Steven Gassner '20
Major: Applied Mathematics + Nanoscale Science
Hometown: Utica, NY
Current Position: Ph.D. student in Physics at the University of Pennsylvania, studying quantum materials
Why did you choose SUNY Poly?
Studying nanoscale science gives you exposure to a variety of different fields of science. Coming out of high school, I wasn’t sure what I was most interested in and nanoscale science uses a little bit of everything, so it seemed like a good fit for me.
What was your favorite class?
Many of Professor Carlo Cafaro’s math courses have left an impression on me—I apply what I learned in his classes every day. I think Professor Bradley Thiel’s Soft Matter class deserves to be mentioned as well, since it was an excellent introduction to a very under-appreciated field of research.
What activities were you involved in on campus? Why did you decide to get involved in these activities?
I was heavily involved in the student government (the Undergraduate Student Government at Albany) and really enjoyed trying to make the most of the unique campus experience at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus.
I also spent a lot of time tutoring and serving as a teaching assistant for math and physics courses, and made a lot of memories working regularly with a handful of students and seeing them grow their understanding of challenging subjects.
What is your favorite SUNY Poly memory?
Classes are small at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) and the close-knit community helped me make many meaningful friendships that will last a long time.
How did you end up working in your current field?
Exposure to various fields of science at CNSE helped me discover that I enjoy physics the most, and the unique curriculum in nanoscale materials introduced me to the subfield of condensed matter physics, which is now the focus of my Ph.D. research. Every day I apply lessons from my degrees in nanoscale science and applied mathematics to solve theoretical problems relating to quantum phenomena in electronic materials.
What are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of working in your field?
Research is challenging no matter the context, but it affords the opportunity of discovering something completely new and technologically relevant.
What opportunities did you have at SUNY Poly that helped you get where you are today?
SUNY Poly’s opportunities for research very early in my undergraduate career were indispensable in helping me develop my current research interests as well as important skills and habits. In addition, the opportunities for tutoring and being a teacher’s assistant for small classes of students not only gave me jobs that I loved doing, but also helped me develop teaching skills that are very important to my career aspirations of becoming a college professor.
What advice would you give to current or future SUNY Poly students?
If you’re very excited about a career in science or engineering, and you like the idea of a small campus experience where you can make meaningful friendships and form close connections with professors and research advisors, then SUNY Poly’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering campus is for you.