Finding her momentum: Meet PNW 2024 graduate Antonia Frech

May 2, 2024

Antonia Frech, ‘24, originally thought she would become a medical doctor while growing up. At the start of her college academic career, she tried Biochemistry. Then, she tried Electrical Engineering. But the true momentum finally kicked in when she began taking more Physics classes at Purdue University Northwest (PNW).

Frech, a Chesterton, Indiana native, is completing her Bachelor of Science in Physics from PNW’s College of Engineering and Sciences. She will step into a role as a nuclear fuels engineer at Warrenville, Illinois-based Constellation Energy, where she has interned since 2022.

“The more Physics classes I took, the more I loved it,” she said. “I wanted to know the ‘whys’ of different phenomena and what was going on behind the scenes. I could also connect it to so many different interests and have a degree that was versatile.”

Why did you choose to attend PNW?

“I wanted a smaller school near Chicago and smaller classes. I wanted to know my professors and the students in my classes so I could feel comfortable asking questions and discuss things with everyone. I also wanted a smaller school because I would have more of a chance to make opportunities for myself.”

How did you become interested in your subject?

“I was not into physics when I took it in high school. I didn’t see the beauty in it. When I started taking it in college, I saw it differently. It challenged me. It was satisfying to see a problem and work on it for hours or days to find a solution and see how it all becomes clear.

“Physics is like the bridge between math and the most fundamental parts of our universe. The bridge between math and pure physics also transmits into real-world applications. That’s where I think the beauty is. If you really understand what’s going on at a basic level, physics lets you take that and do something with it to give it meaning.”

Make those connections and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there... There are plenty of opportunities... you just have to seek them out.

Antonia Frech, ‘24, Physics

Were you involved in student organizations or other activities on campus?

“Doing STEM on the Road with Dr. (Daniel) Suson and the Chemistry and Physics department was great. It was a good learning experience for me to understand how to teach and explain things in a simplified way to communicate with people at different levels.”

Did you have a pivotal experience while attending PNW?

“In 2022 the Chemistry and Physics department students were invited to join the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) chapter for a tour of Braidwood Generating Station. While we were on the tour, I had never considered nuclear energy as an interest. Seeing it in-person was like ‘wow!’ There was so much going on that was really a melting pot of different disciplines. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what you want to do until you go see it and understand its magnitude in real life.

“I went home and I applied for a nuclear fuels co-op internship position online. I was emailed back pretty quickly and had the interview. Touring the plant with IEEE changed the trajectory of all my plans. After that, everything fell into place.”

What words of advice would you share with prospective students?

“If there’s something you want to get involved in, such as research, an internship or job, don’t be afraid to reach out. Make those connections and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Send emails, ask questions to professors about what they’re doing. There are plenty of opportunities…you just have to seek them out.”

Was there anyone at PNW who inspired or encouraged you along the way?

Adam Rengstorf

Adam Rengstorf

Interim chair of the department of Chemistry and Physics, associate professor of Physics and Astronomy

“When I was doing my internship, he was a huge help in letting me arrange my schedule to do both work and school. He made that possible for me, otherwise I would’ve struggled.”

Daniel Suson

Daniel Suson

Professor of Physics

“He always made an effort to be thorough in his classes. They were challenging, but he would go in-depth on different topics. When I would feel stressed on a certain concept, he’d talk about a related topic and it would bring that spark back.”

Spring 2024 Graduate Candidate Teja Brown

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