The SULI internship is a highly competitive program that offers STEM undergraduate students research experiences at 17 participating Department of Energy laboratories nationwide.
Nowak found the “extraordinarily experimental internship” to be “very valuable” giving him many opportunities to learn about different aspects of what it means to be part of a larger scientific community and a collaborative research group.
This isn't the first time Nowak has been awarded a SULI internship. In summer 2016, he completed a SULI internship in accelerator physics at the Jefferson Lab in Norfolk, Virginia, where he improved upon a method of analyzing accelerator data. Nowak continued working remotely on the project at Oregon State and the research now appears in his undergraduate thesis.
Nowak has acquired a rich, multi-disciplinary education at OSU, and he intends to continue to study both math and physics at the graduate level. He will apply to master’s programs in mathematics this year and eventually plans to pursue a Ph.D. in particle physics.
To his delight, Nowak has found that he can use his math skills in a variety of fields of research. “For me, mathematics is an incredibly useful tool and bridge to understand most phenomena in the natural and physical sciences,” said Nowak.
Nowak also has a passion for theoretical mathematics and has enjoyed many intellectually transformational moments in his classes in modern algebra, advanced calculus and topology.
Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Nowak started out aspiring to study chemical engineering, but realized that he didn't want to study the subject after his first brush with chemical engineering coursework. An encouraging conversation with Professor Henri Jansen in the Department of Physics, led Nowak to math and physics.
"I told Henri I was interested in learning more about particle physics through research, and he said I could do that here."
Nowak joined Professor and Head of Physics, Heidi Schellman's neutrino physics group, and has had a fantastic learning experience collaborating on the Minerva and MicroBoone experiments at Fermi National Laboratory. In addition to remotely operating the Minerva experiment from Oregon State, Nowak designed and created a data analysis tool and compared large physics data sets from both experimental projects.
Nowak is deeply grateful to Schellman for inspiring him to continue in physics. Although it took two years for Nowak to find his true calling in science at OSU, he has managed to amass a ton of experiences across a range of research fields, from electrochemistry to high energy physics. Studying and excelling in math and physics represent a significant turning point in Nowak's life because he didn't display a particular talent for the subjects in school.
"I had no idea I would be a math and physics major one day. I was an undecided major for two years. I am grateful to OSU for giving me the freedom and flexibility to explore a wide range of courses and discover my true passion."
A passion for mathematics teaching
Celeste Wong, who graduated in June 2017, has harbored an ambition to teach mathematics to middle and high school students right from her own school days in San Francisco. Her exceptional performance and dedication as a teaching assistant in the Foundations of Elementary Mathematics (Math 211) earned her the 2017 Gary L. Musser Award, which recognizes outstanding mathematical achievement for a prospective elementary or middle school teacher.