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Alumni Spotlight

Mark Swartz, 2011 Alumnus

mark swartz, chemistry, student portrait

Mark Swartz has successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis, “Fabrication and characterization of Al and Mg nanoparticles”, at the University of Utah under the direction of Jennifer Shumaker-Parry. Mark’s specialization is in Material Science, and his research involved the fabrication of aluminum nanoparticles for surface enhanced spectroscopy, specifically IR absorption (SEIRA) and fluorescence (SEF).

Mark’s path to graduate school started in high school when his first chemistry class piqued his interest in the subject. As a chemistry major in his freshman year of college at Boise State, Mark promised himself that he would not go to graduate school. However, by the time he was a senior his advisor, Dr. Owen McDougal, had convinced him to at least apply to a graduate program. Dr. McDougal suggested the University of Utah so that Mark would at least be able to ski while deciding on whether or not pursue his Ph.D.!

While at the University of Utah Mark received a two-year Interactive Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship. His accolades also include being a fellow in the Materials Research in Science and Engineering (MRSEC) Funding Center. While Mark’s foremost career goal would be to retire, “graduate school did not pay as well as [he] thought….” so he must earn a living first! He is interested in pursuing a career in the semiconductor or defense industries.

When asked if his undergraduate education at Boise State helped to prepare him for graduate school, his response was “The classes at Boise State did an excellent job of preparing me for the graduate courses here at the U. More importantly, my research experience at BSU is what helped me to succeed in graduate school.” In fact, his “…most productive research meetings did not happen on campus, they occurred up at Bogus Basin Resort while Dr. McDougal was shuffling kids between ski races!”

Mark’s useful advice to undergraduate students considering pursuit of their Ph.D. is to “get into a lab early and see if research is something you enjoy. If it’s not, then a Ph.D. in chemistry (or any of the other hard sciences) is not for you. Research involves a significant number of failures; if you’re not used to that it can be demoralizing.”

The Boise State Department of Chemistry Biochemistry congratulates Mark on his academic achievement!