Andrew Martin is an alumni from the Department of Physics and Astronomy who has decided to take a unique path into a doctoral program in clinical psychology. Read below to hear his story.
I graduated in May 2018 from Appalachian State University with a major in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy and a minor in Mathematics. I am currently in the process of moving to Portland, Oregon to attend a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. While this appears to be an abrupt change from the hard sciences, the skills I acquired from App states' Physics program have enabled me to be prepared for any field or discipline. This is because the knowledge and aptitudes I received from the program granted me the ability to critically think. No other major, I am convinced, has the power to instantiate such powerful cognitive abilities and intellectual discipline as the kind instilled within me from App's Physics program. This, I believe, is where Appalachian's Physics program stands alone. The work I completed in obtaining my Bachelor's involved some of the most challenging mental work I have ever engaged in. My journey to fulfilling my degree was not easy, and in no way passive. It required copious amounts of diligent work and deep thought. Though, after finishing it, there is no question deciding to major in Physics at App was the best decision in my entire life. The reason is quite simple: I learned how to think, how to consume and produce science, and how to question. These fundamental skills are an integral part of any successful career, regardless of field and an invaluable asset in life. This is what Appalachian State University's Physics program provided me.
Additionally, the arduous journey was softened by the amazingly cordial, supportive, and competent faculty of the Physics Department at App. Dr. Michael Briley was the chair of the department at the time and my professor for Intermediate Physics. Never have a met someone with as much childlike curiosity paired with sheer intelligence as this man. He inspired me greatly to not only be a competent scientist, but how to be a unique and happy individual. Dr. Jennifer Burris was my professor for intro Physics; this class was the first to give me a taste of what Physics was like. It was intimidating, but in retrospect, I know Dr. Burris gave every ounce of energy to accurately translate and convey the concepts to us, Her tenacity and commitment to teaching was an utter inspiration and showed me the importance of being earnest and driven. Dr. Gray demonstrated to me through 3 courses how happy one can be when passion is married with purpose. His genuine passion for astronomy and physics always shone through and gave me permission to be fascinated and cultivate a since of awe at the natural world. Dr. Francois Amet revealed to me how efficient, productive and capable a scientist, and human being for that matter, can be. Through impressive wit and determination he unequivocally set the bar for what one can achieve when one invests all of their being, body and mind, to science. Dr. Coffey captured my imagination in Modern Physics, fueling my curiosity for all things relativity, which to this day never fails to pull me from the everyday mundane into a mind-bending mental landscape of thought experiments and space travel. It is undoubtedly remiss of me to not include all the additional professors that influenced me deeply over the course of my experience at App, of which there are certainly more, but these were just a few of the professors I am deeply indebted to.
My time spent in the Physics building and in classroom lectures and late evenings in the Lindsey room grinding out assignments, wracking my brain for answers and pushing myself to intellectual limits I did not know I could reach, made me the person I am today. The mental discipline I developed and the challenges I overcame expanded my mind and thought in a way that has forever changed me for the better. when I am faced with problems in my adult life I have a perspective that could only be granted by completing enormous intellectual hurdles in the form of exams, endless math assignments, and capstone experiments and presentations. Completing my Physics degree at Appalachian bestowed upon me a badge of intellectual competence. What made this part of my life so immensely important, is that it granted me the priceless freedom of 'how to think', and this is an irrevocable gift I will not soon forget!