Spotlight on Success: From SRDS Lifer to Applied Physics at Columbia University

Richard Oliver, Class of 2012 updates us on his current status.

“I began at Brown with a feeling of uncertainty. I knew where I was headed – my compass pointed straight towards physics – but I wasn’t sure if Brown was the right ship to take me there. After graduating from SRDS in 2012, I took a gap year. For six months, I worked as a tutor in a few subjects at SRDS, accompanied the choir, and helped build the set for the musical. I then traveled to Germany for three months, where I stayed with a family and volunteered at Heraeus, a precious metals company. When I returned from Germany, I was afraid that picking up where I left off academically in a place that was so new and so much larger than SRDS would be overwhelming. Yet, almost as soon as classes began I felt like a fish back in water, and I already knew how to swim from my time at SRDS. As it turned out, my experience at Brown would be both meaningful and deeply enriching. Classes were harder than ever before, but I challenged myself to grow throughout my time there, and each year I took on more activities and branched further out in my studies. By my senior year, I was drawing comics weekly for the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, singing in a Jewish-themed a cappella group known as the Alef Beats, organizing a series of student-led discussions for Brown’s Physics Department Undergraduate Group, and writing an exposition to a sonata for my music theory class, all in addition to finishing my senior thesis on the electromagnetic fields near a rotating black hole.
My time at Brown definitely had stressful moments, but in my memory, they never defined my experience. I feel now that Brown was the right choice, and despite my many concerns along the way, I graduated magna cum laude with honors in physics. While the journey ahead is still uncertain, I know physics is in my future. I am beginning graduate school in applied physics at Columbia where I hope to begin research in quantum optics, a field which I believe will play a major role in future technological advancements in communication and information science.
Brown as an institution is not designed for students who are interested in only one thing. When I was at SRDS, my days were filled with a variety of interests, and this helped me truly enjoy my time at Brown. If I could go back to undergrad, I would keep exploring the subjects I didn’t get around to studying. Along with a full schedule comes a set of organizational skills required to manage and balance all these activities, and the same skills that helped me through Saddle River Day continued to serve me through my four years at Brown. Above all, SRDS imbued me with the will and courage to challenge myself to grow, qualities that will be invaluable wherever I am.”

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