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Jorin Graham '19

Finding direction in the City of Light

Jorin Graham '19 credits his decision to major in physics largely to blind luck. Although he had never studied physics before coming to Whitworth, he says, "It seems to have worked out OK so far."

That's an understatement.

Graham spent last summer in Paris carrying out physics research with cutting-edge laser technology. He was accepted into the Optics in the City of Light Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, which is run by the University of Michigan.

"By far, the most exciting thing about participating in this REU was the opportunity to spend time in Paris," Graham says. "Beyond the world-class museums, music, food and scenery, my experience of Paris was enhanced by the opportunity to work there. Commuting to the university on the train, spending my days on research, and interacting with researchers allowed me to see a side of Paris not available to tourists."

The program enabled Graham to perform research in the area of ultrafast optics, specifically on the optical properties of nanoparticles.

Graham says the experience was particularly special because one of the founders of the program, Gérard Mourou, won the Nobel Prize in Physics last year, and Graham got to learn about him from program coordinators. "I heard a lot about his work, which has exerted an enormous impact in ultrafast optics," Graham says. "He also helped develop LASIK surgery as we know it today, so I was able to see the effect of his work both in scientific research and in everyday life."

Graham says he received extensive support from Whitworth as he pursued the internship. Upon arriving back to campus, he found that support continued.

"My Whitworth professors really helped me go beyond the technical information I learned in my internship to understand the deeper implications of my experience," he says.

Prior to the internship, Graham was unsure of which focus to take for his graduate studies. The opportunity to engage in different areas of physics during the optics program gave him clarity.

"I found that I prefer solving problems that arise from a computational approach," he says. "This realization has been pivotal in defining my goals for the future."

In addition to studying physics, Graham is involved in Whitworth's music program, satisfying the side of him that once considered a music major.

"At Whitworth, I am able to benefit from a rigorous physics education while remaining active in high-quality musical ensembles," he says.

Graham is applying to doctoral programs in computational physics, with the hope of studying nonlinear and complex systems. He has also been inspired to contribute to internship programs in the future.

“After attaining my Ph.D., I plan to pursue a career in research either in industry or in government labs,” he says. “And I love mentoring students, so I hope that my career will allow me ample opportunities to host and mentor interns myself.”