Rowan physics/math major earns Goldwater Scholarship


Jasen Scaramazza has had opportunities as an undergraduate at Rowan University that many students can only dream about.

Jasen Scaramazza has had opportunities as an undergraduate at Rowan University that many students can only dream about.

He’s conducted cutting-edge research in physics. He’s translated works of a mathematics mastermind from French into English.  He’s presented at a major national conference.

In and of themselves, those opportunities have been exceptional for an undergraduate, but there’s more. His work in theoretical physics led him to a prestigious honor: The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation named him one of 275 students in the nation to win a scholarship.

A highly competitive scholarship for scientists, mathematicians and engineers, the award will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

The Scholarship Program, according to the Foundation, honors the late Sen. Barry M. Goldwater and was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields, the scholarship is given on the basis of academic merit. Recent Goldwater Scholars, according to the organization, have been awarded 77 Rhodes Scholarships, 108 Marshall Awards, 98 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.

Scaramazza, 21, of Woodstown learned of the honor while in France for a study abroad program.

“I jumped up and down and screamed like a child. I then bragged about it on Facebook,” he said.

While the honor excited him, so have the physics and math major’s studies.

From spring 2009 to spring 2010, Scaramazza served as a mathematics research assistant with Dr. Thomas Osler. “I translated papers by Leonhard Euler from French into English and then provided a detailed analysis of the work,” the French minor said. The Rowan Math Department funded not only his research but also a trip to the 2010 American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America Joint National Meeting in San Francisco in January 2010, where Scaramazza presented his work.

During the summer of 2009, he performed thin film material research in Rowan’s physics labs with Dr. Jeffrey Hettinger and Dr. Samuel Lofland.  

“Since this was experimental physics, my job was first and foremost to learn how to use the machines and not break anything,” joked the junior. “Once I had that part down, I was basically a lab assistant who created and analyzed films for Hettinger and Lofland as they needed them.”

Last summer, he worked as a theoretical physics research assistant for Dr. Hong Ling, helping his professor investigate the physics of optical lattices that trap atoms in such a way that an optical supersolid could be formed. He will work with Ling again this summer after returning from France.

The son of Anna Scaramazza, Penns Grove, and William Scaramazza, Pilesgrove, the 2008 Woodstown High School graduate has been active outside of the lab, too.

He served as vice president of the Physics Club in fall 2010 and as a math and physics tutor during 2010.

Scaramazza plans to attend graduate school to study physics after graduating from Rowan in 2012. “I am not sure of the specific field quite yet, but I am going to get my Ph.D. and hopefully end up being a professor who both teaches and performs research,” he said. “From what I see at Rowan from all the opportunities that have been presented to me, it seems like the thing to do.”

Additionally, two students won honorable mentions: Brighid Burgin, a junior chemical engineering major from Mantua Township and daughter of David and Lisa Burgin, and Mitchell Dorrell, a sophomore physics and math major from Pilesgrove and the son of Wayne and Toni Dorrell.

Burgin, a 2008 graduate of Clearview Regional High School, was honored for research she conducted on a less-invasive treatment for spinal cord injuries.  Burgin is an Edward J. Bloustein Scholar, Robert C. Byrd Scholar, AP Merit Scholar and Rowan Outstanding Scholar. She recently shared in Rowan’s Outstanding Project award from Engineers Without Borders. Additionally, she received a Lockheed Martin Scholarship, Delaware Valley Engineers Week Council Undergraduate Scholarship and American Institute of Chemical Engineers Delaware Valley Section National Othmer Award.

Dorrell, 20, a 2009 graduate of Woodstown High School, was honored for multiferroics research. A Rowan University Outstanding Scholar and Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholar, Dorrell is a member of the Physics Club and earned a New Jersey Space Grant Consortium Academic Year Fellowship. He is a piano instructor at the Mannington Music School, outside of Salem, and he also works part time for the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District, providing technology support.

Dr. Alison Krufka, Rowan’s Goldwater representative, is pleased with all of the students’ achievements.

While several Rowan students have won Goldwater Scholarships or honorable mentions in the recent past, she noted, “This is by far our best year. It’s a very prestigious award. The winners come from fantastic institutions, and Rowan is one of them. They are conducting the type of research that expert judges believe show our students are among the best undergraduate researchers in the country.”