Corey McDonald

photo of Corey McDonald

  • BA in Mathematics and Physics (2012)
  • graduate research assistant in applied experimental physics at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • came to Miami via Junior Scholars Program
  • lectured on "Enabling Quantum Technology with Integrated Photonics" at Miami (November 2019)

My Profession

"As an applied experimental physicist at NIST, I work on solid state physics, specifically optical nanostructures and photonic integrated circuits. This technology is similar to the integrated circuits that make up all of the electronics that we use, but instead of using electrons to carry signals, it uses light.

"The first time I got involved with NIST, they would offer various summer research opportunities. One of those opportunities, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), was offered in Boulder, Colorado for the summer of my junior year when I first applied. I did it again the summer after that, and then after I graduated from Miami I just contacted my old principal investigator (PI) to see if he had a research position for me while I looked for graduate schools."

My Miami Experiences

"I first came to Miami, after my junior year of high school, for the Junior Scholars Program, which allows third-year high school students to take Miami classes that count toward a Miami degree. I got to see some of the cool work being done in Miami's physics and math departments, which really solidified my interest in coming as a regular full-time student.

"I really felt that the opportunity to come to Miami as a high school student and take college courses was a good opportunity to get a headstart on a college degree. I was really impressed with the entire experience. I had initially wanted to do math for a living, but I came to realize that I liked physics a lot more. Once I became a student here, I made sure to insert myself wherever I could within the Department of Physics to get involved in research!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"When you're a student and focusing on your major studies, it sometimes may seem like a lot of those extraneous classes are taking up time that could be more valuably used somewhere else. However, I think those courses can really inspire an interest in things outside of science, which I think a lot of STEM-focused people miss out on. They often become so solely focused on what they're working on that they don't develop the same skills that students in the humanities do.

"Therefore, I think to have those opportunities of being exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking outside the rigid logical field of science allows you to approach problems with a larger toolbox of ways to think about different problems and challenges."

Advice to Students

"Try to be very honest about what you want to get out of your career. Going into research is a pretty rigorous career path, and there's a lot of different things you do. Make an effort to understand what it is that you want to do with your life and how you can use your degree for that.

"The one thing that I did not do enough during undergrad was relaxing and enjoying myself. It's easy to get trapped into the work that you're doing. Finding opportunities to take time off and enjoying your life here as a Miami student is very important."

[February 2020]