Physics student strikes "Gold."


Rowan junior wins prestigious Goldwater prize for theoretical research.

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

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

Recently, his work in theoretical physics led him to a prestigious honor – a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship – for which he was just one of 275 students in the nation to win.

A highly competitive prize (winners were chosen from a pool of 1,095 of the best mathematics, science, and engineering students in the nation), the award will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Scaramazza, who learned of the award while studying abroad in France this semester, could barely contain himself.

“I jumped up and down and screamed like a child,” said Scaramazza, 21, of Woodstown. “Then I bragged about it on Facebook.”

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

From spring 2009 to spring 2010, Scaramazza was a research assistant with Dr. Thomas Osler, a celebrated Rowan professor of mathematics.

“I translated papers by (Swiss mathematician and physicist) Leonhard Euler from French into English and provided a detailed analysis of the work,” said Scaramazza, who is pursuing a minor in French. He presented his work at the 2010 American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America Joint National Meeting.

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

“Since this was experimental physics, my first job was to learn how to use the machines and not break anything,” Scaramazza said. “Once I had that part down, I was a lab assistant creating and analyzing films.”

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

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 that same year.

Scaramazza plans to attend graduate school for physics and hopes to one day teach at the university level.

“I’m not sure what field just yet but I am going to get my Ph.D. and hopefully become a professor who teaches and performs research,” he said.

In addition to Scaramazza, two other Rowan students won honorable mention for the Goldwater prize. Brighid Burgin, a junior chemical engineering major from Mantua, was honored for research into a less-invasive treatment for spinal cord injuries, while Mitchell Dorrell, a sophomore physics and math major from Pilesgrove, was honored for multiferroics research.

Scaramazza, Burgin and Dorrell join students from such major research institutions as UCLA, Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Harvard as Goldwater honorees.

Dr. Alison Krufka, Rowan’s Goldwater representative, said she was thrilled to see Rowan students in the company of such promising scientific minds.

While several Rowan students have been cited in the past, she noted, “this is by far our best year. 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.”

Designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering, the scholarship program honors the late U.S. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. For more information about the Goldwater scholarship, please visit the official web site.