Class of 2016 Profile: Jake Brooks Pursues Physics Ph.D.

graduateprofilesWith another successful commencement behind us, recent High Point University graduates are preparing to commence prestigious career paths around the world at Fortune 500 companies, international service programs, public school systems, top-tier law, medical and graduate school programs, and many other esteemed organizations thanks to their journey at HPU. Here’s a glimpse of one extraordinary senior from the Class of 2016:

Name: Jake Brooks

Hometown: Monkton, Maryland

Major: Brooks graduated with a B.S. in Physics, with minors in Chemistry and Mathematics, in December.

Post-graduation plans: Brooks is pursuing his Ph.D. in physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focusing on biophysics and nanoscale biomimetic systems.

How HPU helped you get there: “HPU helped me prepare for the future in a few very different ways:

1) I did biophysics research with Dr. Briana Fiser for two years. During this time, I worked on creating computational models of biomimetic cilia, focusing on two different dynamic characteristics of cilia behavior. I presented my work at a number of conferences, including the Big South Undergraduate Research Symposium (Big SURS), multiple American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) meetings, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

2) I had the opportunity to work with several other physics majors to design and construct a device that we were able to test at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Since we received no funding directly from NASA, we applied for funding through SGA. There was an outpouring of support from SGA, President Qubein and the university as a whole for the success of our project.

3) I worked as a University Ambassador for two years. While working, I had a wonderful opportunity to interact with a variety of people from many walks of life, and some of the students whose tour I led decided to come to HPU! This was an important experience for me as I honed some interpersonal and communication skills. Working as an ambassador especially helped my interviewing skills as every tour was, in a way, a chance for prospective students and their families to interview me as a current student.

Most impactful mentor at HPU: “Its very difficult to select a most impactful mentor, because I had so many mentors in very different situations and contexts. If I had to choose one mentor, it would have to be Dr. Briana Fiser. Dr. Fiser was my research advisor during my sophomore and junior years. She really helped me figure out what I was interested in when it came to research, and what I wanted to do in my life and career. I had very varied interests spanning biology, chemistry, physics, computer science and mathematics, and she introduced me to biophysics. My research with modeling, fabricating and actuating biomimetic cilia arrays was my first exposure to such an interdisciplinary field, and I loved that I could draw on a variety of experiences and classes to help me achieve my research goals. Dr. Fiser also helped me outside of research with planning for class, helping me apply for REUs, internships and fellowships, and helping me with a number of other things in life throughout my undergraduate career.

NASA Johnson Space Center 2Most impactful moment at HPU: “The most impactful moment I had in my undergraduate career was definitely when I was able to travel to Johnson Space Center and test our team’s device with NASA officials. It was such a unique opportunity, and it was awesome to see an HPU team alongside teams from schools like Yale, Duke and Embry-Riddle. As a result of having had that opportunity and representing myself and the team well, I was able to actually work for NASA during the summer of 2016 as an assistant for the program. Not many college graduates can say they’ve done research for NASA or worked for NASA, and I was able to do both. This combination of experiences also brought me back to what got me interested in science in the first place. When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut. That dream sort of got lost in the hustle and bustle as I got older, but working with NASA revived that dream. I have decided that it would be fantastic to do biophysical experiments in microgravity conditions as an astronaut, and am working towards that goal as a potential career path.

Advice for underclassmen: “Take ownership of your academic career and social lives. Balance is essential for a healthy college experience (and life). Give 100% when you have opportunities, but don’t become so consumed with perfectionism that you miss a soccer game or a formal or anything else. For me, that was the best way to go through college. Sometimes if I was studying there would come a time where I would just put everything down and go to the gym, or a basketball game, or steakhouse with my friends. There’s plenty of other advice I could give, but balance is probably the most important. And get involved with things you enjoy and want to be a part of so you can have that balance. For example, I worked as an Ambassador and a tutor in physics and math; I was also a part of Alpha Phi Omega and participated in intramural sports.


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