Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Andrew Lynch

LynchName: Andrew Lynch ’06

Education (UR and additional): BS (Physics and Astronomy), University of Rochester, 2006

Current city/state of residence: Marlton, NJ

Job Title: Inside Sales Manager

Employer: Edmund Optics, Inc.

Family: Wife


When and how did you choose your major?  

I fell in love with Physics and Astronomy in high school.  My high school had block scheduling, and one “semester” I ended up taking both a Physics class and an Astronomy class.  Spending a half day or more every day on those two subjects – with an extremely talented teacher I might add – really sparked my lifelong interest in those subjects.  The next semester I got a job at the local science center running planetarium shows and guiding telescopes for the public.  Those early experiences sealed the deal as far as what major I was going to choose in college.  It also led to my choice of attending UR.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

My primary on-campus involvements revolved around my membership in a Fraternity (Sigma Chi).  Some people have strong opinions one way or another about Fraternities in general, but the life lessons that I learned from that place are too numerous to list in this questionnaire.  The absolutely ridiculous stories and anecdotes that I’ll have at my disposal are priceless as well!

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I’m pretty sure I was the only person in my graduating class that chose to get a job after college rather than pursue grad school, and I’m so glad I did.  Whereas a lot of my friends went the grad school route for some niche topic or another, I now already have 5+ years of real world industry and business-related experiences that I can leverage for the rest of my career.  When and if I do end up pursuing a higher degree down the road, it will be that much more valuable since I can put everything into context and see the bigger picture.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

When I started my job search, it became pretty clear that a BA in Physics and Astronomy would be a valuable degree for several different engineering fields.  With a decent background in telescopes and a firm understanding of the nature of light, Optical Engineering seemed like a good bet.  I spent my first few years as an Applications Engineer, where my main job function was to solve technical problems are questions that our customer’s had.  During that stint, I spent a year and a half living in Singapore and travelling around Asia.  When I came back to the U.S., I knew I wanted to get into the Technical Sales side of the business.  I now manage our Managed Account Inside Sales Team that services the Americas.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?  

Mainly problem solving skills and general principals.  Most of what you learn in college consists of the hairy details that you won’t necessarily have to use in practice.  You need to be familiar with all of them conversationally, but otherwise they all reside in books on the off-chance you need to reference them in the future.  I did an insane amount of integrals and derivations in college, but in my day-to-day job 99% of the math I have to do is trig and/or simple equations.

What advice do you have for current students?

For Physics and Astronomy students, hang out at the POA Library (in B&L) with your fellow nerds as often as the workload warrants it.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a better think tank for working through problem sets, and you’re guaranteed some funny and memorable sci-fi related debates.  For all students, realize that there is so much more to college than a perfect GPA.  Your GPA only marginally matters for your first job out of college, and sometimes not even then!  Make sure you get your degree, but also make sure you have a balanced social life as well.  Push yourself into situations outside of your comfort zone and take some calculated risks while it is still perfectly acceptable to do so!

UR Astronomy Club: Hands-On Observing

Univ. Communications – Living in a city like Rochester, N.Y., can put a damper on most nighttime astronomical observing because of light pollution and the seemingly always present cloud cover. However, the Astronomy Club at the University of Rochester offers students the opportunity to enjoy observational astronomy as well as a look into all aspects of astronomy and physics. Also, the club is perfect for those who merely want to know more and enjoy astronomy without the tedious task of trying to solve mathematical equations.

“We try to explain phenomenon qualitatively, so there’s virtually no math,” states club president Alexandra Kuznetsov ’14, astronomy major and founding member of the Astronomy Club. Because of this, club members can thoroughly appreciate the physical beauty of the cosmos.

The club plans trips one or two times a semester to CEK Mees Observatory in the Bristol Hills of Naples, N.Y., where they get hands-on experience observing through a 24-inch Cassegrain telescope. Kuznetsov said that at the last observation, the club members were able to observe Saturn, its rings, and some of Saturn’s moons. She says the club hopes to schedule three visits in the upcoming fall semester.

“There’s always exciting things going on,” said Kuznetsov. When asked about what students look for while observing, she said they “usually have a list of things [they] want to see.”

For those especially enthusiastic about observing, the University offers sanctuary to budding astronomers near Mees Observatory at Gannett House. Gannett has several bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and more, making it a comfortable location for students and amateur astronomers to set a spell.

Recently, the club has been trying to implement “Quad Astronomy” into their activities by setting up a telescope on UR’s Academic Quad. Marissa Adams ’14, a physics major who is the secretary and a founding member of the Astronomy Club, believes bringing a telescope or solar scope to the Quad would be a fun activity.

“On a hot day, why not bring this aspect to the Quad when everybody is out lounging? I’m sure anyone on campus would love that,” she said.

If this becomes implemented into the club’s activities, observing could happen more frequently and be overall easier to plan and more accessible for students.

A known fact about observing is how incredibly cold astronomers can get while sitting in frigid observatories on top of mountains. Because the members want to survive an observation session, they take a break during the winter season.

During the cold months, the club plans bi-weekly events called “Astro Major Presents,” where they bring in astronomers and professors to talk about a characteristic of astronomy they know particularly well. Often after the talk, the floor opens for discussion while participants enjoy the occasional tea and cookies. Last semester, the club held a special event where several professors spoke about astronomy and then screened Steven Hawkins’s Into the Universe.

While founded only two years ago, the Astronomy Club offers as a great outlet for any night gazing enthusiast.

Furthermore, Mees Observatory holds weekly tours over the summer. For students who are on campus during the summer, the Astronomy Club is interested in going! Contact them as soon as possible to capitalize on this fun opportunity to get out of Rochester and experience the depths of the universe.

Learn more about the club and how to become a member by visiting https://sa.rochester.edu/clubs/AstroClub/about.

Article written by Cody McConnell, an English and philosophy dual major and member of UR Men’s Rugby, The Uglies. In McConnell’s free time, he plays bass and is the lead vocalist in a signed, touring death metal band.

In the Photo: Jeffrey Vankerkhove ’13, a physics and astronomy major, views the sky from the Mees Observatory. Photos are courtesy of Marissa Adams ’14.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Grant R. Tremblay

Name: Grant R. Tremblay
Age: 28
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Physics & Astronomy, University of Rochester, 2006; Ph.D. in Astrophysics, RIT.
Current city/state of residence: Munich, Germany
Job Title: Fellow
Employer: European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO – www.eso.org)


What do you do now, and why did you choose this career?

I’m an observational astrophysicist and Fellow in the Directorate for Science at the European Southern Observatory headquarters near Munich (ESO – www.eso.org). Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, I study links between star formation and supermassive black hole growth in the giant galaxies found in the center of the largest galaxy clusters in the Universe. I am also a member of the Paranal Observatory Science Operations Team, providing observing support for ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT – http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt.html) in the Chilean Atacama Desert.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

UR offers some of the best undergraduate research opportunities in the country. Take advantage of them!

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

My closest mentor was my undergraduate advisor, Prof. Alice Quillen (Associate Professor in the Dept. of Physics & Astronomy). I still actively collaborate with her today – in fact, we just published two papers together this month!

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Immediately after graduation, I started a graduate research post at the Space Telescope Science Institute (the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescopewww.stsci.edu). This opportunity was fostered entirely by my undergraduate advisor who had connected me with a large network of collaborators.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I love working in Astronomy and plan to stay in the field. In five years, I’ll hopefully be finishing my second postdoc and applying for longer term research positions.

How are you still connected with the University?

I still collaborate actively with my former undergraduate advisor and have returned to the campus many times since graduation. Of course, I also stay in touch with my many friends from UR. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: the friends made in college are friends for the rest of your life.

What advice do you have for current students?

If you’re interested in a Physics or Physics & Astronomy major, get involved in undergraduate research. Its importance cannot be overstated. It is essential preparation for a future career in science, in both academia and industry.