Hi there! My name is Will Weiss, and I'm in the Stony Brook Physics REU program for the summer of 2008. I'll be working here in the Laser Teaching Center with Dr. Noé and others. Here's just a little bit about me:
I grew up as a "military brat" (my dad was in the Navy and the Air Force), so I got to move around a lot as a child, which is, in some cases, a good or bad thing. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in January 1987. At the time, my parents were pretty young and both worked fairly often. My mom was the manager of a clothing store, and my dad was in the Navy (to be honest, I'm not really sure what his job was back then). My mom and I moved to Saratoga, New York for about a year when my dad was away on the USS Eisenhower. When he returned, we met him in Virginia again and he started night school for a nursing degree. I actually remember going to classes with him on a few ocassions, during which we would draw pictures and generally keep him distracted from his classwork. Anyway, since my parents worked their butts off, I spent a good amount of time in a daycare until 1) my sister was born and 2) I started kindergarten. Around this time, my dad finished school and got a job as a nurse, so my mom began to stay at home to take care of my sister and I. My second sister showd up 2 years later, so I must've been in first grade?
About six months down the road my dad got orders to be stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. So we said goodbye to my parents' first house together and made the few day treck to Ohio. We ended up living in a hotel for about a week, because the house (base housing) they planned for us was not quite ready. Once we actually moved in, it was very easy to make friends, because many of the kids around me were my same age and in my same situation, in that they knew what it was like to move around a lot. Also, we all went to the same school, so I got to know people in and out of the classroom. It was in third grade when I was accepted into the Advanced, Gifted Program. In this program were about 10 kids from the entire school. Once a week, we got to leave our classrooms and talk about the ecosystem, learn some spanish, do science experiments, and other fun things. This is probably when I first became really interested in science and mathematics, as we were shown that you don't just use math to solve addition problems, but you can actually apply it to real world situations. Doing science then became fun. From then on, I was placed in honors classes in math, science, english, and history.
When I moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1998, it was much more difficult to meet people because there was a large culture gap. The people in that area were much more..."rough." I'll just leave it at this: most of the kids my age had a ridiculous macho complex and were not incredibly accepting of others of my ethnicity. This took quite a toll on the 'ole self esteem, but actually ended up being beneficial, for I was forced to look elsewhere for friends, and it was then that I discovered skateboarding.
I bought my first skateboard in seventh grade (I believe), which, much to my parents chagrin, ended up being the cause of two holes in our garage door, a hurt wrist, stitches in my eyebrow, and all sorts of cuts and bruises. My new friends and I would skate around for hours and find places to practice tricks and hurt ourselves even more. It was so much fun; whenever anyone landed a trick they'd been practicing, it was almost as if everyone had just done it, and everyone would be incredibly supportive. Skating became my life for the next 6 years or so, and the "Hero" of the time was Rodney Mullen. This guy invented most of the tricks seen today. The cool thing though is that he, ironically enough, happened to be very interested in physics :) (We didn't really know what physics was at the time, but it sounded very impressive, so we idolized him even more). One of my best friends played the bass guitar, and he bugged me incessently to get a guitar so we could start a band together. So in ninth grade I bought a really cheap guitar off the internet and a really tiny amplifier to go with it.
While playing, I became interested in what actually caused the sound that is heard. It turned out that when you play a stringed instrument (especially an electric one), it's bascially just one giant physics experiment. You can figure out the relationship between tension, nodes, string length, and tone, and you can also investigate the electronics that go into transferring the vibrations into an electrical signal to amplify the sound. I've actually taken apart my guitar and amp to see what the "guts" look like, from the multiplexor switch and wound single coil pickups in the guitar, to the op-amps, capacitors, resistors, and potentiometers in the amplifier. This was probably when I became very interested in physics, even though I'd never taken a physics class. So I've played guitar ever since, and it's still my main hobby to this day (I'm really starting to miss it here at SB, but I've found that there are tons of other things to keep me busy). I'm constantly inspired to play music, because I've found you can always get better at it, no matter what instrument.
When I started high school, I really had my heart set on being a veterinarian, so I applied and was accepted to Health Careers High School. This school was TOUGH. It offered classes that steered people toward the health sciences, and they expected nothing but the best. All of my classes were much harder than anything I'd taken before. It's funny because I think I was turned off to becoming a vet after the first biology class I took. It was just so intense that I ended up not even enjoying it. I'll just say that I was kind of glad when my dad got his next and final orders to move. So we ended up making our way to what just may be the polar opposite part of the country - Anchorage, Alaska. Since we moved there in the summer, it was incredibly strange learning to sleep in the daylight, since it stays completely light ~23 hours/day, and even then it doesn't get completely dark. Alaska is cool because you can go hiking almost anywhere, and there are mountains a-plenty on which to do so. I tried snowboarding, but I didn't really like it much. Also, you almost can not live there without going fishing. We used to go a lot but then discovered that we are just horrible at it, so we've given it a rest...for now.
My new school, Chugiak H.S., was much more enjoyable. I still took difficult honors classes, but it was never as stressful as HCHS. I made friends quickly, and actually joined a band my junior year, called Brothers Contra (after the video game "Contra"). We played many shows during the school year, and even more during the summer, including a Battle of the Bands show which we won! The band split up after about a year, but I still think that was one of the best tiems of my life. There aren't really words that can describe standing on stage, playing your music, and having a crowd below cheering and dancing like crazy people. My senior year is when I took my first physics class, and I knew after probably the first month that I wanted to take it further. Which leads nicely in to college...
I started at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, as it was away from home, but not too far, and they have a pretty nice physics program. What I learned upon arrival was that the temperature regularly gets down to -40-50 degrees during the winter, and the sun basically never comes up. This wasn't really where I wanted to be, as I enjoy going outside and doing things instead of sitting inside all day. Also, the physics program is really more focused on arctic research, with glaciers and such, and that sort of thing just doesn't interest me. So the next year I transferred to Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Their physics program, while much smaller, is more suited to my tastes. There are maybe 100 undergrad students, and it's pretty easy to get to know everyone in your class, and to get to know the teachers. I was a teaching assistant for a lower level physics class for 4 quarters, through which it was really nice to get some instructing experience under my belt. I discovered you tend to understand things better when you explain them to others. So that is where I go to school now. I'll start my last year in the fall, after which I'm not really certain what I'd like to do. I'm very interested in optics, which is why I applied for an optics REU here at Stony Brook University.
Some of my main interests are: I think quantum computing sounds just nifty, so I'd like to get a better understanding of how that works. I'd really like to explore a method for creating memory with light.I've been talking to Dr. Noé about evanescent waves after total internal reflection, which I've been trying to study in the Laser Center (though no results). Fiber optic communication is also cool. Really, I'm up for learning about whatever I can!