Physics Spotlight

January 2018
Physics Spotlight

Nathan Bernard

Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst

Nathan Bernard was nominated by his advisor, Professor Carlo Dallapiccola for his many contributions to our UMass Amherst campus, as well as, his experience with CERN. Nathan defended his thesis this past September. The Physics Department is very excited to see another student graduate and embark on their next adventure in the private sector. Congratulations on your defense Nathan!

What brought you to the University of Massachusetts to continue your studies?

After finishing my Bachelors, I got the opportunity to move to Geneva Switzerland for the summer to work on the Large Hadron-electron Collider (LHeC) Conceptual Design Report (CDR). Working on the CDR was a wonderful way to dive into full-time physics research and it confirmed my decision to apply to graduate school. CERN was an excellent place to be while applying since I could meet in person with professors and students from programs across the US. I met with Preema Pais and Elisa Pueschel from UMass and liked the research and environment they described.


Where did you do your undergrad? What is your degree in?

I did my undergrad at UCLA, where I received my B.S. in Physics with a minor in Math. I grew up in southern California and people always ask, “how could you leave?” I think moving around is a good way of gaining perspective.


Who is your faculty advisor and why did you pick them?

My advisor is Carlo Dallapiccola from the ATLAS group. Because of my previous work at CERN, I came to UMass already knowing I wanted to work with this group, and Carlo gave me a summer RA my first year. I quickly realized that Carlo was more than just an advisor – he’s a mentor. He’s able to relate to students and build a strong rapport. Instead of telling me everything he wanted done, he would ask my opinion and that helped me be more confident in myself and my own ideas as I transitioned from student to scientist.


What are your future plans?

I am moving to the private sector. I will work as a Data Scientist at BLKBOX, an advertising agency in Manhattan. I will help develop a machine learning platform to improve their client’s analytic capabilities. The two questions that interest me most are how does the universe work and how does the brain work. I am excited to make the switch from studying one to the other, while still utilizing my large-scale data analysis skills.


Is there a trend that you would like to see surface in your field of study?

I would like to see more collaboration with the private sector. This is common in material science but experimental high energy physics (HEP) has remained fairly isolated. Historically there’s been little overlap between HEP and the private sector but now both are tasked with processing and understanding petabytes worth of data. There’s a lot to be gained by working together.


Do you have any hobbies?

I have quite a few hobbies but at the top of my list are painting and football. I think as a scientist it is important to have at least one creative hobby. Creativity is a huge part of research but it’s difficult to practice in that setting. Painting gives me that practice. Football requires quick decision making under pressure as well as teamwork. Again, these are good skills to practice as they are needed in many aspects of life. When I have a hobby I look for something that is enjoyable but also helps to improve myself.