Quantum leap: Physics student awarded top scholarship

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Shortly after his first year at Union, Stephen DiIorio ’15 was at a crossroads: did he want to be a theoretical physicist or an experimental physicist?

In the simplest form, experimental physicists are hands on, using experiments to test their ideas. Theoretical physicists are the opposite; they spend their time analyzing data to figure out why things happen the way they do.

Working with Chad Orzel, associate professor and chair of the Physics Department, DiIorio spent his summer in a lab creating neat things like laser tweezers.

“I enjoyed coming in every day and solving a problem,” said DiIorio. “I knew then that I wanted to be an experimental physicist.”

DiIorio’s devotion to physics has made him the latest Union student to land a Goldwater Scholarship, the premiere undergraduate award for students pursuing careers in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Created in 1989, the scholarship honors the memory of U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater.

DiIorio is one of 283 sophomores and juniors selected from among 1,166 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. He will receive $7,500 to cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board next year. Ryan Bouck ’16, a mechanical engineering major, received an honorable mention.

A double major in physics and computer science from Rotterdam, N.Y., DiIorio will spend this summer doing research at the University of Washington. After Union, he plans to attend graduate school to study atomic, molecular and optical physics. As an experimental physicist, he hopes to conduct quantum information research at a university or an industrial or government laboratory.

DiIorio credits his experiences at Union with helping shape his interest in physics.

“Union is a great place that has given me many opportunities to excel and, because of its size, allowed me to get to know my professors on a personal level,” he said. “I can’t thank the physics and computer science professors enough for their camaraderie and support.”