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Physics grad is laser focused in graduate internship

Photo of Austin Conn (r) and Michelle Salem (l) working with fiber optic cables at the University of Oregon.Since graduating from BW last spring, physics major Austin Conn '18 has focused on his career path with precision as intense as the lasers he investigates as part of the innovative Master's Industrial Internship Program (MIIP) at the University of Oregon.

Conn is interning as an applications engineer at Electro Scientific Industries (ESI) while simultaneously earning his Master of Science in Applied Physics with a focus in optical materials and devices.

Conn's current work involves investigation of a range of lasers in order to determine the instruments' speed and quality. This invaluable real-world experience propels Conn toward his career goals, which include designing new lasers and exploring proton particle beam therapy for cancer patients.

Undergraduate research

Austin Conn (r) and Kimberly Belmes (l) working with fiber optic cables at the University of Oregon.Conn says his undergraduate research work in system design and construction, guided by BW physics professor Paul Penko, has a direct correlation to his current lab work and experiment design.

"Creating and executing experiments is now a part of my daily activities. The research with professor Penko allowed me to gain exposure to processes which are now an integral part of my work."

A shift in thinking

Conn believes the preparation he received at BW led to his graduate school acceptance and has laid a firm foundation for future success.

"I am grateful that [BW physics chair] Dr. Ed Meyer constantly challenged me to think critically and develop my problem-solving abilities. He helped completely shift my way of thinking and taught me to approach situations from a variety of perspectives. When I face difficult problems now, I often draw on strategies I learned from Dr. Meyer. This has made me much more effective in my work."

"BW helped cultivate my desire to continuously solve new and challenging problems," he added. "This will drive me to continue overcoming obstacles and will help me to fulfill BW's mission as I serve as a contributing citizen throughout life."

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