Amherst’s newest Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, Alexander Frenett ’18, is a double major in physics and mathematics, interested in the subfields of high-energy/particle physics and nuclear fusion. Long term, he hopes to either become a professor of physics or to work for an agency such as the U.S. Department of Energy.
“If I were to choose the high-energy field, I would love to focus on pursuing evidence of non-standard model particles. Such a discovery would be pushing the very frontier of physics, and seems quite possible in the coming decades,” he wrote in his Goldwater application. “The horizon seems no less bright for the nuclear subfield. At a time of worldwide consensus on the need for safe, renewable energy, fusion research could make a lasting impact on the global energy grid.”
He has participated in a number of research projects with Amherst professors, including building an extended-cavity diode laser, used to control individual trapped atoms.
“He is good at everything we do in the research lab,” said David Hanneke, assistant professor of physics and one of Frenett’s mentors. “In both a design program and the machine shop, the thing that stands out is Alec’s ability to pick up on all the things.”
Hanneke, along with physics professors Will Loinaz and David Hall, recommended him for the fellowship.
“We may be reaching a ‘golden age’ of physics education,” Frenett wrote, in which new teaching models “open opportunities in the field to a larger and more diverse range of students. I wish to be part of that change.”
A captain of the Amherst soccer team, he is also active in the Amherst Political Union. He works as a teaching assistant for the physics department and won that department’s Bassett Physics Prize.
The Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 240 scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1986. Awards are made on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students nominated by their professors. The scholarship covers expenses for tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 annually.