Physics student wins National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship

Andrew Robertson, 21, is into small things in a big way. The Mickleton resident and Rowan University physics/mathematics double major just earned a National Defense Science and Engineering Fellows
Andrew Robertson, 21, is into small things in a big way.

The Mickleton resident and Rowan University physics/mathematics double major just earned a National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship, a prestigious award that
will cover tuition, fees and health insurance for him to attend any university with a graduate program in science and engineering and provide an approximate $30,000 stipend annually for up to three years.

Roberston has elected to enter the doctoral program at the University of Maryland, where at least for now he plans to study atomic molecular optics, the field of physics concerned with studying the evolution of atomic and molecular states by shining light on them.

"They're such a diverse department at the University of Maryland, I feel I'm going to switch concentrations a few times before I settle on something," Robertson said. "That's why I chose Maryland. It has the largest physics department in the country, and since I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, I thought with a diverse department I wouldn't have any trouble finding something I was really good at."

Being really good at something is nothing new for Robertson. Though he claims he wasn't an excellent student at the prestigious Salesianum High School in Wilmington, Del., he was at Rowan, where pursuing independent study and conducting research suited him. "I really owe this award to the Physics faculty here at Rowan because without the research opportunities they gave me and without the pedagogy, I really wouldn't have stood out to the people who gave me this fellowship," said Roberston, who, among other work, conducted research under Dr. Hong Ling in the quantum mechanics of Bose-Einstein condensation, a subfield of cold atom study.

While at Rowan, Robertson also has been active in the Society of Physics Students, for which he has served as president for two semesters, and the German and math clubs. Robertson ? whose sister, Kathryn, is a mathematics and music major at Rowan and whose brother, David, plans to attend Rowan to study engineering ? also has been a physics and mathematics tutor at the University.

An Eagle Scout, Robertson last year was named a Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. A federally endowed agency, the Goldwater scholarship program encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering and to help alleviate a critical current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers. More recently, Robertson received a dean's award in physics and Rowan's Physics Medallion presented to an outstanding student.

With all those accomplishments, he still was surprised to receive the National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship, which is administered by the American Society for Engineering Education and awarded by the Department of Defense to individuals who have demonstrated ability and special aptitude for advanced training in science and engineering as a means of increasing the number of U.S. citizens and nationals trained in science and engineering disciplines of military importance, according to the program.

"Honestly, it was the first thing that came up when I searched for fellowships. I knew it was very competitive so I didn't think there was a chance I would get one. I did it almost as a joke for myself, but it turned well," said Robertson, who received one of about 200 awards issued this spring..

After graduate school, Robertson hopes to go into industry. "I think I would like to go into industry because the mathematics you use in this field can be applied to a lot of different fields, including financial, economics, basically any kind of mathematical modeling," he said.