Over the past four years, Casey McGrath ’14 has seen and done more than some will do in a lifetime.
A physics and math major, McGrath spent a summer in Switzerland working at CERN, the world’s most famous laboratory and home of the Large Hadron Collider, and winter break in Hawaii, visiting the Infrared Telescope Facility at the top of Mauna Kea. He participated in conferences in Boston and Poland, and spent a semester abroad in Granada, Spain, which resulted in McGrath securing a summer job in a Madrid lab.
“It’s really amazing,” the La Quinta, Calif. native said. “You come to find out that physicists and physics students can do quite a bit of traveling, going to other labs and conferences. It’s opened up my eyes to traveling experiences, and changed me, as I’ve gotten to participate in international collaborations that extend so much beyond science. I’ve been able to meet other people from other cultures, and see how they live their lives.”
As a student, McGrath participated in several research projects, including one as part of the Summer Science Research Program. Working with Dr. Joanna Bieri, assistant professor of mathematics, during the summers after his freshman and sophomore years, McGrath conducted research on the characteristics of non-symmetric edge flames in micro-channels. This year, he began studying the volcanism on Jupiter’s moon, Io, with Dr. Julie Rathbun, associate professor of physics.
“Io is the most volcanic object in the solar system, with eruptions constantly occurring across the surface of the moon,” McGrath said. “Dr. Rathbun was awarded time on the Infrared Telescope Facility, which is located at the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. We have been using this telescope to take images of Io and with these images we can see these volcanic eruptions and study how many are erupting at any one time, and how active they are over a period of time. Both of us also had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii in December to visit the telescope, which was an incredible opportunity.”
McGrath won the prestigious Goldwater Award in 2013, and spent his final semester at Redlands working primarily on his two senior honors theses in physics and mathematics. Between his classes and research, McGrath found the time to apply to graduate school, and was accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he will spend the next six years studying gravitational physics in the PhD program.
“Gravity physics is a really exciting field, because although gravity is a widely understood concept for anyone, for physicists it is one of the greatest mysteries in our field,” he said. “It studies the effects of the curvature of space time, and how objects interact under this strange force. It is all of the incredible things Einstein first thought up, and I like to tell people it often deals with the types of things sci-fi movies like to take liberties with when they depict intergalactic travel, time travel, and black holes - all of that cool stuff.”
McGrath considers Redlands to be “one of the greatest blessings” in his life, and believes that attending the University is one of the best decisions he has ever made.
“This school allowed me to truly pursue what I love to do - to learn and to explore,” he said. “In the relatively short amount of time that I have been at this school it has taken me and greatly prepared me above and beyond all expectations for what I thought could have been achievable at a university. I received an incredible education, and travelled throughout the U.S. and the world to seven different countries while I was here. I attribute all of this to the University, to which I will always owe my gratitude. I am greatly humbled by the opportunities that Redlands has given me, and thankful for the incredible people who work here to make this university what it is. I will take away with me all of this, and also the friendship of the professors and the students who I have shared this experience with over the last four years.”
Written by: Catherine Garcia