15:23 PM

Physics alumni are prepared for doctorates, competitive careers post-UHCL

PhysicsChoosing physics as a degree plan doesn't guarantee a smooth ride through the rest of your professional career- but getting a physics degree from University of Houston-Clear Lake could certainly help. Just ask Professor of Physics Samina Masood, whose students are using their UH-Clear Lake education to launch themselves into doctoral programs and leading-edge careers.

"Over the last few years, 20 students have graduated under my supervision as chair of the thesis research committee, and 11 of them have gotten into Ph.D programs," Masood said. "The increase we've seen in students getting into doctoral programs is due in part because of the great research opportunities students have here at UHCL."

Mohammad Abdul-Moqueet completed his Master of Science in Physics in 2017 and received his Ph.D. in physics from University of Texas at San Antonio last year. "I was Dr. Masood's research assistant while I was there, and I did my master's thesis under her supervision," he said. "I know this research helped me get into my Ph.D program. I went through an interview process, and after speaking with UTSA faculty, one of the research advisers told me specifically that it was one of the reasons they wanted me and even fast-tracked me."

Abdul-Moqueet explained that because of his UHCL coursework and work in research, he was given credit for four core courses. "I only had to take one core course because of that, and I got up to 30 credits to count toward my Ph.D because of my work at UHCL. They recognized the work I did," he said.

He added that two other students from Dr. Masood's research group came to UTSA after he did, and received the same privileges. "I got a very good foundation from Dr. Masood as well as my other physics professors at UHCL," he said. "They were there to give me the time I needed, to support students, and to let them make their mistakes and learn from them."

An emerging professional direction for physicist is the field of medical physics, which is revolutionizing medical techniques for imaging the human body and treating disease. Tommy Etienne, who also received his Master of Science in Physics in 2018, is currently completing a master's in medical physics at Wayne State University in Michigan and explained that much the same as medical students are matched with hospitals to begin their residency, graduates of his program are also matched and trained as residents in a hospital setting for two years, culminating in a board certification.

"It's a pretty competitive program," he said. "I've just been matched to Baylor Scott and White in Temple, Texas. There are only about 100 residency programs in the U.S. for medical physics and 60% of students in this program nationwide were matched. I was lucky to be among them. I was well prepared for what I'm doing."

He said that while in Houston, he had gotten his degree at UHCL while working full time as a physics teacher at Dobie High School in Pasadena. "All the courses catered to full-time employed students," he said. "I did theoretical research in quantum electrodynamics during my final year with Dr. Masood, which was definitely helpful. It's also nice having a professor who's always helpful. She's had so many students but even years later, she remembers them. You don't ever feel like you're bothering her; she always has time for her students."

He said he was ready for his residency and would ultimately like to working with radiation oncologists. "I didn't know this career with physics and medicine existed," he said. "There aren't too many people in this field. Anyone considering the physics program at UHCL will get great training, and those who work full time will see it's convenient. It's a very easy decision if you have a job and you have to work around other commitments."

Masood said she had some undergraduate students who went directly into doctoral programs after graduating from UHCL. "With the research experience, students can go on and take jobs at NASA and other places. There are great opportunities for them," she said. "UHCL is a great launching pad for a career in physics or STEM. If you realize you'd like to study science, you'll get a great foundation here."

For more information about UHCL's Physics program, go online.