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Physics & Astronomy

Student Voices

  • Max Becher 19

Max Becher ’19

Hometown

Somerset, Wisconsin

Major(s)

Physics

Minor(s)

Mathematics, Computer Science

Favorite spot on campus

“My favorite spot on campus is one of the labs in the basement of the David A. Straz, Jr. Center. The basement is essentially like home for physics majors. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know each room, but the one I find myself in most often is Lab 81. It is a place I can work on homework without distractions, and it is the place I spend most of my time working on extracurricular projects.”

Throughout his career in the Carthage Physics Department, Max Becher has experienced an immense amount of success working closely with faculty members and his classmates. Through impressive projects, including the building of an experimental rocket with NASA, Max has been able to intensely explore his field, learning essential skills and knowledge along the way.

On campus, Max is a part of the Society of Physics Students, as well as non-secret social fraternity Delta Upsilon. The time spent participating in events with his fraternity makeup the majority of Max’s favorite Carthage memories. “One particularly fond memory I have is playing in the Special Olympics basketball game hosted at Carthage by the Special Olympics Club. It was a great experience to give my time to the Special Olympics members, and to do so with a lot of my close friends and fraternity brothers.”

Aware of Carthage’s many opportunities to travel abroad, Max was able to attend an “incredible” study tour to Austria and Hungary entitled Music Pedagogy in Context. His group spent their time sitting in on classes and viewing live performances. “I’m very grateful that I was able to travel, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how awesome the trip was.”

In the future, Max hopes to attend graduate school in order to conduct research in theoretical and experimental physics, while also contributing to the development of new technology.

Career goal

“I’m hoping to continue on into a master’s or PhD physics program. I want to conduct research on field theory, as well as develop advanced experimental technology for terrestrial and space-based research. Along with theoretical and experimental physics, I’m also very passionate about the future of energy use and environmental stress.”

Favorite professor

“Many of the professors I’ve taken classes with have had an incredible impact on my learning career. As amazing as some of my physics, math, and computer science professors are, I think it is a philosophy professor, Dr. Michael McShane, who takes the cake. Through classes with him and his wife, I’ve learned to read incredible works and to think about the deepest, most profound questions implanted in their words. Perhaps even more importantly, I’ve developed a love for the interconnectedness of art and science through great ideas.”

Favorite class

“My favorite class so far was probably Western Heritage with Dr. McShane because it opened my eyes to fields of study that I never thought about before. It is hard to nail down this as my pure favorite. Electricity and Magnetism with Dr. Jean Quashnock was the first class I felt like I was truly beginning to understand some of the more fundamental concepts in physics. That, along with Q’s personality, made E & M very enjoyable.”

Toughest class

“My toughest class so far has been Modern Physics because, well, there isn’t much that’s easy about special relativity and quantum mechanics! Still though, it was difficult in a fun and rewarding way.”

Internships

“I’ve worked with both the Carthage 2015-2016 RockSat X team and the CaNOP CubeSat team. The first was a NASA program in which we built an experimental payload to be launched on a suborbital sounding rocket out at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Our experiment was an attempt at collecting radio wave signals from lightning as a function of altitude. CaNOP stands for Canopy Near-infrared Observing Project. A CubeSat is essential a small and relatively cheap satellite. We are making ours in an attempt to take multispectral images of forest canopies and infer carbon intake differences between old and replanted forests.”

Opportunities at Carthage

“I was able to go on a trip to Austria and Hungary my sophomore year called Music Pedagogy in Context. It was incredible. We spent the better part of a week watching performances, doing workshops, and touring Vienna. Then, we spent a week taking and observing classes in a smaller city in Hungary. The last three days of the trip were spent touring Budapest and attending operas. I’m very grateful that I was able to travel, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how awesome the trip was.”

Scholarships

“No. I only received the merit based scholarship. The aid I received from Carthage and outside sources definitely made the cost of school here manageable.”

Campus involvement

“I am part of the executive board of Delta Upsilon, the only non-secret social fraternity on campus. DU has become a rich part of my college career. I also participate in the Society of Physics Students, work as an embedded tutor for the physics department, and work in the Division of Student Affairs as an office assistant.”

Favorite moments at Carthage

“Some of my favorite memories have come from classes, friends, and events. One particularly fond memory I have is playing in the Special Olympics basketball game hosted at Carthage by the Special Olympics Club. It was a great experience to give my time to the Special Olympics members, and to do so with a lot of my close friends and fraternity brothers.”

Biggest surprise so far?

“The biggest surprise has been how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown. Being immersed in academics here has allowed me to grow in both breadth of knowledge and depth of understanding. I never expected to become so happy with the opportunity I have each day to learn. I’m very pleased and surprised by the enthusiasm I’ve developed.”

What would your 8-year-old self think of you now?

“If I got to go back and have a conversation with my 8-year-old self, I honestly think he would be quite bored and quiet! He was a shy boy who read and created make-believe worlds all day long. He didn’t spend time dwelling on things he didn’t find important. He understood his imagination and curiosity were the things that made him happy, and he was content with that. In hindsight, I can totally see how my 8-year-old obsessions and skills lead to my current obsessions and skills. It was that imagination and curiosity which launched me on my way to falling in love with learning.”

Advice for other students considering your major

“Incoming students should consider physics if they have a passion for truth seeking. Physics, like no other major, dives into the essence of the universe and tries to pull out an explanation for why things are the way they are. It is truly simple and complex at the same time.”

“If a person was considering physics, I’d tell them to go for it. However, I would also suggest that the person reflect on what entranced them the most as a child. It is my opinion that it is often better to pursue a true natural passion than to try to fake one.”

Writer

Madeline Paakkonen ’21
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    • Computer science students watch Prof. Mark Mahoney’s recorded lecturers in their free time, so he can nearby “when they do their real learning,” he says. He has company: Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 170,000 times. 

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    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …

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