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

Mike Leung (’78)

Northrop Grumman

… it has been my experience that the physics background is extremely well suited to the ebbs and flows and constant changes in industry. Perhaps you can use that as a selling point to attract more majors. What I have found with myself and other PhD physicists at Northrop (former TRW), is that we are the most versatile of the many technical disciplines at work. I'll mention a few skills that the physics major imparts that perhaps aren't as strong in many engineering majors:

  • the physicists seem to have better critical thinking skills and quantitative skills
  • the physicists who were experimentalists in graduate school (or perhaps even during senior research) have a very broad knowledge and can step easily into several disciplines (e.g. I count myself very familiar with materials, vacuum techniques, cryogenic techniques, and influence of measurement equipment on experiments). This broad background is also a key advantage when it comes to troubleshooting and other problem solving
  • they seem to remember their college subject matters better; believe it or not it comes in handy sometimes. Maybe this comes from the grad school courses, I don't know

I first entered HMC intending to major in engineering. I switched to Physics because I found the subject matter and approach to teaching much more appealing.

Sept. 1, 2012

Jason Goldberg (’94)

IBM Almaden Research Center
I would say, using myself as an example, having a Physics background is a tremendous asset no matter what field one decides to go into. I really think that the problem solving skills I learned as a Physics major have helped me in my Engineering work. Also, since Physics is so fundamental to everything else (perhaps my view here is a little jaded?) there is no way to go wrong by learning Physics first and then moving up to other disciplines. ('Up' in the sense that 'C' is a higher level language than 'assembly'.) And now seems to be a great time for well-skilled scientists here in the Silicon Valley. The group I am in at IBM is concerned with magnetic disk media and most of the PhD's are from Physics/Material Science backgrounds.
Jan. 1, 1997

Valerie Nandor (’94)

The Wellington School
The career that I am looking toward right now is that of Prep. School teacher. I plan to obtain my Ph. D. in 2000. I think that in relation to my future job, the aspect of my education that impressed me the most is the quality of the teaching that goes on at Mudd.
Jan. 1, 1997