Reaching for the stars: Meet 2023 PNW graduate William Feithen

December 7, 2023
William Feithen

William Feithen, ’23, is set to earn a bachelor of science degree in Physics from the College of Engineering and Sciences at Purdue University Northwest (PNW) with minors in Astrophysics and Applied Mathematics.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from another university, Feithen wasn’t certain that field was where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He took a year off before deciding to study physics at PNW.

While at PNW, Feithen served as vice president of the Chemistry and Physics Club and participated in the STEM on the Road program. He was a member of the PNW chapter of the Society of Physics Students and was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics and astronomy honor society.

The Chesterton native received an Indiana Space Grant to build a supercomputing cluster to process large-capacity simulations. He presented his research, “Efficacy of Parallel Processing via Beowulf Cluster for Use on High Demand Cosmological Simulations and Data Processing,” at the 2023 PNW Days of Discovery research event.

In the summer of 2024, Feithen will participate in an internship at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. He is currently looking for positions in the field of physics but also plans to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in February and apply to medical schools. Ultimately, he would like to be involved in either astrophysics or biophysics research, make some helpful discoveries and forward humanity’s progress and understanding in those fields.

What did you like most about the Physics program at PNW?

“I’d definitely say the class sizes. The majority of classes in physics deal with very complex, mathematically and conceptually heavy topics and the smaller class sizes allow students the opportunity to communicate with the professors. The ability to be able to stop a professor and ask a question or have them clarify something in the moment you’re learning it is a lot easier in a smaller class. It’s also more beneficial in the learning process.”

How do you think your involvement in campus organizations and activities helped define your success at PNW?

“One of the things Daniel Suson, professor of Physics at PNW, always tells us is that the hallmark of someone well situated in their discipline is the ability to not only be able to hold a conversation on abstract concepts with other physicists but the ability to explain those same concepts to a general audience. STEM on the Road taught me how to communicate complex ideas coherently and effectively to audiences with different levels of understanding. These critical communications skills will definitely help me in my future career.”

Did you have a pivotal experience while attending PNW?

“I knew coming into PNW that I wanted to study physics. Going from biology to physics, I was starting at the ground level, so everything I was learning was new. It was difficult to get through, but at the same time, it was worth it because I deeply enjoyed it. When I started getting into the material, especially the astrophysics stuff, that solidified for me that this is something I can definitely do for the rest of my life.”

What words of advice would you share with prospective students looking to attend PNW?

“First, time management. You need to figure out how to manage your time and then stay in that time management mentality. Second, don’t be afraid to switch gears and change your major if you feel you fit better in a different field. There’s nothing wrong with changing your major, especially if you aren’t sure that your current major is a field you want to be in.”

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

“I can’t really choose one over the other. The faculty in the physics department are all in it to make sure you succeed.”

Daniel Suson

Daniel Suson

Professor of Physics

“I’ve done the majority of my upper level physics classes, as well as research with Dr. Suson. I have to give him credit for marching me along the way through classes semester after semester toward graduation.”

Adam Rengsdorf

Adam Rengstorf

Interim Chair, Department of Chemistry and Physics

“Dr. Rengstorf also has done everything he can to accommodate students in making sure we get the classes we need to succeed and graduate.”

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