What do some our alumni say about their education at HMC?

Randy Spangler (’92)

Foveon

I graduated in 1992 and made a short move to Caltech to study Computation and Neural Systems, a multidisciplinary degree which covers everything from information theory to computer graphics to neural networks to measuring the behavior of individual neurons in rats.  The core curriculum of Mudd was great preparation for this, giving me a broad enough background to do well across all of that.  I finished my Ph.D. in 1999, with a thesis titled “Real-Time Rule-Based Analysis and Generation of Music” — which also leveraged the music courses I took at Scripps.

I then moved up to Silicon Valley and worked for 6 years at Foveon, an image sensor / digital camera startup, where I wrote software and firmware for digital cameras.  With a physics degree, I understood not only the software, but also the semiconductor physics and optics that happen before the image is captured, and I was comfortable enough with an oscilloscope to do hardware debugging as well.  That flexibility is particularly important at a startup, where there are few enough engineers that everyone need to be good at several things.

After Foveon, I worked a year and a half at Carrier IQ, a startup which does cell phone-based diagnostics and analysis of Sprint's mobile phone network.  All those E&M courses helped me understand how CDMA and GSM work, so I could determine what types of information would be most useful to read from phones.

In 2007 I started at Google, where I've now been for 5 years.  I’ve worked on Google Earth, written Python-based build systems, and for the last 3 years I’ve been the firmware lead for Chrome OS, Google’s new open-source browser-based operating system.  And yes, I still have an oscilloscope at my desk.

In the 20 years since graduating with a physics degree from Mudd, I’ve been unemployed, well, never.  I’ve also never had a job title of “physicist” or “scientist” — but every physics course I took at Mudd has been useful at one time or another.

Sept. 1, 2012

Ben Melhuish (’94)

Expedia.com
I've felt for quite some time that an HMC physics major can do anything he or she wants. The mere fact of making it through the program attests to a certain amount of natural ability, but at least as important is the fact that much of what we learn is many methods of approaching problems. The flexibility and open-mindedness which results is of great value in (I believe) any career option, from physics to software engineering to investment banking. So, though physics doesn't apply directly to writing software, the training I got has helped indirectly in a great many ways, most of which I don't realize until I stop and think about it for a bit.
Jan. 1, 1997

Stan Love (’87)

NASA
I credit the solid general physics education I got at HMC for my ability to do good work in such a wide variety of disciplines. That general education has also allowed me to change career paths several times, and to land a good permanent job during a time when the field of my Ph.D. work (astronomy and planetary science) has few positions to offer.
Jan. 1, 1997

Ben Noviello (’84)

SRI
I use my physics knowledge to allow me to quickly grasp the underlying principles of whatever problem I am dealing with, allowing me to gain a working knowledge without getting bogged down in the details. It is this ability to be something of a jack-of-all trades (or a technical general practitioner as I prefer to think of it) that makes me valuable to the employer. Physics is the ideal background for this. In fact, as one goes up the management chain of this company, one finds that it is physics-heavy, as these are the people who have the ability to grasp the underlying concepts of a problem- which is what I think physics is all about. Hold the line when it comes to those things that traditionally make HMC great. That I was taught in small classes entirely by English-speaking PhD's who actually had office hours and didn't treat us an annoyance stands in stark contrast to the undergraduate experience of most of my peers.
Jan. 1, 1997