Alumni Updates

In February of 2014 we sent letters to our alumni inviting them to reconnect with the Physic's Department at EIU.  Here are a few of the replies we received.  We would still like to hear from you!  Email us at physics@eiu.edu.

If you would like to contact any of these past students, send us an email, and we will be happy to forward your message.

 

 Heath Evans

I went to EIU for Pre-Engineering between 1996 and 1998.  I finished my BS at U of IL in Mechanical Engineering. From there I went to work in structural analysis at John Deere Construction Equipment Division in Dubuque, IA for 2-1/2 years. We then relocated to the St Louis, MO area where I worked at Boeing as a strength engineer on various military aircraft for 7 years. During that time I began my masters at Washington University. Also during that time I started a company in the construction industry. I  have since left the engineering field and purchased 49% interest in a commercial roofing company that covers 7 states.  The company applies state of the art polyurethane technologies, polyurea's, and silicone roofing systems using both robotics and manual applications.

If I were given the chance to re-do my educational path, I would still start out at EIU.  I felt like I was always ahead of the U of IL students and I attribute that to EIU's Physics and Math programs.

 

 Jeff Johnson

I graduated in 1976 with a B.S. Physics and a B.A. in Math. I have great memories of my time at EIU and was always impressed with the faculty (Drs. Brieg, Cloud, Waddell, Butler, Eisenhour and Smith were the ones I had for almost all my classes). They were fantastic teachers and I will always be grateful to them.

I worked for EIU in Computer Services for 3 1/2 years. I then took a job as a software engineer with McDonnell-Douglas in 1980 (which merged with Boeing in 1995), and just recently completed my 31st anniversary with the company. I worked in the Computational Fluid Dynamics group for about 10 years (I actually came to EIU once and gave a presentation on the topic). I then transferred to the Operations Analysis group where I develop simulations for advanced systems. At each step of the way having a solid background in physics has allowed me to be more a more effective developer. I wish I remembered a little more of what I learned, though!

Of course, I really don’t remember too many people there anymore. I somewhat remember Don Pakey as a student (he was a year behind me). I remember Dr. Brieg talking about Dr. Davis, but I think he came in the Fall of ‘76 after I graduated.

 

Robert Jorstad

Rob is a 1999 Physics Graduate who is currently working at Allen Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA.  He sent us this "Friday Night Science" video that he was involved with. (He's the one in the video with a bow-tie.)

 

Jeff Leasure

I recently received Dr. Daniels' letter intended to reconnect with Alumni.  It was good to hear from you.  By way of introduction, I was in the Pre-Engineering program in the '85-'86 and '86-'87 school years.  I transferred to the UIUC campus and graduated with a BSEE in '89.  I started my career as a Product Engineer and, later, Product Engineering Manager at Texas Instruments in Houston.  I am now a Director of Engineering at Atmel Corp. in Colorado Springs. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank your department for the excellent education I received at EIU.  I grew up in Champaign and part of my original incentive to attend EIU was to move out of my parents home for the first couple of years of school. (the EIU tuition and dorm costs combined being less than tuition at UIUC didn't hurt either!)  Looking back on my four years in college, it is clear that the smaller class sizes and professors teaching the classes at EIU are a huge advantage over the larger universities.  I was extremely well prepared to enter UIUC after completing the EIU coursework.  The personalized attention the staff is able to provide, including open office hours many days of the week prevented us from being lost in the crowd.  We were able to ask questions and provide feedback that helped us to connect with one another and ensure we obtained mastery of the material.  One of the last Physics classes I took at EIU contained only 3 students and the professor taught the entire course.  One of the first I took at UIUC contained over 150 students and was taught by a Teacher's Assistant with an accent that none of us could understand.(to be fair, the prof did show up the first and last day of the course)  The two experiences don't even compare.  I would recommend the Pre-Engineering program at EIU very highly to anyone considering an Engineering degree.

The main incentive I have for contacting you is to provide some much deserved feedback to one person on your staff in particular.  I am glad to see Dr. Conwell still a part of the Physics program at EIU.  Dr. Conwell is, hands-down, the best professor I have ever had.  He truly has a gift for taking complex concepts and translating them into laymen's terms that students can digest.  He taught us how 'ping pong balls and black holes' are alike - they all follow the laws of Physics.  'F=ma can explain everything; if there is friction, gravity, or any other variable at work, tack on another term to take it into account.'  Through his instruction, I gained enough mastery of the subject matter to provide tutoring assistance to non-majors and many of my peers.  My thirteen year old son has shown significant interest and aptitude for science.  It has been great to use examples from my time in EIU classrooms to supplement his education and connect with him on something he loves.  Dr. Conwell is truly an amazing educator.  Imagine my surprise when I attended my first Judo Club session and Dr. Conwell was the instructor!  He had an impact on many aspects of my college life and, obviously, left a lasting impression.

All aspects of my time at EIU were influential in who I am today and contributed to my successes.  Thank you for a fantastic experience and keep up the good work!

P.S.  I have been able to keep track of several of my classmates.  My roommate and I were in each others weddings and are friends to this day.  The contact information you have for me is correct, but I don't think there is any advantage to having it published so please keep it just for your records.  I would, however, appreciate you passing this note along to Dr. Conwell with my apologies for not contacting him sooner.

 

 Sharon Markwell 

I am a 1974 graduate of Eastern with a major in Physics, and minors in Chem and Math.  I have been teaching Physics every year since 1974 and continue to do so.  During that time I have also taught chem and I currently teach 5 math classes.  I love the new website.  In the letter I received you mentioned there would be a place on the alumni link to share info.  I would love to do so, but couldn't find a place where you were looking for info.

Keep up the great work.  My physics education at Eastern has allowed me to successfully find jobs when I wanted to and continue to teach a subject I love.

 

 Robert McGrath

 I transferred from the University of Illinois engineering program to the physics program at EIU and loved it at Eastern.  I loved the smaller class sizes.  It gave me a chance to get to know all the other students and teachers on a personal level.  I could not say the same about the thousand people in my freshman econ class in Champaign.  The smaller campus was also nice.  I liked not having to leave my dorm 40 mins early to get to class on time.  I feel like I was lucky getting a chance to work on the RIMS research project at Eastern.  I had lots of hands on experience with tools and lab equipment.  Plus it gave me something interesting to talk about during interviews.

By the time I left Eastern I was well prepared.  Between the classwork and the research project, I had what I needed to land a job.  I took a job at Oxford Instruments Measurement Systems as an application engineer working with X-ray fluorescence spectrometers.  Most of our products were used in industrial QC and R&D labs.  The job was considered tech support for the sales team.  I spent most of my time developing testing methods for new applications of our products.  I would determine optimal parameters, calibrate the spectrometer, run accuracy and precision tests, and then document the results.  I would also travel all over North America to demo the equipment, train operators, and go to trade shows.  I was also responsible for training sales reps on our products.  I was the local expert dealing with hand held tube based XRF spectrometers used for identification of metal alloys and composition analysis.  The office closed about 30 months after I got that job.  They were specifically looking for recent physics grads to fill that position.  That company was only hiring temp to perm positions.  The temp agency that found me that job was call Lab Temps located in Park Ridge, IL.

I was also offered an accelerator operator job a Fermi Lab, but that happened after I had already accepted the position at Oxford (and now I regret not taking the job).  By the way the interview at Fermi was terrible.  I think I got interviewed by 14 people two at a time and it lasted all day.  They spent at least two hours convincing me that I really did not want to work there.  But again, they were specifically looking for recent physics grads with electronics experience to fill the position.

Since Oxford, I have been working odd jobs to pay the bills but haven't really been working in physics.  I am currently looking to get back into a technical field.

I feel comfortable saying that EIU physics program does a fine job preparing students for a career in physics or another technical field.

 

 Pete Rapinchuk

My experiences at EIU in the summers of 1983 to 1985 helped my teaching career at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois in most practical and useful ways.  I am now retired with a full 35 years of service with the Teachers Retirement System in Illnois.  My thirty years of success as an Academic, Honors, and Advanced Placement Physics Teacher at Andrew High School was enhanced thanks to your wonderful summer masters degree program for science teachers.  It was the most practical and useful degree in my career and I want to thank-you for that.  Please keep this option available for science teachers!  Way to go!

 

 Jason Smith

I can heartily recommend EIU, as I am a graduate (1991).  I have many fond memories of physics at EIU, and received a good preparation for grad school and my career as a community college teacher.

 

 Galen M. Strain  

I came to Eastern Illinois Teacher's College in the summer of 1957.   Two weeks before I had graduated from Herrick High School.  I enrolled in Pre-engineering but I had a scholarship for teacher education and I was the son of two elementary school teachers.   Soon I realized that the way to my college degree was to stay at Eastern and  get my degree in physical science education.  I went year round for two years then dropped out from the fall of 1959 until the summer of 1960.   I reenrolled at Eastern in June of 1960 and finished my degree in physics education by the end of December of 1961.

I enjoyed my education at Eastern but found the courses in Electricity & Magnetism, Heat and Thermodynamics, Advanced Calculus, and Sophomore Mechanics mathematically challenging and difficult.   The education I received at Eastern has helped me to be successful in teaching high school and junior college for 49 years.    

As a high school physics teacher for 31 years at Clinton High School (400) and a part-time physics teacher at Richland College in Decatur (100) and Heartland College in Bloomington (50), I have had a part in the education of over 550 physics students who have gone on to be doctors, nurses, bank executives, engineers, preachers, Technicians, and teachers. 

I wish the physics staff at Eastern success in the coming decade.  Your task at Eastern is to gather as many students as you can to enroll in physics.  It is important to help maintain for each student  a balance between the mathematics and intellectual pursuits, the understanding of technology, and the learning of physics through many  experimental  experiences.           


 Tom Weathers

 I just got your letter!!!  It is really awesome to see all of your faces again even if it is just in a picture.  Things are going pretty good for me.  I am a Radiological Engineer for Exelon.  I am currently working at the Braidwood Nuclear Plant.   The Physics Department at EIU really played a key role in my job field.  I learned so much doing research with Dr. Daniels and in all the Labs with Dr. Brandt.  I feel that the key to my success was building a strong base at EIU.   My work ethic was definitely something that was developed at EIU and I appreciate it more and more every day.  I am working with a former Society of Physics Students President from Purdue and she says that they do not do half of the fun things that we did when I was there.  I hope that you are keeping it strong. 
 
The only improvement opportunity that I feel can be added to the Radiation Physics Curriculum is calibration and source checking of instrumentation.   Besides that keep up the great work!

I hope to see you all this year at the alumni dinner!!!!