After earning his BA in physics, Camron Proctor '10 was offered three years full tuition plus living expenses for the Aeronautical Engineering PhD program at UC Davis. According to Proctor, the USD Department of Physics and the college's commitment to liberal arts studies helped prepare him for a challenging and rewarding career path.
"USD physics has given me the opportunity to pursue my research goals in a rare way," Proctor said in a Department of Physics news brief.
While at USD, Proctor took part in research projects through the McNair Program and Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). In 2009, he won recognition for outstanding undergraduate presentation achievement at the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics National Meeting in Atlanta, GA. According to his faculty mentor, Professor Greg Severn, PhD, Proctor had not taken a course in plasma physics prior to the project. He prepared by reading background texts "with an obvious hunger to understand things."
"By the end of the summer, Camron was an accomplished machinist," Severn said, "he could build Langmuir probes (one of the most important diagnostics in plasma physics), and he had even made a nice contribution to the theory of ion acoustic waves in electronegative plasma."
As an undergraduate, Proctor took an interest in diverse topics within the field of physics. He enjoyed studying astrophysics with David Devine, PhD, because he found the examination of energies and special scales "humbling." He was also motivated by a course on energy and the environment with Daniel Sheehan, PhD. That class inspired his first research project, titled "The Feasibility of Solar Power at USD." And Greg Severn, PhD taught a lab class on atomic physics that Proctor found incredibly interesting.
"Each class taught me new aspects of physics that have helped to mold my overall knowledge of the subject, and can be related in some way to what I do now," Proctor said.
"I believe that being educated in fields other than physics has made me a more well-rounded person, and influences the way I see the world. My research interests are based on my love of the work but also on the broader picture of how it can impact my community."
According to Proctor, one of the best features of the Physics Department is small class size. This allows for incredible access to professors, but also to other students. He said the opportunity to tutor or TA is especially beneficial for upperclass students, who can share their knowledge and gain insights while helping fellow physics majors.
"The USD physics department is actively involved in physics education research and strives to do more than just make information available to students, but to actively have students teach and learn from each other," Proctor said.
Of course, Proctor spent plenty of time exploring disciplines outside of physics. Like all USD science majors, he has a Bachelor of Arts degree to prove it. Some of the most valuable classes he took in the Core Curriculum included courses on current politics, applied mathematics, and even theatre.
"Evelyn Diaz Cruz's acting class helped me greatly with my presentation skills," Proctor said. "A liberal arts background is useful for any scientist or engineer because it is important to be able to communicate with other professionals who are not scientists or engineers."
Proctor is currently in his first year at UC Davis. He is majoring in thermo-fluid dynamics with a concentration in computational fluid dynamics. His research will involve optimization of turbo machinery for jet engines. He happily reports that his combined third quarter GPA is 3.94.
"My short-term goals are to solidify my research goals and get on the path for my dissertation," Proctor said. "My long-term aspirations are to finish my degree here at UC-Davis, then look for an engineering position in San Diego."
- Anne Malinoski '11