McKay Receives National Award
As one of the most prestigious awards for undergraduate students in the natural sciences, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship recognizes and supports students with demonstrated promise in scientific talent and leadership. Consequently, we celebrate with Mathematics and Physics major Stephen McKay ('21) as he receives this high honor.
Stephen has a naturally curious and inquisitive mind. Over the course of the past two years, he has developed a mature understanding of the interplay between theoretical mathematics and experimental science. He makes insightful connections between theory and practice, exhibiting an excellent grasp of the overall role of theoretical mathematics in the progress of physics. His excellence in the classroom, quality of analytical reasoning, skill in the lab, and service as a Diakonoi coordinator all contribute to this recognition.
More Information on Stephen McKay
Majors in Physics and Mathematics. Did research with Dr. Darren Craig this past summer.
Ph.D. in high-energy physics or cosmology and astrophysics. I aspire to lead research at a national lab, NASA, or a university that studies the nature of black holes, dark matter, and dark energy.
Further Description of Career Goals
After graduation, I will pursue a Ph.D. in physics, likely in high-energy physics or cosmology/astrophysics. I am most excited by research in these fields since they home in on the fundamental nature of the universe we inhabit, the deepest questions of what constitutes reality. Later, I hope to lead a research group studying the makeup of the universe through research at one of the national labs, an international research center such as CERN, or through a position at NASA. I am especially captivated by the question of the identity of dark energy and dark matter, which ties together the large scale structure of the universe with the possibility of new particles in the Standard Model, the smallest known scales of reality. Although the prospect of refining and expanding our knowledge of the world is itself exciting, I am also hopeful that this kind of fundamental research will lead to advances that benefit human life as well, as has been the case with so many other scientific discoveries, regardless of whether they had any foreseen application.
Currently, I am finishing up a double major in physics and mathematics at Wheaton College, taking as many elective courses in each field as I can. To my delight I have found that each math course I complete enhances and illuminates the physics I am learning. This STEM-laden course load has proved to be very valuable already, preparing me for a summer research program in which I studied laboratory plasmas embedded in a magnetic arcade under the supervision of Dr. Darren Craig at Wheaton College. This project taught me new physics concepts, stretched my problem-solving and experimental lab skills, and gave me an opportunity to dive into the professional side of the scientific process. In fact, inspired by this galvanizing experience, I am applying to additional REU programs at Rutgers, Harvard, Boston University, and MIT’s Haystack Observatory for the coming summer. I anticipate that the technical and professional skills I gain from undergraduate research projects will prove to be excellent preparation for a future research career.