Profiles of Success

Michael Hoff, B.S. 2015:

Michael Hoff, 2015

After graduating with a double-minor in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science along with his Physics degree, Michael went directly to grad school at the University of California Los Angeles in the subsequent Fall. There he completed an M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 11 months, including the publication of an original-research thesis on CMOS optical signal modulation. He now works as a Research Engineer in the Photonics and Advanced Computing division of Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Laboratories. He is an avid reader, pianist, and basketballer, and hopes some day to start his own company.

Zach Santonil, B.S. 2014:

Zach Santonil, 2011

After graduating from the University of Dallas, Zachary received a master's of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He currently works at a top U.S. space and defense contracting company where he is responsible for RF, microwave, and millimeter-wave electronics as well as optoelectronic hardware operating from the IR telecommunications band to technologies in the visible spectrum.


Matthew Melendez, B.S. 2014

Matthew MelendezGraduated with a B.S. in Physics from the University of Dallas in the Spring of 2014, where he studied RR Lyrae and the Blazhko Effect for his Senior Thesis. He now is now in graduate school at Texas Christian University seeking a Masters and PhD in Physics with a concentration in Astrophysics. His research is focused on stellar spectroscopy which allows him to study stellar chemical composition and galactic chemical evolution.

Collin Lueck, B.S. 2010

Collin Lueck

I graduated in Physics from UD in 2010. After UD, I went to medical school at University of Southern California, graduating in 2015. I'm living in Los Angeles and I'm now in my second year of residency the four years of specialty training after medical school) in Psychiatry. I have so many fond memories of studying physics at UD! I remember my good long study hours in the physics lab, as well as fun things like freezing various food items in liquid nitrogen. Physics at UD always felt like a family and I loved being part of it.}


Peter McDonough, B.S. 2010:

Peter McDonough, 2011

I graduated from the University of Dallas in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in Physics and a concentration in Applied Mathematics. (Note: Peter received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from TX Tech University in 2017.)

Graduated from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX with my PhD in Mechanical Engineering along with an MBA.  I did research involving the possibility of designing a continuously variable transmission which would harness gyroscopic precession.  I'm now living in San Antonio and am in the process of starting a cosmetics company. I'm also the owner of a fledgling private equity firm and a small photography business. UD was a great school for me, and I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn't have come as far as I have without the formation received there. Perhaps you might be reading this and are wondering how a physicist is able to deal with the engineering world--can a Physics degree be used to pursue this career path? After my sophomore and junior year, I worked for the electrical engineering division of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, TX. There, I worked on a multitude of projects, none of which were thematically related to any of the study I had accomplished in the physics world. I designed a weather balloon flight prediction model, a remotely operated GPS antenna, and also figured out how to intercept and decrypt the Iridium satellite network down/uplink signal. However, even though these projects were not related, per se, to my chose field of study, I was still easily able to complete them. You see, engineering is a field in which one conceives design solutions to problems. Success comes not from specific skills within a particular field of engineering, but from the ability to figure out a solution to a problem. This "figuring out" ability is what physicists learn best, as they are constantly attempting to crack some of the most difficult problems ever devised. We are paid problem solvers--and I've chosen to apply my problem solving ability to the profession of engineering.

Another advantage of a UD education is the requirement of literacy. Having left "the Bubble" and moved to a state school, the differences in general ability are astounding. Those in the sciences are generally incapable of composing a single sentence properly, let alone an entire paragraph or essay. This ability gap between myself and my colleagues resulted in my being asked to teach(not assist) a few of the courses in the undergraduate sequence. There were many other grad students far more qualified for such a task, but it was delegated to me thanks to my ability to communicate ideas more clearly than my peers. You might hate the necessity of attending insufferable English and Philosophy classes, writing dull essays, and being forced to read indomitable books from centuries of yore--but it will pay off in GOLD at the end. You will be a liberally educated scientist--able to communicate as well as the most lucid English major, and yet still be capable of solving a few differential equations here and there.

The best part of all this is that this isn't the only highlight--UD has small class sizes(you actually know your classmates, and your professor knows you), the Rome program(cliché, but still....amazing), fellow Catholics, a small campus(at Tech I teach classes back to back and have to bike 1.5 miles between the rooms), and the closest friends you'll ever have. An education at UD is never regretted, especially by those in the sciences. You get the same technical education you'd receive at any run of the mill college, and then receive the liberal arts tools to put that education to better use.

And a special thank you to my teachers, for I certainly wouldn't have learned anything it if hadn't been for the exceptional tutelage of Dr. Hicks and Dr. Olenick. I am proud to call them my friends.

Will Spearman, B.S. Physics, B.A. Mathematics 2008:

Will Spearman
After graduating from the University of Dallas with a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Mathematics in May 2008, I went to Switzerland on a Fulbright Scholarship in order to conduct research at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research). While there, I did research with the testing and development of edgeless silicon detectors for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) TOTEM project. In fall (2009), I will begin my study towards a Ph.D. in High Energy Physics at Harvard University working on the LHC and looking for evidence of new physics such as Supersymmetry.

While an undergraduate at the University of Dallas, I worked at Texas A&M University for a summer doing research in quantum optics. In addition, I participated in an REU hosted by the University of Michigan which took me to CERN for a summer. Both were fabulous experiences which really helped me explore physics and hone my interests. Furthermore, the University of Dallas coursework prepared me to conduct research and enter graduate school. Ultimately, however, it was the friendships I formed with my professors and the advice and support which they gave me which truly set the University of Dallas apart from the many other places where one could pursue an undergraduate degree in physics. This one-on-one support gave me a leg up and a strong advantage in this challenging and competitive field. I am both lucky and proud to have graduated from UD.

Stephanie Wissel, B.S. 2004:

Stephanie Wissel

I graduated from UD with a B.S. in Physics and an Applied Math Concentration in 2004. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2010 and went on to do two postdoctoral fellowships, one at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and one at UCLA. My husband, Nathan Keim, and I are now physics professors at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo California. My research on astroparticle physics takes me to the top of mountains and to Antarctica and Greenland in search of rare cosmic particles. 

While at UD, I attended a summer course in Bamberg, Germany in which I studied German language, literature, and culture. I also participated in three Research for Undergraduates (REUs) in which I worked for scientists at various institutions. These were valuable experiences in that I was able to investigate different areas of current physics research.

The University of Dallas Physics Department is unique in that the small class sizes and dedicated professors encourage an atmosphere of investigation in physics. I was able to develop a personal relationship with my professors, something which helped aspire to a career in academia. One of my favorite memories of the UD Physics Department was simulating avalanche behavior in sand for Dr. O's computational physics course as well as the numerous projects and presentations throughout the physics curriculum.

Claire Nerbun Gillick, B.S. 2002:

Claire GillickAfter graduating with a B.S. in Physics from the University of Dallas in 2002, I attended UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to study medical physics. My thesis work at MD Anderson involved developing a dosimetry audit system for proton therapy clinics wishing to participate in NCI clinical trials. I graduated in December of 2005 with a masters degree. Currently, I am working as a medical physicist in Manhattan at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As a medical physicist, I plan photon and electron radiation treatments for cancer patients and perform quality assurance on the linear accelerators that deliver the radiation to ensure that treatments are safely and accurately delivered. Its a challenging but extremely rewarding job.

Shortly after I moved to the city, I met my husband here. So Manhattan will always be one of my favorite places. One of the most amazing things about living in Manhattan is the diverse culture the people, the food, the arts, and of course, Central Park.  It truly is a concrete jungle that never sleeps.

John C. Boehringer, B.S. 2002:

John BoehringerJ.C. graduated with a B.S. in Physics from the University of Dallas in 2002. He is presently a high school teacher at Prosper High School, north of Dallas. He chose the teaching profession after leaving UD and went through the Texas Region X Education Service Center Teacher Alternative Certification Program, and became certified in 8-12 grade Physical Science (Physics and Chemistry). J.C. is currently serving as the science department chair and teaches PreAP (Honors) Physics I and Calculus-Based AP Physics II. He also coaches the schools Academic Decathlon team as well as the UIL Science competition team. He has been teaching physics for 10 years with no plans to change his field in the immediate future. Outside of his work he enjoys gardening and home-improvement projects. Currently he is working on several writing projects including a science-fiction novel and a possible foray into the creation of an open source, interactive physics curriculum/e-textbook for tablet computers.

J.C. offers a few thoughts for  prospective physics major at UD: The University of Dallas provides an environment where highly competent professors are actually excited to teach the courses you will be taking. This particular element of the curriculum provides an invaluable resource not widely seen at many larger schools. I found the science program to be home to the most zany, spirited, educated and fun group of individuals on campus and that statement includes professors and students alike!

Regarding physics specifically, a B.S. in physics at UD is second to none and in my experience, easily comparable to the physics offerings at many other colleges and universities. This is due, in no small part, to the exceptional faculty and resources the department provides. In addition, it is significant to note that all of the physics faculty are active in teaching and research, both theoretical and experimental. The opportunity to engage in meaningful research with your own professors is a challenging and rewarding experience, one that would be out of reach at many schools.

Speaking as a high school teacher for Advanced Placement physics, I come into frequent contact with the expectations of physics programs both in Texas and around the nation. Given the high departmental expectations at UD, the small average class sizes and the in-house research opportunities, I believe that UD's physics program offers similar if not better undergraduate preparation than many colleges can offer. A physics degree at UD will prepare you for graduate studies, or to proceed directly into industry or education.   J.C.'s Homepage.

Brenda Martin, B.S. 2001:

Brenda MartinBrenda Martin graduated from UD in 2001 with a B.S. in Physics. She currently works as an optical engineer at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, CO and has started taking graduate courses in optics at the University of Arizona. As an optical engineer Brenda analyzes designs and conducts trade studies between designs. She makes sure light gets from the front end of satellites to the other end. Most of the analyses are done with optical design software.
She also writes a LOT! Everything she does has to be well documented. The quantity of writing required was her big shock regarding the engineering field. Brenda says, "I think that one of the things that UD has helped me with the most is the writing. Most engineers don't write very well. Since UD requires so many non-science classes, even for science majors, your writing skills are developed, whether you want them to be or not."
One of the things Brenda liked most about UD was the Rome program. "I know this is stressed a LOT in the recruiting information, however it really is a great experience. It's not something many people get to do. Also, the class/department size of UD is a huge asset. From freshman year, the professors know who you are and are very willing to help you in any way they can."

Genevieve Wing, B.S. 2001:

Genevieve WingGenevieve is in Haslett, MI, working at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory on the Michigan State University campus (East Lansing). She has not yet earned a degree past her physics BS/music concentration, but this fall she will start taking classes at MSU. Genevieve is currently a cyclotron operator; she sets up the cyclotrons for experiments (there are two, currently in series) and monitors the facility while experiments are running (there is an operator on duty 24/7), and the operations department is responsible for the cyclotrons themselves during maintenance periods. It's really a fascinating job; operations overlaps a little with each of the other departments, so she has a chance to get involved with everything from cryogenics and vacuum to electronics and the RF system. It sounds fairly impressive, but she admits that, "I'm really a cross between a lab tech and a mechanic!" National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

Chris Aubin, 1999:

Chris AubinUpon graduating from UD, I went to Washington University in St. Louis to pursue a PhD in physics. I was there for five years, and specialized in theoretical high energy particle physics (specifically a field called Lattice Gauge Theory, which is just a fancy name for "particle physics on a computer"). In May of 2004 I received my PhD and then moved on to Columbia University as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Theory group there. This is currently where I am, for at least three years (well, two more from now). Being in this field has allowed me to travel all over the place, mostly Europe (Germany, Ireland, Scotland), Japan (Tokyo and various other towns), and the US and Canada.
Chris is currently an Assistant Professor at Fordham University in New York where in addition to teaching he does research in theoretical hadronic and particle physics, mainly performing large scale numerical simulations at various supercomputer centers around the country.   Chris's Homepage.

Josh Nelson and Beth Sklaney, 1999:

Josh and BethHours spent working theoretical mechanics and electromagnetic theory problems together can sometimes lead to long term relationships. Such is the case with Joshua Nelson and Beth Sklaney who were married in June of 2005.

Josh graduated with a B.A. in physics in 1999. He then obtained a law degree form Boston College and is currently working for McDermott, Will & Emery, LLP (Law Firm) in Irvine, California, USA. His specialty is patent law, and he has been admitted to the US Patent Bar and has drafted several US Patent applications. 

Beth and Josh both have special memories of their years at UD, because you can "Meet your spouse in the physics department!" 

Beth graduated with B.S. in Physics (magna cum laude) in 1999 and attended graduate school at Syracuse University where she obtained an M.S. in Physics. She currently works as a staff engineer doing compact device modeling for IBM in Irvine, California.

While at UD, Beth went to the PSI in Villigen, Switzerland to study the Te nuclei. While at Syracuse University she worked on a couple of research projects, which included (I) Experimental Condensed Matter Group: Built and tested dye sensitized solar cells, and (II) Experimental High Energy Group: Programmed in C++ to access RICH data and report where maximum number of hits.

Peter Burkett, B.S. 1997:

Peter Burkett

After leaving UD with a B.S. in Physics in 1997, I obtained an M.S. in Geophysics from The Penn State University (PSU). While at PSU I was involved in two extended trips to Antarctica working on a mix of glaciology and seismology   (photo-lower left). These trips came before I knew much seismology but were possible because of a solid background in physics which I got as an undergrad at UD.

After working several years at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Peter returned to Penn State University where he currently is part of the Penn State Ice and Climate (PSICE) research team.  In his works, 'I'm here to help get things together for the science guys to study- that means computers, logistics, all the odds and ends. '  Peter's Homepage.

Any graduate of the UD Physics Department is welcome to submit a profile to Dr. Sally Hicks at



2018 Galbraith Lecture Explores 'Dante and Liturgical Time'

As we age, most of us ask ourselves, where has the time gone? Borrowing text from UD's Core curriculum, this spring semester's Galbraith Lecture will explore the difference between our own perception of time, and how the philosopher-poet Dante Alighieri viewed mankind's immortal clock, steeped in Scripture and in life.

+ Read More

UD Presents: 'Dwelling: Paintings by Peter Ligon and Layla Luna'

The Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery is pleased to announce an upcoming exhibition featuring two Dallas/Fort Worth area artists, Peter Ligon and Layla Luna, who articulate the architectural styling of dwelling spaces in their paintings. Both artists will give presentations at an opening reception on Friday, March 23, at 5:30 p.m. in the Haggar Art History Auditorium located in the Haggerty Art Village on the University of Dallas’ Irving campus.

+ Read More

Politics Major Empowers Youth, Shares Story Through Theater

Although she herself is not able to vote, Liz Magallanes, BA '18, works to make voting possible for other people. She first got involved with the organization Mi Familia Vota in 2014 and has been contributing to their endeavors ever since, including working with high school students in Dallas ISD. Additionally, she recently had a role in the play "Deferred Action."

+ Read More