At a Glance

Year: ‘24
Major(s): Physics and Mathematics 
Activities: Honors College, KCS Ambassador, Math Tutor
Why physics? “The sheer number and diversity of courses and research opportunities that the physics department offers is vast.”

Physics BS

Physics majors are problem solvers, equipped with the inventive thinking and analytical skills that are valuable to a wide range of employers.

Mathematics BS

As a mathematics major, you will gain the tools for explanation and analysis in the physical world, and in engineering, business and the social sciences.

Albert Farah enrolled at UMass Lowell as an honors mechanical engineering major, but he soon found himself gravitating toward physics.

As a child, Farah’s interest in space exploration grew as he read textbooks on aerospace and rocket propulsion design. He decided to pursue a career in aerospace engineering and felt that getting a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree from UML would be a good first step toward his goal.

“My whole thing was, I wanted to make space travel a lot faster and easier,” he says. “For context, it takes eight months to get to Mars and nine years to get to Pluto. It’s cool to think about what we could do if we could get more advanced technology out there faster.”

Already accepted to UML’s mechanical engineering program, Farah competed in the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair as a Medford High School senior. His project, which focused on propulsion techniques, pushed him toward physics.

“I realized that a lot of ideas for hyperfast space travel are well beyond the reach of engineering,” he says. “They’re more in the realm of theoretical physics.”

Still, Farah stuck with the mechanical engineering track before doing some “soul searching” and switching his major to physics during the second semester of his first year of college.

“I realized that I really enjoy theoretical physics, and so much of what I wanted to do was actually in theory and not so much engineering,” says Farah, who added a dual degree option in mathematics during his sophomore year.

Funded through the Immersive Scholars program, Farah had already begun aerodynamics research with Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Assoc. Prof. David Willis. Looking to add a physics research experience, Farah reached out to theoretical cosmology expert and Physics Assoc. Prof. Nishant Agarwal. Agarwal recommended that Farah take courses including quantum mechanics and mathematical physics before joining his research group, advice Farah was grateful to receive.

“If I had rushed into his research without taking those courses, I would have been discouraged, because I would not understand the work,” Farah says. “Dr. Agarwal has been a phenomenal advisor in actually making me a competent theoretical physicist.”

After completing the suggested classes, Farah joined Agarwal’s research group, at which time he received a stipend from the Kennedy College of Sciences (KCS) Science Scholars program to conduct research on the dynamics of quantum field theories. He presented his work at an American Physical Society conference in Minneapolis.

“It was a cool experience and made me think, ‘I’m definitely in the right place,’” he says.

In the summer before Farah’s senior year, he received additional funding through the KCS Science Discoveries program for a self-proposed research project on quantum chaos.

“What these research experiences have really given me is the ability to ask relevant questions independently,” says Farah, who plans to pursue a career in research. “And it was pretty cool to secure funding for my projects through the college.”

When Farah is not busy with research, he is serving as a KCS ambassador and a math tutor. He also enjoys playing the piano and guitar.

And while his path to physics was not linear, Farah says he is happy to be where he is today.

“The sheer number and diversity of courses and research opportunities that the physics department offers is vast,” he says. “It showed me what I wanted to do and why I want to do it.”

Best part of research at UML?

Albert Farah headshot
“What these research experiences have really given me is the ability to ask relevant questions independently.”