom has always been the laboratory: I was able to witness fundamental laws of nature, which I had manipulated on paper late into the night on myriad occasion, take shape simply with the proper application of light. The USF Physics Department gave me this tremendous opportunity to work in a laboratory in conjunction with my thorough undergraduate preparation. I strongly believe that this continues to give me the edge in my pursuits in research after graduation. I have since been active in spectroscopy and optics research at Sandia National Labs and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.


Danien Scipio (written in 2011):


I graduated from USF in 2008, as the Valedictorian of my Arts and Sciences class and I currently attend Caltech pursuing a doctorate in the Material Science and Engineering program. Although my research lab is more chemistry based at the moment, skills that I learned at USF still help me around the lab.

The small size of the department and, ‘open door’ policy, gives students the chance to better understand anything that goes by a little too quickly in class, or is fundamentally difficult to grasp. This kind of supportive learning environment gives willing students the ability to prosper. The physics program will stretch you intellectually, but the rewards are worth it. As an undergraduate I advise you to get to know your professors well. They hold a wealth of knowledge that can help to propel you into an advanced position in academia or the job market.


Kyle Auteri (written in 2011):

kyleaI am really glad that I studied with the USF Physics Department. With a major as tough as physics it was great to have small class sizes that not only allowed for plenty of opportunities to receive individual attention from the teachers, but also created a great environment for the students to work together in. While the professors are all brilliant and passionate about Physics, they are also very easy to talk to and are more than willing to help you. It is a great major for any one who thinks of themselves as problem solver or is just interested in the workings of the Universe. More than just the content of the classes you take, the Physics program at USF teaches a valuable way of thought that can be applied to any potential field. In a nut shell Physics will strengthen your pattern recognition skills necessary to simplify and isolate situations from the atomic scale to planetary scales.


Benjamin Westbrook (written in 2011):

My name is Benjamin Westbrook and I graduated from the USF physics program in the spring of 2007.  My experience at USF became the essential foundation to my budding and successful career as a physicist.  Currently, I am pursuing my Ph, D. in physics from University of California, Berkeley where I do experimental cosmology. It is excited to be doing research at the forefront of modern physics.  My education from the talented professors at USF, especially in the physics department, undoubtedly helped me become what I am today.

I believe that the USF physics program is ideal for confident and motivated students like myself.  When I applied to USF, I did not declare a major.  I knew that I had skills in math and science, but was unsure how to apply them.  After taking just one introductory physics class, I declared as a physics major.  Throughout the next four years at USF, I received excellent instruction and advice from the experienced professors, while pursuing my degree.  The single most important aspect of my education was the one-on-one experiences I had with my professors in office hours, just before and after class started, and in the halls.  This personal interaction was essential for me, because it allowed me to build confidence as I developed the skills necessary to become a competent physicist.  In addition to this, I also earned the opportunity to teach and do research in the optics laboratory. The skills and knowledge I gained at USF have now paid off immensely and I cannot thank my professors enough for showing me the wonders of the physical world.   I recommend a physics major at USF to anybody with a strong and curious mind.


Alexandra Polosukhina (written in 2005):


"When I entered USF and joined the physics department, I was a little intimidated by its small size. However, I realized that such atmosphere gave me an opportunity to dive into physics ways I had only imagined possible. The amazing class selection ranging from Computational Neuroscience to General Relativity, gives students an opportunity not only to submerge into something new and exciting, but also introduces them to possible career paths available. If any student doesn’t comprehend something, the professors and classmates are always there to help (at any time of the night). Also, such close collaborations between students and faculty provide priceless life long friendships and career connections. This physics education strongly prepared me for my Undergraduate Research that I participated in this summer; where I felt that I had enough background and knowledge to confidently involve myself in my project. I am grateful that I am attending this school and majoring in physics, because I feel confident that by the time I graduate I will be prepared to tackle any life or scientific problems!"

Note: Alexandra is currently a Graduate Student in the Vision Science program at The University of California, Berkeley.


Mary Beth Hughes (written in 2005):


"To me, what sets the Physics department at USF apart from other schools I looked at is its size. Unlike the situation at most larger schools, the department at USF is small enough that the professors and students have close interactions and each student receives individualized attention. On the other end of the scale, unlike at many smaller schools, at USF the professors are also actively involved in research in a variety of areas of Physics. This gives students the chance to do research as an undergraduate -- an opportunity that is invaluable for many career paths.

The education I received at USF prepared me for doctoral work at a top academic institution. But what I'm finding to be just as important is the connections I made with the professors, who continue to be mentors for me, and my fellow USF Physics graduates. I don't think similar connections could have been made at just any department in any school so I'm glad I chose to study Physics at USF!"

Note: Mary Beth graduated in 2003 (physics and math). She is currently (2005) pursuing her Ph.D. in Applied Physics at Harvard University.


Steven Niewiarowski (written in 2000):


"USF is a great place to study physics. The physics department is a close knit group of people working in an atmosphere of active learning. There are only about thirty five students currently majoring in physics, allowing them to know each other and the professors very well. Receiving individual attention is as easy as raising my hand. Professors are very enthusiastic about students learning and doing well. They roll up their sleeves to help us out in labs and are available to meet with us whenever we need help.

Physics can be a great joy to study for the way it orders the beauty of nature. Henri Poincare said: "The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living."

Note: Steve graduated in 2000. He is currently (2005) an USAF figther pilot.


Michael Shane Bowen (written in 1999):


"I feel that the most valuable aspect of studying physics at USF is the accessibility of the professors. They are always available to answer all questions. In addition, there is a very relaxed atmosphere in the department, so that talking to them is both fun and easy. Also, because class enrollment is usually very small, particularly in upper-division courses, professors and students have the chance to get to know each other on a personal level, and student's progress is thus maximized. You never finish a course with unanswered questions. Besides getting a superb physics education, I believe I am creating an extended network of friends and future colleagues, which includes not only my fellow students, but also the physics faculty".

Note: Shane graduated in 1999. He completed his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, in 2004. He is currently (2005) on a postdoctoral position in Boulder, Colorado.


Kerryann Foley (written in 1999):


"The University of San Francisco is a wonderful place to study physics. I know I have received an education in physics comparable to that of any better known university, but I have received much more attention in the process. Classes are small and the teachers are wonderful, young and excited about teaching. The other students are interesting and we spend a lot of time doing group work together. The school is set right in the heart of San Francisco so there is always something exciting to do. I had always planned on going to graduate school and so I decided that I would rather spend my undergraduate time at a school I loved than fighting for the classes I wanted at a larger school. And going to USF has had a huge effect on the number of graduate schools I have been accepted to!

Getting a bachelor's degree in physics from any institution gives you many future options, from teaching to industry, business to graduate school, and I completely believe that the University of San Francisco is a great place to go!"

Note: Kerryann graduated in 1999. She is currently (2005) pursuing her Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at Cornell University.


Ben Pecjak (written in 1999):


"Browsing through our web page, you will notice that the Physics Department at USF prides itself in promoting close contact between students and professors. This, in fact, is no joke: the intimacy of the Physics Department is like no other at USF. Speaking from personal experience, two or three dedicated professors are worth a million who consider themselves too important, or are simply too busy, to help students. Thus, a small department offers advantages that no larger school can offer, with no sacrifice in the quality of education. A wide selection of courses, taught by unusually talented professors, give you a special place to study Physics.

If you want to pursue stimulating studies in a unique setting, come to USF!"

Note: Ben graduated in 1999. He completed his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at Cornell University in 2004, and he is currently (2005) on a postdoctoral position in Germany.