19 May Student to graduate in the Dual Degree Physics and Engineering Program
Eau Claire, Wis — This week Jonathan Watson will become the first student to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s physics and engineering dual degree program.
Watson, a native of Eau Claire, will earn his bachelor’s degree in physics from UW-Eau Claire and his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Minnesota.
“The dual degree program was a great advantage in preparing for engineering course work because I began with experience in areas such as electronics and optics,” Watson said. “It gave me a greater understanding of the concepts presented in the initial engineering courses and allowed me to stay ahead of the curve throughout the entire program.”
Watson will participate in UW-Eau Claire’s commencement ceremonies May 22. He went through graduation ceremonies at the University of Minnesota May 7.
Through UW-Eau Claire’s dual degree program, students earn a physics degree from UW-Eau Claire and an engineering degree from either UW-Madison or the University of Minnesota in about five years. Typically students spend three years at UW-Eau Claire and about two years at the engineering school. Students are guaranteed admittance into the engineering schools as long as they meet the standards of the agreements between the universities.
Watson, who received numerous job offers, accepted a position working in the air defense area of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, a prestigious research center in Massachusetts. His responsibilities will include the design of seeker and interceptor technologies used in ballistic missile defense systems.
“I am absolutely convinced that the dual degree program was instrumental in my getting this job, as the physics background gave me a better understanding of physical principles outside of my specific engineering field,” Watson said.
Fifteen students are currently enrolled in the program, said Kim Pierson, associate professor of physics and astronomy and dual degree program coordinator. Pierson receives at least one inquiry a week from students or prospective students interested in the program. Most students in the program are interested in earning mechanical engineering degrees, with an equal number choosing to go to UW-Madison and the University of Minnesota, he said.
“Based on Jon Watson’s experiences, the program gives students a significant advantage when they transfer to their engineering program,” Pierson said, noting that the students start the engineering programs with skills that help them do well in the courses and get noticed by faculty. “During their first semester at the engineering school, they take sophomore level engineering courses that aren’t offered at UW-Eau Claire. They’ve had many more physics and math courses than the other students so they do very well.”
After starting in UW-Eau Claire’s pre-engineering program, Watson moved to the dual degree program because of the flexibility it provided with its broad physics background and the focused engineering courses.
“The program attracted me because it offers a very good background for solving practical problems through engineering, while the physics allows me to be more multi-disciplined and to better understand entire systems in operation,” Watson said. “In short, the dual-degree program provides for an engineer who can be skilled at solving problems in multiple fields and a physicist who can apply general principles to find answers to practical questions.”