Alumni Profiles

Sydney (Hall) Wittmier UWRF Physics Dual Degree
Sydney (Hall) Wittmier
Physics Dual Degree 
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
B.S. Civil Engineering - University of Minnesota

Sydney works as Senior Project Manager at Mortenson Construction. She is also the 2022 recipient of the UWRF Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
I always knew I wanted to major in engineering. Mathematics and science have always greatly interested me. I was glad that I could get a dual degree and not have to pick between physics or engineering.
My cousin was a coach and professor at the university at the time, and he sparked my interest in attending UWRF. Also, the university was close to home.

On being a woman of color in a STEM field: "I don’t see many people that look like me, which leads to having to break through initial barriers and biases. Every time I come into a new job, I don’t always get the same amount of trust as my white male colleagues. I often have to prove myself, which can be frustrating since I have been in this field for so long. In addition, it goes unsaid that I not only have to exceed expectations in order to succeed the way my colleagues do, but I represent other Black women who may choose this line of work. If I fail, other Black women will be viewed as incapable of doing the job."

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at UW-River Falls?
Any time I got to spend with my roommates, which are still some of my good friends to this day. Also, any class that I got to take with Professor Blodgett Ph.D. I took every class he offered because I enjoyed his teaching that much. I also played basketball while at the university and enjoyed the time I spent on the court with my teammates. 
(Read more about Sydney...)

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Ann Deml
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. and Ph.D. Materials Science - Colorado School of Mines

Postdoc at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, CO. Performing computational research on properties determining oxygen vacancy defect formation energies in oxides for energy conversion and storage applications. Designing new approaches for rapid materials screening. Developing expanded insights into the dominant physical mechanisms of defect formation.

One of the most critical and influential aspects of my experience at UWRF was the ever present sense of community. The physics faculty and students, in particular, created an inviting and inspiring environment in which I could grow to see and pursue opportunities I had not previously envisioned. With mentoring from my advisors, I participated in two summer research programs as an undergraduate and went on to graduate school! I've continued to combine my broad perspectives from physics and chemistry to explore the world of materials and am very pleased with the path I've taken.

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Martin Dahlke

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Management of Technology - University of Minnesota

Technology Products Manager at Polar Semiconductor. I manage two teams in our semiconductor factory ("Fab"): one team that produces the Process Design Kits that our customers use with their CAD tools to design their parts and also the Mask team that receives customer CAD data and delivers Quartz Photomasks to the production floor.

My physics degree from River Falls helped me to establish a strong foundation of skills and techniques that I still use today to solve broad and complex problems.

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Charlotte Evans
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
Ph.D. program - Rice University

At Rice University, I am a National Science Foundation fellow and a research and teaching assistant working toward a Ph.D. in physics with an emphasis in nanoscale optics. I am specifically looking at Raman Spectroscopy and Inelastic Electron Tunneling Spectrum measurements in molecular junctions. I am also a first lieutenant in the Texas Army National Guard and serve as a platoon leader in a Signal (communications) unit, the C Co in the 72nd BSTB (72nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Charlie Company). I manage a platoon of around twenty Soldiers and plan different missions and training events for our monthly drills.

UWRF's small class sizes and student-oriented professors really helped me flourish during my undergraduate career not only as a physicist but also as a person. The department offered the same courses as a bigger university and was able to make sure that I was well-prepared for graduate school, but without the drawbacks of a large school. The department was willing to tailor to each individual's interests and because the department was still small, I was able to explore areas I may not have considered before, such as competing in the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium's Collegiate Rocket Competition,  judging at Science Olympiad regional tournaments, or attending the Society of Physics Students (SPS) Congress in Florida. Finally, the active SPS chapter and Sigma Pi Sigma really helped keep me enthusiastic about physics and allowed me to stay up-to-date and active in the community with science events.


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David Fairchild
Dual Degree Student - B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
B.S. Mechanical Engineering - University of Minnesota
M.S. Business Administration - Arizona State University

Commissioning Engineer for Burns and McDonnell in Bloomington, MN. In my current role I'm responsible for leading, executing and supporting commissioning, retro-commissioning, and energy related services for buildings and systems in the mission critical, healthcare, laboratory, aviation, higher education and commercial building markets. 

Having always wanted to be an engineer the UWRF (physics) dual degree program was the best of both worlds. It provided small, personalized class sizes along with an opportunity to pursue multiple degrees which has given me a very broad perspective when solving problems. UWRF is well known in the industry and I get phone calls on a monthly basis from recruiters interested in my background and education. I highly recommend UWRF for anyone interested in physics or engineering.

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Tim Gessert
B.A. Physics and Mathematics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Physics - Colorado School of Mines
Ph.D. Physics - University of Wales College of Cardiff, Wales, UK

Principal Scientist, Thin-Film Materials Group, National Renewable Energy Lab, Golden, CO. I work on the development of thin-film photovoltaic absorbers and related materials.

Working with lots of projects, scientists, and graduate students during that past 30 years as a researcher, I am often surprised by the frequency that I still rely on the knowledge and experiences I gained at UWRF.

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Kyle Jero
B.S. Physics and Mathematics - UW-River Falls
Physics Ph.D. program - University of Wisconsin-Madison

I am a research assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a Physics PhD program. I work on the IceCube project where I specialize in precise muon directional reconstruction and self veto calculations and techniques for cubic kilometer scale neutrino detectors. In the near future I will present a preliminary dissertation proposal which combines these ideas together to search for the sources of high energy neutrinos and their parent cosmic rays. 

My experience in the UWRF Physics Department was crucial to my post graduation success. The quality of the undergrad research which I participated in through the department lead to a research position in graduate school. Additionally, the department's rigorous courses and focus on laboratory work, both hands on and computational, allowed me to easily transition to graduate level courses while simultaneously performing research to publish my first paper. My education at River Falls continues to be the strong base upon which I advance my career.

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Andrew Klitzke

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls

I work as an embedded systems engineer at North Pole Engineering. I design microprocessor firmware, electrical schematics, and PCB's (printed circuit boards). We work in small groups in a wide variety of industries. Our projects range from the aerospace and defense industries to internet-connected household appliances.

UWRF Physics has definitely impacted my career by helping me sharpen my scientific knowledge and by giving me the resources to improve my skills. The small class sizes helped me feel more engaged and facilitated an open and supportive learning environment. In addition, the professors took the time to figure out my skill sets and find opportunities specific to them. I continue to draw upon my experience there and would highly recommend the UWRF Physics program.

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Mike Lewandowski

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Health Physics - Purdue University

Manager, Ionizing Radiation at 3M's Corporate Health Physics group, 3M Medical Department, 3M Corporate Headquarters, Maplewood, MN. Responsibilities include oversight of: the corporate radiation safety program for manufacturing facilities (fixed gauge licensees) within the United States, the radiation safety program for electronic radiation machines within the United States, and the radiation safety program at a Category IV panoramic irradiator facility, including supervising three corporate health physicists who support those facilities.  Technical responsibilities include serving as a subject matter expert on laser safety and serving as the corporate health physics contact for several 3M facilities in the US. Responsible for directing and coaching process improvement activities within Corporate Health Physics. 

I was introduced to the field of health physics (radiation protection) by a UWRF physics professor with a one week course followed by a summer internship at Oak Ridge Associated Universities. This introduction kindled my interest and started my network of contacts in the field. The sound fundamental training in physics, particularly in the UWRF Advanced Lab course, gave me a firm foundation for graduate school and my thesis research. 
I received an outstanding undergraduate education at UWRF and my physics degree prepared me for a wide variety of careers with thorough and challenging course work as well as extracurricular experiences and an exciting internship.

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Joseph Ott

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Medical Physics - University of Cincinnati
Certified by American Board of Radiology in Radiologic Therapy Physics

I am a medical physicist for HealthEast, a community-based healthcare organization that operates multiple cancer treatment centers in and around Saint Paul, MN. As a medical physicist, my primary responsibility is to work closely with my radiation oncology colleagues, to ensure the accuracy and quality of our radiation therapy treatments. This entails the precise and careful application of radiation physics principles to the treatment and/or diagnosis of patients.

The UW-River Falls physics program provided an excellent framework for my success in graduate school and subsequent career in medical physics. The core physics curriculum is taught in an engaging manner, by professors that genuinely care about their students. The laboratory component of the UWRF program was also great preparation for my graduate and professional research endeavors. With its excellent, well-rounded physics program, UW-River Falls helped me build the tools, experience, and confidence necessary to succeed in my career as a medical physicist.

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Maat Haase
Matt Haase

B.S. Physics Secondary Education - UW-River Falls
M.S. Science Education - UW-River Falls
M.S. Administration - Viterbo

I teach Physics, Physical Science, and Chemistry at Osceola High School.

I had the unique experience of experiencing two groups of excellent physics professors at UW-River Falls: one as I was an undergraduate, and another as I started my master's degree. It was obvious that the new faculty were great additions. The classes I took with each have proven challenging and enlightening. It is exciting to hear about all the great work continuing to take place in the Physics Department. This is work that I regularly share with my students as they consider the possibility of continuing into physics programs.

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Tracy Crane

Physics Dual Degree Student
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
B.S. Civil Engineering - University of Wisconsin-Madison

I work at TSP Environmental, an environmental contractor in Redford, Michigan. I am a Project Engineer and the resident CAD drafter. I am also Project Managing and created the CAD standard for the company. I like to focus on "dig and hauls" or soil remediation of contaminated soils that usually involve underground storage tank removal.

The UW-River Falls Physics Department helped me figure out who I really was, it helped me realize my intelligence, creativity and confidence that I use everyday!  Specifically, the detailed lab reports and emphasis on technical writing at UWRF helped me at UW-Madison and while writing technical reports in my career. 

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Amanda Steck

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Physics - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

I am currently a graduate student in the high energy physics group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Our lab work is focused on building components for the upcoming upgrade to the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Europe. In total we will be manufacturing 500/1000 silicon detector modules that will form the endcaps of the innermost layer of the detector.

I think that earning a degree from UW-River Falls gave me a super solid foundation to go into graduate studies.  I was able to start right into graduate classes here at UNL without needing additional undergraduate work and I have excelled in my studies due to the skills that I acquired at UWRF.  I also feel confident in the lab and I think that my ability to be a contributing member of the HEP lab here is greatly due to the lab work that I did during my undergraduate studies at UW-River Falls.

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Luke Titus

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Physics - Michigan State University
Ph.D. candidate - Michigan State University

I am a Research Assistant at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University. As a theorist studying nuclear reactions, I help develop theoretical models which are used along with experimental data to better understand the nucleus of atoms.

The UW-River Falls Physics Department prepared me for a career as a research physicist. The transition from UWRF to a big research university for graduate school was seamless. I was more than prepared for the graduate level course work. The close access to professors at UWRF allowed me to thoroughly understand the material that was being taught. I was always comfortable going to a professor's office to ask questions about class material or homework problems. While I am a theorist now, the laboratory work at UWRF prepared me to be a better, more organized, and more effective scientist.  I would not be where I am as a scientist without the faculty and staff of the UW-River Falls Physics Department.

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Yvette Richardson

B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Meteorology - University of Oklahoma
Ph.D. Meteorology - University of Oklahoma

UWRF Physics Alumni Success Story: One day as an undergraduate, I noticed a poster on the wall for a Summer Institute on Atmospheric Science at NASA Goddard Space Flight center, and they were encouraging physics majors to apply. That summer was the beginning of my career in meteorology. After graduation from River Falls, I went to the University of Oklahoma to earn master's and Ph.D. degrees in meteorology, studying severe storms and tornadoes. I am now an associate professor in the Department of Meteorology at Penn State University.

I could not have asked for a better foundation than the one I obtained as a physics major at UW-River Falls. The rigor of the program was excellent preparation for the problem-solving needed in meteorology, and the skills acquired in courses like Math for Physics and Chemistry were fundamental to my success as a graduate student.  Advanced Lab taught me how to think critically and become a true scientist.  Most importantly, the dedication, caring, and encouragement of the UW-River Falls faculty throughout my entire time at UWRF helped me to succeed and to come out confident that I could pursue a Ph.D. in the physical sciences.  

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Mike Sykora
B.S. Physics and Chemistry - UW-River Falls

I am a Senior Product Development Engineer and Project Manager in 3M's Commercial Solutions Division supporting our Illuminated Signage products that consist of translucent films and substrates used in commercial signage around the world. As a Product Development Engineer I am responsible for the development and support of some of our Illuminated Signage products. As a Project Manager I lead cross function teams that maintain existing products and develop new products.

The UW-River Falls Physics department taught me the foundational principles that I rely on daily. With the classroom education I am able to connect the principles of the underlying theory to observations/ processes/ products. This allows me to intensely integrate with the project teams I lead. Equally, if not more important, were the practices of the experimental approach. Even though it has been years since I graduated, I am constantly recalling the approach to designing and executing experiments efficiently and accurately.  I never imagined the power of my education from the UW-River Falls Physics Department.

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Lindsey Neby
B.S. Physics and Music - UW-River Falls
M.S. Electrical Engineering - University of Rochester

I work as an Audio Test Engineer in the hardware division of Microsoft, testing and analyzing the acoustic capabilities of various products in their development stages. My team has worked heavily on the Xbox Kinect, and has branched out into supporting a wide variety of other products, from headsets to conference devices. 

The staff at UWRF's Physics Department really are at the heart of what makes it a great place to learn and develop your  individual interests on top of a good overall foundation. I was able to pursue my interest in acoustics while at UWRF due to their support on every level- from having the flexibility to tailor coursework options, to being given the support to work on research and projects I was interested in, and being able to present that work at a professional level- all as an undergraduate. These experiences laid the groundwork for being successful in graduate school and now working in the field. 

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Ashley Hammerbeck
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
B.C.E. Civil Engineering - University of Minnesota
M.S. Environmental Engineering - University of Michigan

I am a Process Engineer at Donohue & Associates Inc., specializing in wastewater treatment processes. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, I was involved in progressive work examining anaerobic wastewater treatment in conjunction with resource and energy recovery. Professionally, I have worked with a variety of municipal and industrial clients to evaluate and optimize their wastewater treatment processes.  I have also had the opportunity to broaden my skill set to water and wastewater infrastructure design and rehabilitation.

My experience at UWRF and the Physics Department set the perfect foundation for the challenges I faced in transitioning to engineering at the University of Minnesota and graduate school at the University of Michigan. Small class sizes and the most caring and engaged faculty you could imagine allowed me to master the fundamentals in math and science and also develop invaluable writing and communication skills.  Most importantly though, was that EVERYONE was welcome in the Physics Department. Everyone had the opportunity succeed and be part of a tight-knit community! 

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Scott Degner
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls

I am a Manufacturing Engineer for 3M in St Paul, MN. I support the manufacturing of reflective films, focusing primarily on the optical properties of the products. I also develop test-bed applications for new process tools that are implemented onto manufacturing lines.

Thanks to the education I received at UW-River Falls, I have found a career that's challenging and exciting.  I came to appreciate the passionate teachers, small class sizes and inclusive environment the Physics Department offered. The close proximity to the Twin Cities also helped me easily find an internship that fit well into my busy class and extracurricular schedule. The invaluable experience there undoubtedly set me up for success early in my career.

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Neal Schumacher
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S., Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering - Texas A&M University
MBA - Carlson School of Business, University of Minnesota

Vice President of Engineering at Banner Engineering Corporation (Minneapolis, MN). At Banner, I oversee new product research and development for sensors (optical/ultrasonic/radar/machine vision & safety) used primarily in factory automation, quality control, and machine safety applications. 

The experience I gained at UW-River Falls while obtaining my physics degree was the catalyst for both my graduate work in engineering and career in product development. One key aspect of the physics degree at UW-River Falls was (and still is) taking what you learned in your core physics, math, and data analysis courses and applying them in the lab to investigate complicated problems. There was no better preparation for my graduate school engineering research and the new product development projects I have been involved with, than the time spent in the labs at UW-River Falls.

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Scott DeWolf
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Earth Sciences (Geophysics) and
Ph.D. Oceanography (Applied Ocean Science) -
Scripps Institution of Oceanography - University of California-San Diego

I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Clemson University. My research is in optical fiber sensor development for measuring geophysical phenomena, which in the past has included low-frequency acoustics from atmospheric explosions and Earth strains associated with tidal and seismic forces. The sensors I design use laser interferometry to measure very small (picometer) changes in the length of optical fibers embedded in various materials that couple them to the geophysical signal of interest.

Since my career is based on designing and conducting experiments, there is no doubt that I have benefited greatly from my physics education at UWRF.  Thinking clearly about the physical principles behind the measurement being made and understanding the trade-offs between the desired observation and other experimental parameters is something that is very rigorously pursued in the UWRF physics program. This is not only immensely important in my work, but is also a very useful approach to many things in life.

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Alan Kruizenga
B.S. Physics and Math - UW-River Falls
M.S. Mechanical Engineering - UW-Madison
M.S. and Ph.D. Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics - UW-Madison

Dr. Alan Kruizenga is the Director of Salt Chemistry at Kairos Power. He leads salt chemistry development activities across the organization and integrates salt chemistry learnings and development into the KP-FHR.

Before joining Kairos, Dr. Kruizenga led high-temperature salt and other materials science and chemistry programs for energy systems at Sandia National Labs. While at Sandia, Alan was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Dr. Kruizenga is passionate about bringing practical knowledge, application-orientation, and problem-solving to theoretical science to make great ideas a reality. During his postgraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Kruizenga was a Nuclear Regulatory Fellow where his work focused on heat transfer in complex geometries for the SCO2 Brayton cycle application.

Dr. Kruizenga is a recipient of the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Obama.

The UWRF Physics department gave me a strong scientific and mathematical foundation that acted as a base for me in my career. Fundamentally, the ability to learn and grasp complex ideas and concepts has been universally applicable throughout my graduate and professional career. This foundation consisted of both classroom and laboratory experience. Most importantly, as a first generation student, the excellent student to faculty ratio provided me access to staff at UWRF where I could learn, interact, and be mentored by people that passionately cared about my education. This ultimately led to my decision to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D.

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Dwight Luhman
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
Ph.D. Physics - University of Massachusetts

I currently work as a senior research scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. I work together with a team of scientists investigating the quantum mechanical properties of single electrons bound in semiconductors, such as silicon, with the goal of potential applications in quantum computing. My role in this effort involves planning experiments, managing the use of resources, advising other team members including staff, postdocs, and graduate students, as well as performing my own experiments.

The physics education I received at UWRF has been the critical foundation for everything I have done in my career. Almost daily I draw upon the understanding of physical principles and fundamental experimental skills that I learned as an undergraduate. This is an enduring testament to the top-notch education that the UWRF physics department provides. Throughout my career - as a graduate student, postdoc, professor, and now as a research scientist - I have been in the position of mentoring and teaching others.
Learning how to successfully mentor others is among the most important things I learned during my time at UWRF. The care, dedication, investment and genuine interest that the physics faculty at UWRF shows toward every individual student, regardless of career path, is truly unique and remarkable. It is something that I attempt to emulate in my own career.

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 Devin Underwood
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
Ph.D. Electrical Engineering - Princeton University

I am a research scientist at HRL laboratories in Malibu, California working in a quantum computing research group. Here we fabricate semiconductor quantum dots and measure them at very low temperatures. The goal of this research is to improve the functionality of these devices so that they can someday be used as a quantum information processor. Prior to joining HRL laboratories, I was a graduate student in Electrical Engineering at Princeton University, where I was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. While at Princeton my research was also focused on experimental efforts to develop a quantum computer. It is my opinion that quantum computing has become one of our generation's greatest physics challenges, and my education as an experimentalist at River Falls helped prepare me for the challenges I faced in a rigorous graduate program, and also many of the challenges I currently face in an industrial research program. 

The faculty in the Physics Department at River Falls are directly responsible for my desire to study physics. Prior to attending River Falls, I had never actually taken a physics course. In fact I entered college expecting only to play hockey and maybe study engineering. It wasn't until my second year of college that I took my first physics course, and without any formal physics education I was able to excel because of the availability of physics faculty and their level of enthusiasm for the subject. It was such a rewarding experience that I decided to pursue physics as a major. At one point they even rescheduled a class to work around my busy schedule as an athlete. I am convinced that this level of commitment only comes from faculty who are truly passionate about what they study. Becoming a physicist hasn't always been an easy path, in fact much of the time it was very challenging. Although in my opinion it is worth it, because after all the education and all the training I am actually getting paid to try to understand the strangeness of the microscopic world, and that is why I love being a physicist!

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Matt Wolf
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Engineering & Engineering Physics - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Signal Engineer at Progress Rail Services, Hudson WI.  I design electrical systems for train signalling and track monitoring.

The UWRF Physics program was crucial in preparing me for and providing me with the opportunity to pursue graduate work at UW-Madison. 

The challenging coursework and hands on application of the theories learned in Advanced Lab were an important preparation for my work with supercritical carbon dioxide. The experimentation and rigorous curriculum directly prepared me for the research I performed and I was no stranger to the lab notebook they handed me on my first day. The sense of community and caring professors are the perfect combination for developing critical thinking and a drive to learn.

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Katelyn Schramke
B.S. Physics - University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Currently pursuing Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
University of Minnesota

I do research in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota in Professor Uwe Kortshagen's group. I use non-thermal plasmas to synthesize intrinsic as well as impurity and vacancy doped crystalline nanoparticles in the size range of 3-20nm. I use several different techniques to characterize the nanoparticles and investigate their physical and optical properties.

My background in physics from UWRF has given me a solid foundation to build on in graduate school. 

I gained good problem solving skills from my lab courses (especially advanced physics lab) and I developed good lab habits that I have applied in my lab at the University of Minnesota. My background in physics has also been a useful base for studying solid state physics and plasma physics for my graduate research.

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Michael Narlock
B.S. Physics - University of Wisconsin-River Falls
M.S. Physics - Michigan State University

I am Head of Astronomy/Exhibits and Web Coordinator at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. I am in charge of our museum's planetarium, observatory, all of the exhibits, the website (and our "virtual presence") as well as technology implementation. I am also adjunct physics/astronomy faculty at Lawrence Technological University and Art Director at Dome3D LLC. The Cranbrook Institute of Science is a natural history and science museum that fosters in its audiences a passion for understanding the world around them and a lifelong love of learning. 

The UWRF Physics Department was instrumental in getting me started on a career that has seen many twists and turns. From the always-willing-to-help professors to the collegial environment engendered by other Physics majors, the UWRF Physics Department is peerless in developing young minds and encouraging future success. Perhaps the best experience I had, though I didn't think it at the time, was Junior Lab. This experience was the crucible in which my future aspirations were forged.

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Heather Harwell
B.S. Physics - University of Wisconsin-River Falls

I am a Process Engineer at Seagate Technology in Bloomington, MN, (my dream job!) working on heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) heads for hard drives. In this exciting, cutting edge technology, a small laser is used to heat the writing part of the disk, which changes the magnetic properties of the disk for a short time, by reducing or removing the superparamagenetic effect while writing takes place.  HAMR allows writing between 10 and 100 times more data than previously possible. As a Process Engineer, I work on the specifications, optimization, realization, and adjustments of the processes applied to the manufacture of HAMR heads.

As a physics student at UW-River Falls, I gained a solid foundation in problem solving and a great breadth of knowledge in physics and engineering that I continue to apply in my job today. My experience at UWRF was a fantastic one, with small, interactive class sizes and plenty of variety and challenges.  I had a wonderful experience as a Society of Physics Students (SPS) Chapter President and Vice President, which gave me social and leadership skills that I plan to use in a management position one day at my current dream job.  
I would highly recommend the Physics program at UWRF if you are interested in Physics and Engineering. The professors are awesome and actually CARE about you as a person!

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Alicia Thode
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls
M.S. Reliability Engineering - University of Maryland

I work as a Senior Reliability Engineer at Medtronic supporting new product development in the Neuromodulation business unit. The job of a reliability engineer is to ensure that products perform as expected in defined use environments throughout their intended life. I work with cross-functional teams to ensure that reliability is designed into Medtronic's products by establishing reliability requirements, predictions, allocations, growth plans, and testing. I also make recommendations to the design team based on legacy product performance in the field.

The UWRF Physics department prepared me well for life in the corporate world.  I came away from the physics program with a strong foundation that allowed me to work in multiple corporate environments including the defense, medical device, and commercial industries. The critical thinking skills I learned at UWRF continue to be the foundation for everything I do for my job.  Advanced Lab was extremely valuable as it taught me best practices for documentation, a critical skill to have whether it's documenting an experiment/test, writing a report or just conveying my thoughts to a colleague via e-mail. The coursework I completed for my physics degree and minor in mathematics prepared me well for my subsequent graduate work in reliability engineering.

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Physics Alumni Brent Niccum
Brent Niccum
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls

I am the Owner CEO/CTO of the NCCM Company, a technology company working with non-woven materials.  We create high tech rollers used for wringing liquid off coiled metal production lines in the primary metal markets and Automotive markets.

The UWRF Physics Department was an immense help to my career. I worked at 3M for 18 years, but when I first started I was competing with chemical and mechanical engineers with many of them wondering what a guy with physics could do. I found  that I approached problems very differently than my peers. Because of my training at UWRF, I could not only do my job effectively but I could make others around me better by bringing a different skill set and method of looking at problems. I developed a love for understanding how things worked and how to work with others to achieve far more than I could achieve alone. It also gave me the analytical skills to run a successful global business.

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Sam Oswald
Sam Oswald
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls

I am an Associate Characterization Engineer for Stratasys, based out of River Falls, WI. My job consists of testing thermoplastics we make in house; from tensile and flexural strength, to resistivity, dissolution, burn testing, TGA, GPC, FTIR, Specific Gravity, and Density just to name a few. I also do 3D printing, making sure our filament is within spec, whether that be through color match, correct resistivity, tensile strength, etc., and whether it prints correctly. I also troubleshoot problems.

I didn’t realize how great of a program UWRF had until I joined SPS and was told we were in the top 10%. I never really took this to heart until my second internship at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility working on a computer program when I found out how much of an impact my schooling was. Getting into the internship was a HUGE accomplishment and when meeting with the director of the facility he was amazed that I gave up my internship (would have been 2nd year) working on the IceCube project. He told me that it’s such an amazing internship just to have and was shocked I didn’t join again. My 4th internship is where I ended up starting my career here at Stratasys. Professors helped so much with enrolling in internships and because of that I have my current job. At a career fair I gave my resume to a software company and they were shocked at the amount of computer programming I had done without having a minor or a major in the field. They told me beginning software engineers don’t even have that much experience! My classes at UWRF were extremely difficult, but I loved each and every one, not just because I loved the material but because my professors all took their time to help me when I had questions (which was CONSTANTLY). The professors helped me find the career field I wanted to go into. The environment is friendly, but competitive, making everyone do their best and therefore excelling all of our chances for success in our careers. I will always recommend anyone interested in physics to go to UWRF. They will be in good hands with the amazing professors!

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Dylan Miller
Dylan Miller
B.S. Applied Physics - UW-River Falls

Associate Multidisciplinary Design Engineer - Software at Banner Engineering Corporation. As a Multidisciplinary Design Engineer, I write embedded software for Industrial Sensors and Indicators.

The UWRF Physics Department impacted my career in a positive way, by teaching me how to solve problems by breaking them down into their fundamental parts and to figure out what information I need to solve them.  This problem-solving technique has been proven successful, for me, on a daily basis. The UWRF Physics Department staff is incredible, and was very personally involved in encouraging me to succeed. The hands-on labs were very effective in solidifying the theory into practical results and experience.

The UWRF Physics Department encourages success through hands-on learning, personal interaction, and genuine encouragement.

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Robert Dietrich
Robert Dietrich
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls

Job Title: Applications Engineer

Description: As an Applications Engineer for Bruker’s Nano Surfaces division, I design nanoindentation experiments to obtain the material properties of customers’ samples. Running experiments and providing results via written technical reports and application notes are my primary duties. I study materials that have nano-scale features, such as thin films and nanocomposites. I also participate in the development and testing of new technologies from the Research and Development department, providing suggestions and feedback as requested.

The UWRF physics program provided an indispensable skillset that I draw on daily in my career. Three of the courses that have given me an edge in this field are: Advanced Lab (experiment design and thorough documentation), Digital Electronics (FPGA programming and instrumentation), and Condensed Matter Physics (material science and crystallography). My coursework provided a foundation on which I can easily expand my knowledge and expertise.

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Angela Ludvigsen
B.S. Physics - UW-River Falls

Graduate student in Condensed Matter Physics at Rutgers University.

My experience at UWRF instilled in me a desire for adventure. In addition to rigorous coursework and demanding laboratory requirements, UWRF Physics offers wonderful opportunities for student growth. With the support and encouragement of the physics faculty, I gained significant skills in research and research communication.  In addition to many opportunities to present my UWRF research, I was selected twice to present at two American Physical Society March meetings.  I had three summer research opportunities, one in the USA in condensed matter physics, one in France in atomic physics, and one in England collaborating with a team doing research similar to optics work we were doing at UWRF.  I participated in my local UWRF chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) were we did science outreach, fired our trebuchet, and ate pizza. SPS National sent me to Washington DC twice for conferences and once to Malta to represent the USA at the International Conference of Physics Students. I had not known that programs like this existed, let alone dreamed I would be able to participate. Most certainly, none of this would have been possible without the committed and engaged faculty of the UWRF Physics Department. I owe my success to the solid academic foundation in breaking down problems and in increased self-reliance inspired by my professors. The UWRF Physics Department is genuinely dedicated to offering students stellar opportunities to grow both in science and in leadership.

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Peter Gagliardi
Peter Gagliardi
B.S. Applied Physics - UW-River Falls

Job: Systems Engineer

Work for Sentera, in Richfield, MN. Sentera is a drone company specializing in end-to-end data solutions. Infrastructure and agriculture are our main fields. We focus on collection, management, and use of big data. I work in a lab to design NDVI sensors that are better, lighter, easier to use. I also work to integrate the sensors onto any platform that will best fit customers needs.

UWRF Physics Department uniquely prepared me to handle the variety of tasks I complete daily. The course work I had exposed me to both equipment and lab practices that have aloud me to fit into this team of veteran Lockheed Martin engineers without missing a step. 

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Physics Department
127 Centennial Science Hall

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