Owen Tower, UMassD physics alum and PhD student at University of Colorado Boulder
Owen Tower, who earned his degree in physics at UMassD, is now a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Feature Stories 2020: Owen Tower ‘20: Ambitious scholar
Owen Tower ‘20: Ambitious scholar

Owen, who earned his degree in physics at UMassD, attributes faculty mentorship and internships with helping him segue into a PhD program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Owen Tower ’20 gravitated toward physics while in high school. “The problem-solving nature of physics really captivated me, and I knew that pursuing it in college would open up many doors further down the road,” says Owen who immediately matriculated in the physics PhD program at the Unversity of Colorado Boulder after graduating this year. He believes many of the issues in the world today could be solved or improved by the application of physics. “For example, advances in nanotechnology could lead to improved energy storage and more precise measurements. And this could lead to fewer carbon emissions and thus could improve our efforts in the battle against climate change.”

As a physics major at UMass Dartmouth, Owen gained a deeper understanding of how computer science and physics shape our world. Faculty-guided research projects exposed him to applied and computational mathematics and theoretical physics. He was also introduced to parallel computing, the various branches of mathematics, and theoretical atomic physics. He specifically focused on negative refraction (light bending the wrong way in certain materials). “I learned to solve research problems independently and pose relevant questions while conducting research,” he says.

Driven to succeed

To prepare for a fledging career, Owen pursued summer internships, serving first as an intern at Rutgers University where he worked in the Experimental High Energy Physics group. “I spent the summer in New Jersey learning how to use neural networks for large data sets, and how to apply these neutral networks to actual physics experiments.”

He also interned at the University of Texas at Dallas where he focused on the performance of quantum algorithms. “I learned about quantum information and the current limits of technology in terms of building quantum computers as well as how to apply different areas of statistics in order to gain insight into the physical behavior of various quantum devices,” Owen says. “Quantum Information is a hot area of research, and finding ways to obtain meaningful calculations from faulty qubits is important in the era of Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) Technology.”

Shaping his future

Engaging in professional development opportunities was another phase of his academic experience at UMassD. “I was invited to attend virtual group meetings regarding theoretical atomic physics, which furthered my interests in the field. I also received many job offers due to my computational and scientific abilities,” he says.

Overall, Owen attributes collegiality and working directly with faculty advisors to his student success. “I developed professional relationships with my advisors and they respected me as a colleague.” He also says his experiences at UMassD led to his decision to enroll in the University of Colorado Boulder. What are his plans after he earns his doctorate? “My desired career is either a research scientist or engineer, where I can use the skills and knowledge I've accumulated to help make a positive impact,” Owen says.