A Conversation with …

… Chris about his research and why he is involved with STEM outreach.

What is your current position?

I’m currently a senior data scientist working on CarMax’s pricing teams.

Where did you go to college?

I majored in physics with a minor in mathematics at Texas A&M University.

Where did you grow up?

Georgetown, TX.

What was your favorite subject in high school?

Either Latin or marching band.

Who is your STEM role model?

My undergraduate research advisor was a strong role model for me when I started my physics research and teaching. He constantly challenged me to think critically and ask good, deep questions, and demonstrated thoughtful mentoring for his students, including me. He also encouraged me to present and publish my research and gave me many significant opportunities to teach and develop course materials that have helped me greatly in my STEM outreach.

What is the focus of your research?

My research in for my PhD was on the fundamental nature of matter. To do this, I searched for nuclear decays where neutrons convert into protons and vice versa. One as-of-yet unobserved type of these decays is only possible if the neutrino has a unique property: that it is identical to its antiparticle partner, the antineutrino. If this is the case, this would allow us to understand why the neutrino is a million times less massive than an electron, and could explain how the early universe transitioned from being equal parts matter and antimatter to the matter-dominated universe we observe today. Favorite part of being a scientist (or coolest part of your job?): Having my mathematical models impact how millions of cars are bought and sold each year!

Why did you pick a STEM major?

I was always strong in math growing up and competed in multiple state and national contests. At the same time, I was always curious as to knowing why things worked the way they did, and was never really satisfied with the explanations I got from my high school teachers. Physics then seemed like the right choice for me, and I was hooked quickly in undergrad. From the amazing physics demos I was able to perform with liquid nitrogen to how excited I was to take quantum physics (after making it through somewhat “boring” introductory courses), I never regretted my choice of major.

What is your favorite part about doing STEM outreach?

It’s the best chance to show off the cool stuff we can do! Blowing up a liquid nitrogen depth charge is something that would normally be frowned upon, but, when you do it for a rapt audience to excite them about STEM, suddenly it becomes totally okay!

What is a fun fact about you?

I’ve traveled to Antarctica!

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