Last May, Senior Alex Small was named Co-Salutatorian of the 1998 graduating class.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Alex chose to attend USC in the Fall of 1994 after
receiving the Trustee Scholarship. While maintaining a 4.0 over the last four years, Alex was
able to find time for community service feeding the homeless, launching rockets, studying in
England for a summer, participating in the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society (he adds,
"We were actually active and it was a great way to finish my time at USC."), and resurrecting
the Society of Physics Students with the aid of Professor Gene Bickers.
Alex's interests are varied and original. His Physics interests are focused on the latest fields of
condensed matter theory (particularly research in small quantum structures), biophysics, and
space exploration. His goal is to apply these fields to the space program.
In addition to Physics, Alex earned a minor in Economics. As always, Alex applied his love
of hands-on research by completing field research for a paper on souvenir prices. Outside of
academics, Alex enjoys politics, science fiction, cooking, juggling, and snow, which he misses
a great deal. In the spirit of a true dreamer, Alex quips, "If I weren't a physicist I'd probably
open a restaurant with juggling waiters and run for Congress as a business owner."
Upon his arrival to the USC Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Fall of 1994, Alex
says, "The first thing I did as a freshman was visit the Seaver Science Center and start
knocking on doors in search of a lab job. After a few days of this, Dr. Bozler talked to me
and sent out an e-mail asking that a professor hire me - presumably, so I'd stop bothering
busy people." Persistence paid off, and Alex began his research career at USC working with
Professor Melvin Daybell. During his two years with Professor Daybell, Alex worked on a
spectrometer that has flown in space several times. He says, "It was pretty cool to be only
eighteen and already have a project flying in space."
Later, Alex joined Professor Anupam Madhukar's group as his interests began to tend
toward condensed matter. With enthusiasm, he says, "Madhukar and Ping Chen are an
amazing duo." Alex had the opportunity to present some of this work at the American
Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) conference in New Orleans in January of '98, and
his name was included on one of the group's publications. He emphasizes, "I think being able
to work in research labs from day one was one of the best things about the department."
In addition to his research relationships, Alex adds, "The other great thing in the department
was interacting with Dr. Bickers." Professor Bickers became Alex's academic advisor when
Professor Steve Trullinger left USC in the Spring of 1996. Alex says, "Dr. Bickers is a great
teacher, on par with [Professor Jack] Feinberg. He advises the Society of Physics Students,
which he helped me revive, and he is the person who first got me interested in UCSB where
he was a post-doc."
Presently, Alex is attending the University of California, Santa Barbara where he is pursuing
a Ph.D. in Physics. Working with the research group of Atac Imamoglu in Electrical
Engineering, Alex's interests are centered on quantum computation. He explains, "We hope to
implement simple quantum computations with quantum dots in a microcavity - a structure with
only one accessible mode of the electromagnetic field." After graduate school, Alex Small
would like to work for a few years in industry or government with an eventual return to
Department of Physics & Astronomy / USC Physics & Astronomy News & Events