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"One step forward leads you to the next." | A UPenn/Caltech Student's Advice on Exceptional Programs

We had the opportunity of interviewing Andrew Nyholm, an alum of the University of Pennsylvania and student at California Institute of Technology about: Exceptional Programs


He is

  • a former student at the Materials Camp at Drexel University

  • a former student at the Governor's School for Engineering and Technology at Lehigh University

  • a former student at Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) at the University of Pennsylvania

  • a lover of science and sustainability

Here are some important words he shares:

  • " Sustainable energy is one of the most impactful areas of research towards improving the relationship between people and the environment."

  • "I think my passion for energy research was what stood out at Materials Camp..."



Q: How were you able to find free engineering programs to participate in over the summer?

A: I looked at universities near me for available programs and just kept expanding outward as I kept track of where programs are offered.




Q: For the Materials Camp at Drexel University and the Governor's School for Engineering and Technology, how did you make yourself stand out as an applicant for the program?

A: I think my passion for energy research was what stood out at Materials Camp, and then the combination of the passion for energy research and my experience at Materials Camp built on each other for my application for the more difficult Governor’s School.





Q: How did you benefit from these summer programs on a short and long-term basis?

A: Short- term, I enjoyed the programs immensely and learned a lot which helped me make decisions during the application period. Long-term, I think these programs helped me choose materials science as an undergraduate and helped me stand out enough to get into a great undergrad program.




Q: For the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) program at UPenn, what made it stand out to you?

A: Sustainable energy is one of the most impactful areas of research towards improving the relationship between people and the environment. The guarantee of funding energy research stood out to a great degree and the dual-degree nature of the program allowed me to pursue my two passions of physics and materials science and engineering. Additionally, the university was not far from home which was quite nice for visiting family.




Q: Would you say your hard work in the program has paid off?

A: Definitely. I managed to be accepted to a PhD program and join a lab already without having needed a master’s degree.





Q: How do you think this program has shaped your career and life?

A: The most obvious way is that my graduate program at Caltech is in the Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science. I imagine doing undergraduate degrees in both of those areas was useful during the admission process. I also made a good number of friends within the relatively small program that I will keep up with throughout the years.




Learn more about Andrew and his experience on his LinkedIn account.


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