By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist
June 23, 2020 | 10:30 a.m.
“To boldly go where no one has gone before.”
These are the voyages of Aaron Coe ’19, a physics and computer science alumnus who has already made valiant advances into the world of the unknown, despite graduating only a year ago. While he is more of a Star Wars fan, he certainly resonates with Star Trek’s iconic call to adventure—one that he hopes to pursue through a life dedicated to researching condensed matter physics.
In 2019, Coe was awarded
The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request. Either the server is overloaded or there is an error in the application.2020 National Defense Science and Engineering (NDSEG) Fellowship, which covers three years of full tuition and fees, a monthly stipend for cost of living, a travel budget, and health insurance. The award has a five to 10 percent acceptance rate and allows him to focus on the research side of his Ph.D. without funding concerns for the next few years. While Coe enjoys teaching, the fellowship is a gift of time that can now be spent fully absorbed in research.
Though a Harvard degree opens a myriad of possibilities, Coe’s greatest love will always be research. The opportunities to discover something will always exist at his fingertips, and living on the brink of the unknown is fulfilling to Coe as he considers everything his future might hold. “I am resolute that my career continues to lie in research,” Coe affirms. “Research is an extraordinary opportunity where you can create or learn things humanity has never observed or thought of before.”
Condensed matter physics may sound like a foreign language to some, but this specific field of science refers to the particles that compose matter and their various properties. Taken to one extreme, researchers study the substance of science fiction—like teleportation and particles that can sense being observed. And while that kind of research fascinates Coe, he explains that he spends most his time working with electrons to create new electronic devices that may change humanity’s computational abilities beyond our current scope of understanding.
Coe acknowledges that science fiction is just that: fiction. However, he lives in the intersection of what could be and what already is, and that overlap informs his dreams. “My long-term goal is to found my own technology company, creating products that help people and improve the environment,” Coe says. “I find it both thrilling and rewarding to work on research with likely applications and industry involvement—which seems well-suited to bring me to the sweet spot of fundamentals and applications.”
The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request. Either the server is overloaded or there is an error in the application.
Coe values this emphasis on community because the Bethel community has shaped and supported him through every step his journey—from celebrating his curiosity in his freshman physics classes to his professors writing letters of recommendation for his NDSEG Fellowship application. And while his community rooted for him, his physics and computer science classes prepared him for the intense learning curve in grad school. “In graduate school, I am surrounded by intense students like myself who spent every summer performing research, but their experience is more narrowly focused on specific research topics,” Coe says. “Meanwhile, because I had to perform a lab for nearly every physics class at Bethel, I find that I generally possess more knowledge beyond my specific field, which has been extremely useful as research often requires understanding techniques from multiple fields in physics.”
Coe’s favorite Bethel memory is all about community. Coe was invited to President Jay Barnes’ office to receive the SCA Glenn T. Seaborg Science Scholarship, which was a complete surprise to him. He opened the door, with a Bethel Marketing and Communications videographer following him, to find the office filled with his physics professors, President Barnes, and Gregg White, the executive director of SCA, ready to celebrate. Coe’s support system could not have been prouder of him.
“My favorite thing about Bethel will always be the community present in the physics and computer science departments—both with the students and professors. Shaking Jay’s hand and seeing the professors who had guided my academic journey for the past four years was immensely touching. I will never forget it.”— Aaron Coe '19
If you enjoy learning about science and new technology or find yourself wondering how things work, consider being a physics or engineering major. The department has a tradition of excellence and a strong national reputation. We offer flexible physics and engineering degree programs, cutting-edge research opportunities, a successful alumni network, and caring professors who are committed to mentoring students.