Meet a Physics Major

Andrew Baumgartner

Andrew Baumgartner ’15

Extra-curricular activities: 

  • WRCM - Manhattan College radio station
  • Green Club
  • Film Society
  • Manhattan Magazine
  • Society of Physics Students

Why did you choose your major? 

I chose physics because it is interesting. Since I started studying it, my interest has grown from a liketo a love.” I love everything about the subject: its difficulty, its far reaching consequences, but most of all, I enjoy learning new things about the world.

What has been your favorite class? 

Optics I (PHYS 250), which is the first of a two-semester course in optics taught by Dr. Liby, and its subject matter is super interesting. In this class, we study light and its interaction with matter (as well as itself) and I really did learn a lot. Light is a weird thing and although we only scratched the surface of its behavior, it brings up a lot of questions (some still unanswered) that are far reaching and far from trivial. 

Have you done any research projects?

I have worked with Dr. Konoplich in the Physics department on some of his research. He is a particle physicist who works on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland, which is the biggest experiment in the history of science. His work involves a particle known as the Higgs Boson, a long sought-after particle in physics. I helped him generate and analyze events from the LHC using a computer program, and in doing so we helped narrow down the parameters of this particle.

What are your plans after graduation?

I hope to go to graduate school in physics when I’m done at Manhattan. After that I hope to get a job at a good research university and become a professor and a researcher.  

What are the faculty like?

The whole Physics department has been extremely helpful to my academic experience. Dr. Liby is a great adviser who loves to help out, and I owe him big time for that. But really, since we are a small department in a small school, it is not hard to find help. I would say the biggest benefit of coming here is definitely that it is so easy to become close to your professors. 

What’s your favorite thing about this major?

Everything. Physics is a wonderful and deep subject and there is so much to know. It is difficult and interesting and it keeps the mind sharp. If I were to be in college for 30 years, I don't think I would know even a fraction of what there is to know about the physical world. But I can still try!  

What’s the most difficult thing about this major?

Probably the attention to detail needed. It takes a certain type of person to really see everything there is to see in a certain situation. Even the greatest minds in physics did not initially see the nuances in their theories when they were formulating them. People are still studying and discovering new things from equations discovered 100 years ago. There can be so much information packed into such compact notation. Seeing it all is where the real difficulty in physics lies. 

What advice would you give to new students trying to select a major?

Do something you love. College, I imagine, would be grueling, slow and difficult if you didn’t enjoy what you were doing. So forget the mindset of I need a job when I'm done and really just do something you like. This is a time for learning, not for job training.