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College of Arts and Sciences

Daniel Longenecker

Class of 2020

 Daniel Longenecker

Hometown: Kuwait City, Kuwait

What is your College Scholar project?
In the realm of academics, two topics most often occupy my thoughts. First, theoretical physics enthralls and challenges me through its interesting patterns, connections, and problems. Before enrolling in graduate school, I plan to master the basics of seven subfields of physics and the related areas of math in order to lay a solid foundation of understanding on which I can eventually build a research program. The College Scholar program will afford me the flexibility to tackle this demanding task.

Second, physics pedagogy fascinates me, partly for its innately interesting nature and partly for its relevance to my current pursuit of physics. For my college scholar project, I am considering a topic in physics education. I have had a longstanding interest in observing how the internet’s open-access resources affect high school and collegiate approaches to physics education. In the last few years, video lectures, problem sets with solutions, and open access textbooks have become available online for almost every undergraduate and beginning graduate science course. How can students best benefit from taking advantage of the vast resources online? How can classroom teaching utilize these resources? How will the concepts of metacognition and independence of thought (attributes which are highly praised and intensively studied in physics education research) influence physics students and physics educators?

These questions have personal relevance to me, since I have learned physics through wide varieties of formats, both in and out of the classroom. But more importantly, open-access resources have relevance for underprivileged people, presenting an opportunity for anyone with an internet connection to learn about almost any physics topic. The development over the past few years of the resources on the internet has potential to reshape education in underprivileged and under-served areas of the world.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
Outside of the physics realm, I play the trumpet in the Cornell Jazz Ensemble, participate in Christian Union, and climb with the Cornell Rock Climbing Club. As an extension of my fascination with physics pedagogy, I enjoy reading biographies of physicists to learn the history of their education. I also participate in the Society for Physics Students as the Demonstrations Chair and the Competitions Chair.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended?
Over the summer following my freshman year, I did research with Cornell Professor Erich Mueller on soliton dynamics in ultracold gases. In the course of my work, I found a beautiful connection between soliton dynamics and the motion of planets and springs, which solved our equations. In addition, I found a quantity in the equations that was constant (equal to 2pi) which provided the first potential explanation for a 15-year-old unanswered research question. We will publish a paper in Physical Review A on these results in the upcoming months.

In the summer between high school and college, I attended the U.S. Physics Team Training Camp. Meeting curious and highly motivated high school students with a passion like mine was a formative experience, and I quickly made lasting friendships. The lectures and exams were educational and enjoyable, solidifying my intention to pursue a career in physics.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
Professorships entail two main responsibilities: research and teaching. Therefore, a career in academia matches my interests exactly. After earning a Ph.D. in physics, I hope to become a professor in theoretical condensed matter or high energy physics at a research university.