Picture of Jake Miller

Meet Jake Miller: B.S. in Physics '18

Why did you decide to major in the physics and astronomy department?

I had always been interested in science as a kid. Once I started taking college-level science courses, I fell in love with it. It is one thing to be interested in the physical world around us, but once I started to understand the theory behind it, I knew I was in the right field. I decided to major in physics my sophomore year.

What did you do after you graduated? Did you go to graduate school or get a job?

I went straight to graduate school, right here at Wayne State. It worked well for me, for several reasons. The biggest of these reasons is Dr. Ed Cackett's research. I had always been interested in supermassive black holes and by going to graduate school at Wayne State I got to directly work on them with Dr. Cackett as my graduate mentor.

How did your major prepare you for your career or graduate school?

My physics degree helped me immensely with my graduate career. It gave me the prerequisites to understand the graduate school material and I am still using that information to this day in my research.

What was your favorite class and why?

Astrophysics and Stellar Astronomy (AST 5010), taught by Dr. Cackett. It does help that astronomy courses get to show all the pretty pictures, but Dr. Cackett went beyond that He is a fantastic lecturer and truly knows his stuff. His talks are always enthralling, even when it gets to the nitty-gritty physics. He often does public lectures on behalf of Wayne State and I highly encourage everyone to listen to them. You will learn and be entertained at the same time.

Who was your favorite professor and why?

This is an extremely difficult question – I think one of the best parts of Wayne State is that the professors are excellent. I had several amazing professors who were both extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Dr. Llope, Dr. Cinabro, Dr. Petrov, Dr. Kelly and Dr. Shah all rank among my favorites. If I must choose, it is a tie between Dr. Paul Karchin and Dr. Ed Cackett. Both are fantastic lecturers, who made class content extremely approachable. Dr. Karchin taught me at every level of my undergraduate (and graduate) career and was one of the first professors that got me excited about physics. Ed Cackett taught my favorite course and is now my graduate advisor. All in all, there are too many great professors to pick only one.

Did you do undergraduate research? If so, what skills did it give you?

I participated in the Wayne State Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program after my first year at Wayne State. I worked under Dr. David Cinabro studying supernovae. It was my first real experience with research and it was great. In addition to things like learning new programming languages and science programs, I learned how to better manage my time and how to best break down complicated tasks into more manageable goals for myself. It also showed me that I liked research and would want to do something like this full-time. I would highly recommend REUs to anyone who is interested in research.

What was your favorite thing about the department?

Aside from the field of physics itself, my favorite thing is the people. I have had classes all over Wayne State and I am convinced the best people at Wayne State are the physicists. The professors have all been smart and kind. This goes beyond just the professors – all the staff and students are extremely welcoming and helpful.

What advice would you give to current students?

My advice – do not be afraid to ask for help. Ask others for guidance and try to help others when you can. I was very fortunate that I found an amazing group of peers that I was able to study with. Together, we helped each other understand the course content. This extends to the professors as well. Go to their office hours, send them emails and ask questions in class. If they are Wayne State professors, they will be more than willing to help you.