Steven Gassner ’20: Applied Mathematics + Nanoscale Science

Hometown: Utica, NY

Current Position: Ph.D. student in Physics at the University of Pennsylvania, studying quantum materials.

What was your favorite class?

Many of Professor Carlo Cafaro’s math courses have left an impression on me—I apply what I learned in his classes every day. 

What activities were you involved in on campus? Why did you decide to get involved in these activities?

I spent a lot of time tutoring and serving as a teaching assistant for math and physics courses, and made a lot of memories working regularly with a handful of students and seeing them grow their understanding of challenging subjects.

What is your favorite SUNY Poly memory?

Classes at SUNY Poly are small and the close-knit community helped me make many meaningful friendships that will last a long time.

How did you end up working in your current field?

Exposure to various fields of science helped me discover that I enjoy physics the most, and the unique curriculum in nanoscale materials introduced me to the subfield of condensed matter physics, which is now the focus of my Ph.D. research. Every day I apply lessons from my degrees in nanoscale science and applied mathematics to solve theoretical problems relating to quantum phenomena in electronic materials.

What are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of working in your field?

Research is challenging no matter the context, but it affords the opportunity of discovering something completely new and technologically relevant.

What opportunities did you have at SUNY Poly that helped you get where you are today?

SUNY Poly’s opportunities for research very early in my undergraduate career were indispensable in helping me develop my current research interests as well as important skills and habits. In addition, the opportunities for tutoring and being a teacher’s assistant for small classes of students not only gave me jobs that I loved doing, but also helped me develop teaching skills that are very important to my career aspirations of becoming a college professor.