COSAM News Articles 2020 May Physics Alumnus Presents at Conferences, Publishes Research in “Nature Physics” and Pursues Doctorate Degree at Purdue University

Physics Alumnus Presents at Conferences, Publishes Research in “Nature Physics” and Pursues Doctorate Degree at Purdue University

Published: 05/26/2020

By: Maria Gebhardt

Pursuing an education in physics has given James Nakamura the opportunity to present at conferences in both France and Japan, have his work published in Nature Physics while earning his doctorate degree at Purdue University, and solidify his career goal as a research scientist.

Nakamura graduated from Auburn University with his undergraduate degree as a double-major in physics and chemical engineering in 2014. He is currently at Purdue University earning his Ph.D. in physics.

With two areas of concentration, why did he continue to pursue an education in physics? 

“I want to have a career where I am constantly learning new things and being challenged to solve problems, and research is one of the best areas to do that,” Nakamura explained. “A graduate degree in physics provides the foundation to develop a more profound understanding of quantum mechanics and relativity.”

At Purdue University, he is studying electron phases of matter.

“Normal phases of matter include solids, liquids, and gases. At very low temperatures and under various conditions, electrons can also form these phases and more exotic phases with topological ordering,” Nakamura stated. “I study the quantum Hall effect which occurs when an electron system is cooled to very low temperatures and put into an extremely strong magnetic field.”

In the lab setting, he sets-up instruments to achieve the low temperatures required for experiments and configures equipment for electronic measurements.

“I have learned an incredible amount through my research, and I love that there’s always some new problem to solve or challenge to overcome in order to keep the work moving forward,” Nakamura shared.

He has moved forward with his career goal as a research scientist, although he did not always start out that way.

“In elementary school, I was more interested in art and writing than math and science,” Nakamura said. “I was drawn to introductory algebra in middle school and that in turn drew me into science.”

His passion for science has helped him develop a solid foundation for his career. While at Purdue University, Nature Physics published a paper on the experiment measuring interference and fractional quasiparticles.

“Getting a paper in a high-impact journal was exciting and significant for my career as a researcher,” he said.

Nakamura also given talks at the APS March Meeting in Boston, QT2DS-III in France, and ISNTT in Japan.

His advice to future who might be considering a career in physics is to participate in undergraduate research.

“Being exposed to undergraduate research will get you into the mindset of what research is like and provide invaluable experience,” Nakamura explained. “Don’t worry about the subject that you are working in since it is totally fine to switch to a different subject entirely for your doctorate degree. The most valuable part is the jumping into the research mindset.”

What advice would he give himself if he could go back and do so an undergraduate?

“I would encourage myself to work and connect with people more often,” he stated. “I’ve always been the type of person that tries to solve everything on my own, but I realize how valuable connections are for learning new things and future career opportunities.”

Nakamura is making sure he schedules time to connect with other members of his research group and even has set-up a weekly journal club to review and discuss recent papers in the field.

“The absolute best way to get started in a career in research is to earn your Ph.D.,” he said.

Nakamura is earning his doctorate degree and then anticipates completing a post-doctoral position at a national lab after he graduates. Then, he wants to embark his long-term goal as a research scientist.

“I wanted to pursue a career at the intersection of physics and technology,” Nakamura shared.

His journey is just taking off and his future as a research scientist is accelerating quickly past the intersection of physics and technology.

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