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MIT summer internship opens door for physics and math major

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Brahmin Thurber-Carbone, ’21, is only halfway through his Bridgewater State University undergraduate education, but he can check one item off the scientific bucket list that many never accomplish: Spending a summer researching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s crazy to be going to a small school and get an internship at MIT,” said Brahmin, who was recommended by Dr. Ed Deveney, a Bridgewater physics professor, as a result of Brahmin's work in Deveney’s laser cooling and trapping lab. “There are millions of people who want to come here and do research.”

Brahmin, a physics and math major from Martha’s Vineyard, interned at MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, working with researchers such as Dr. Samuel Serna, a postdoctoral associate at MIT and incoming BSU assistant professor of physics.

One project involved testing chips like those BSU students will use in new photonics and optics programs and research lab spaces being developed over the next year in the Department of Physics. Brahmin’s internship comes as the department collaborates with MIT, Stonehill College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and other organizations to prepare students to work in the emerging photonics field.

Photonics uses light rather than electrons. Particles of light allow for higher-density chips in devices and improve the transmission of information, providing more bandwidth and less energy loss.

Brahmin tested chips for use in classrooms and learned to use microscopes and other specialized equipment similar to what will be available at Bridgewater. The chips include components used in telecom and datacom applications.

“The chip is developed for education,” said Dr. Anu Agarwal, principal research scientist in MIT’s Materials Research Lab. “All the components are very standard components to build photonics circuits.”

As Brahmin worked on the chips, he gained valuable skills that will serve him well in the future. His internship helped build strong ties between the two universities and prepare him for more advanced research, according to Agarwal and Serna.

“That was an amazing opportunity,” said Serna, who will be one of Brahmin’s professors in the fall. “It links everything together.”

The internship, funded by BSU’s Bartlett Fellowship Program, shaped Brahmin’s future thanks to mentoring from graduate students and researchers with whom he worked.

“It’s been excellent,” he said. “The reason I was going to do summer research was I wanted to see what it would be like in grad school.”

The verdict?

“I’ve decided I’m going to try to get a PhD in physics.”

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