Physics degree opens door to exciting career with NCISChristopher Jamell | 2010 Alumnus, B.S. & M.S. & Ph.D. Physics | Department of Physics After a few minutes with Chris Jamell, you begin to notice a cool confidence that belies his compact frame and earnest explanation of his work.
His passion for life and drive for excellence become clear. Maybe it’s the marine in him or the pride of someone who has tackled one of the most difficult academic subjects.
One of the core values that defines a marine is commitment—a spirit of determination and dedication to the highest standards. This may be one reason the former marine choose to study physics. “Everyone is basically equal, but everyone’s motivation is different. I chose the hardest subject [physics and mathematics] to show that I could do it. It was all about finding the hardest thing, and showing myself what I could achieve.”
Jamell has spent the majority of his time studying a small component of something we use almost every day—pencil lead. He studies a single layer of graphite, called graphene. His work centers around excitons, which are the combination of an electron and a hole left by another electron. “Excitons are used every day: in laser pointers, CD players and grocery store scanners,” Jamell explains.
Jamell’s studies with Dr. Yogesh Joglekar focused on the process of exciton condensation, which usually occurs at a very low temperature—one that isn’t practical for everyday use outside of a laboratory. Jamell has used theoretical physics in both his master’s and doctoral work in order to execute the computer-based calculations necessary to better understand the possibility of high temperature exciton condensation in graphene.
Jamell credits the open student-professor relationship with his passion for physics. “My undergraduate and graduate professors were very nice to include undergraduates in their research. They are open and available whenever you have questions. I’m happy for having worked with them.”
Jamell also focused on teaching undergraduates at IUPUI--he won an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. Part of his dissertation emphasized the importance of teaching undergraduate physics students the Schrödinger equation in momentum space, which is the Fourier transform of real space , in order to more fully represent the possibilities of quantum mechanics. “They need a computer to solve these problems, but momentum space allows them to solve a greater class of problems with more ease than is possible in real space.” Jamell thoroughly enjoyed the experience of teaching physics laboratories and mentoring in mathematics. “The teacher actually learns more than the students.”
Other awards that Jamell won in his time at IUPUI include Outstanding Physics Graduate Student, the Forrest Meire Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Physics Major and the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Award.
So what’s the next step for a former marine with a Ph.D. in physics? Special agent, of course. Jamell continues his service to America and pursuit of excellence through his interest in federal law enforcement and his recent acceptance into the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). During the interview process, when asked what distinguished him from other candidates, he replied, “You probably don’t have many Marine Corps infantrymen who have a physics degree. A physics degree shows that you can apply yourself, that you can learn.” Jamell is grateful that the education he received at IUPUI can serve as a stepping-stone into a bright future.