Students who don’t live on campus often find it difficult to build the close relationships that easily grow out of sharing residence hall life. But commuting made sense for Bill Lentz ’16, who travels to Syracuse University from Phoenix, a small town in Oswego County, about 20 minutes north of Syracuse.
He compensated for not living on campus by developing close bonds with students and faculty in the Department of Physics in the College of Arts & Sciences. “I couldn’t ask for better than those friendships,” he says. He’s made the Undergraduate Physics Department lounge his campus home. “We do everything from relax and eat lunch to poring over difficult homework problems together,” he explains.
Lentz, who is majoring in physics and applied mathematics, will begin a master’s degree program this fall in financial engineering at Cornell University’s School of Operations Research and Information Engineering. Here’s what Lentz shared about his experience at Syracuse University.
Tell us a little bit about life before Syracuse University.
My high school was relatively small, and I knew just about everyone in my graduating class. I was active in the concert and jazz band; I played the tenor and alto saxophones. I even played saxophone and guitar in a cover band with a few of my friends for a little while. I also met my current girlfriend in Phoenix and we’ve been together ever since!
Why did you choose Syracuse University?
Syracuse University had the best physics program among the schools I was accepted to. The department has several groups doing groundbreaking research and a rigorous undergraduate curriculum. Also, my mother was a Department of Public Safety employee, so it made sense financially. I’ve saved a ton of money on housing by commuting from home.
Are you involved in any research projects or volunteer work?
I have been working with Professor Ray Mountain in the High Energy Physics Group since the summer after my freshman year. I have been involved with various aspects of a detector upgrade for the LHCb experiment at CERN. (That’s the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.) I have worked on the cooling methods for the future detector and ended up building a CO2 cooling system for the group to use for testing prototype detector parts. Currently, we are building a clean room in the physics building where the actual detector will be built before being shipped to CERN.
I am also working with Associate Professor Jennifer Schwarz on a Capstone Project for the Renée Crown Honors Program. We are developing a simple model for the formation and contraction of the ring of proteins that pinches a cell in two during the last stage of cell division.
I’ve also volunteered at the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse’s Armory Square, and I hope to do more work there.
Is there a member of the faculty that has had a significant influence on your academic trajectory?
Professor Mountain has been a mentor and gave me advice on which classes to take and how to tackle different subjects. He also recommended I keep Cornell on my list of potential graduate schools. I wouldn’t be going there next year without his support.
I took Linked Lenses with Professors Samuel Gorovitz and Cathryn Newton. Linked Lenses is an honors course that explores the relationship between philosophy and science. Both those professors have helped me. Professor Newton has written letters of recommendation, and Professor Gorovitz fought fiercely for me during a petition process.
Sue Casson, director of Career Development and Services, has also been a tremendous help. She has read my resume and personal statements and has provided advice several times.
What’s the best way to spend free time as a Syracuse University student?
I like hanging out with the friends I’ve made in the Physics Department and seeing my girlfriend. I’ve also spent a lot of my free time in the kitchen lately since I’ve learned to love cooking.
In what extracurricular activities do you participate?
I am in the Society of Physics Students. It is an excellent way for physics students to get to know each other. We have an awesome sense of community. In addition to fostering friendships, we do outreach in various forms, and we take a trip to another university every year. I’m also a member of the Philosophy Club. We meet every week to discuss a reading or movie in a philosophically rigorous fashion.
How is Syracuse University helping you to achieve your goals and aspirations?
The education I got as a physics and applied math major has given me invaluable skills to take with me to graduate school and a career beyond that. I am confident that the curriculum in physics and in applied math will serve me well far into the future, especially in Cornell’s M.Eng. program.
What are some of the activities you like around Central New York that aren’t Syracuse University affiliated?
I like to go hiking; there are a lot of trails around here, and mountains a few hours away by car. Central New York is beautiful in the summer; there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.