Physics Major to Conduct Research in Germany

George Marcus and Matt Willard

Associate professor of physics George Marcus and Matt Willard '26 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Physics and biophysics double major Matt Willard ’26 has received a 2024 DAAD RISE scholarship to intern this summer at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Willard, from Tonawanda, NY, is the tenth Geneseo student to win a RISE award.

RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) Germany offers undergraduate students from North American, British, and Irish universities a fully funded opportunity to complete a summer research internship at German universities and research institutions. A record 2,358 applications vied for 370 scholarships in this year’s DAAD competition. Biochemistry major Abbey Hanes ’25 won a RISE scholarship earlier this spring.

“The research by Dr. Mathias Kläui and his team focuses on microelectronics and spin insulatronics for ultra-low power information transport, fields that have piqued my interest recently,” says Willard. “I am particularly intrigued by the real-world applications of improving logic systems using this new nanodevice technology, which builds on my previous research on optical and particle physics.”

Geneseo is noted for its undergraduate student research opportunities. In US News & World Report’s 2024 Best Colleges list, Geneseo landed #2 for undergraduate teaching in the Regional Universities—North category, tied with Loyola University Maryland and Marist College.

“Annually, around 500 Geneseo students earn directed study academic credit for research, and many of those are involved in summer research experiences through internal and externally funded grants like DAAD RISE,” says Sue Rubright, sponsored research proposal developer. “Approximately 250 student research/travel grants, assistantships, and fellowships are funded by the Geneseo Foundation, Student Association, and endowments.”

Student/Faculty Research

Willard’s research last summer in the laboratory of George Marcus, associate professor of physics, involved developing a particle time of flight detector to measure an energy spectrum of incident deuterons and protons. It was used for an experiment at the multi-terawatt laser at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) in Rochester, NY.

LLE is dedicated to research into the interaction of intense radiation with matter and education in science and technology. Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy have grown a decades-long collaboration with LLE under the leadership of SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Stephen Padalino.

“Hundreds of our majors have had the opportunity to perform funded research with LLE, a world-class facility, often leading to them pursue graduate research or employment there,” says Marcus. “Matt was heavily involved in building, testing, and deploying a new instrument in a remarkably successful experimental campaign during the summer following his first year.”

“Summer research at Geneseo gave me hands-on experience with optical equipment and troubleshooting prototype designs, as well as a glimpse into what a career in physics research will be like,” says Willard. “Studying under Dr. Marcus provided me with the kind of valuable insights only possible from being mentored by one of the most decorated and highly knowledgeable professors on campus.”

Willard plans to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree in nuclear, condensed matter, and particle physics to work as either a research professor or at the US Department of Energy.

STEM undergraduates interested in the DAAD RISE or other summer research programs should contact Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Michael Mills at or 585-245-6002. Visit Fellowships and Scholarships for more information about all the DAAD programs and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs.

—Michael Mills