Meet Will Berdanier – PhD Physics Student at UC Berkeley
Winner of the 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and 2013 British Marshall Scholarship
Dean’s Honored Graduate, DS Alumnus, Class of 2013
What are you doing now?
“I study condensed matter physics, which seeks to understand what kinds of ordered states of matter can emerge from the chaos of strongly interacting many-body quantum systems, such as superconductors, Bose-Einstein condensates or topological insulators. In particular, I’m interested in how we can use recent advances in condensed matter physics to construct a certain kind of quantum computer — called a “topological” quantum computer — that is inherently immune to errors. My current project is to investigate ways to realize strange particles called “parafermions” by shaking quantum systems in clever ways (this technique is called Floquet analysis).
My biggest hobby has always been playing violin, and some of my fondest memories from DS are playing with the DS quartet at the holiday dinner and Musicale. I’m continuing to play in small ensembles, and recently had a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings with a UCSF-based group called Strings Collaborative.”
Do you have any particular memories from Dean’s Scholars you’d like to share?
“Coming to Texas from Colorado, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in right away — that most people would have a clique of high school friends that they would stick with. This worry melted away on my first DS trip to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory. As we all linked arms around one of the largest telescopes in the world, I felt the warm glow of knowing I had found a community in the vastness of UT.”
What did DS mean to you?
“Dean’s Scholars was a quirky, brilliant family. I can’t overstate how important it was for me socially — many of my closest friends came from the program, and the bonding with students and faculty at the various trips, dinners and, of course, Friday Lunches, gave a unique flavor to my undergraduate years. But it was also a program that pushed me to be better — in academics, in research, and in giving back to the community. All in all it was a wonderful melting pot of intellectual talent, fascinating hobbies and nerdy science camaraderie — and being a Dean’s Scholar was a privilege I will cherish for the rest of my life.”