Alumni Seminar Series

Spring 2022 Seminar Schedule
Montage of Richard Choppa's '83 Boeing Career
Ashley Renko '11 Lead Engineer St. Gobain
Christian Trapani's Productive Path to Advanced Electrical Engineer at the Naval Nuclear Laboratory Kesselring
Seminars in Renovated Physical Science Building

The Physics and Astronomy Career Seminar was initiated so that current students could see the extraordinary science being done by alumni and the amazing and varied opportunities that await them. Moreover, we wanted them see the academic and professional preparation and attitudes that lead to these opportunities. We hope they would be encouraged by seeing that career trajectories are not predetermined but evolve and build and know that they are developing the skills they need to create their own path. The career seminar is deepening our connection to our alumni. It provides a valuable resource for future, current and former students. We are all inspired by these enthusiastic life long learners! Upcoming and past seminars are listed in reverse chronological order below.

Upcoming Seminars

Seminars are simultaneously in-person and virtual. Contact Hugh Gallagher ( if there is seminar that you would like to attend.

Areas Interested: Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, Music, Adolescent Science Education

Mike’s talk will be centered around how he approaches teaching to different audiences and how his experiences in each setting influenced his overall approach to education. He will discuss his journey in bringing computer science to a school district where there was no presence and how it morphed into an avenue to bring his teaching worldwide.

Being an educator requires knowledge in your content area but more importantly, knowledge in the students you serve. Mike Eramo, a 2012 SUNY Oneonta graduate in Physics and Education and New York State Master Teacher is well versed in the variety of learning and learners that one encounters as an educator.  He has taught physics, computer science, and a variety of other subjects at the high school level for the last 10 years.  He has served as an adjunct lecturer in the SUNY Poly mathematics department for 6 years. He also is an online instructor found on platforms such as Udemy and Packt teaching self-paced learners in a variety of courses including electronics, computer science, and cyber security where he has over 200,000 students enrollments from all over the world.  In each level of instruction, Mike quickly noticed a need to bring computer science to the forefront of his teaching, often bringing a first exposure to many of his students.  Mike has worked to weave relevant and engaging material into the core of his teaching, regardless of the subject or level, that helps give students a sense of confidence and ownership in the knowledge they walk away with. Results have led to students changing college majors, adults landing development jobs, and even students starting their own video game company!

Areas Interested: Physics, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science

Areas Interested: Physics, Astronomy, CS-Math-Statistics, CGP

Known in smaller circles as the “Star Lord of Las Vegas,” Nick Juliano ’15 leveraged a cacophony of talents gained in his wonderful years at SUNY Oneonta to advance his professional and academic careers simultaneously. 

While he is currently the Program Manager for the College of Southern Nevada Planetarium and an astrophysics graduate student at UNLV, Nick’s first year after earning his undergraduate degree was far from ideal. The first half of this talk will detail how he utilized the skills he gained at SUNY Oneonta to transform rapidly declining career prospects into a thriving symbiosis of career and academic growth. An emphasis will be placed on how non-traditional academic trajectories can often provide quality-of-life improvements over traditional ones. 

The second half of this talk will provide an overview Nick’s graduate research: automating the detection and characterization of exoplanets using radial velocity and transit techniques simultaneously. By integrating the well-understood principles of kinematics and dynamics with machine learning techniques, his code will sift through the large backlog of data from the Kepler Space Telescope and W. M. Keck Observatory to generate new findings automatically. His academic genealogy traces back to Albert Einstein and his research collaborators include members of the TRAPPIST-1 team.

Areas Interested: Physics, Engineering Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Mathematics, Computer Science, Environmental Science

Melissa will talk about her experiences transitioning from an undergraduate to graduate program, particularly in regards to research.  She will give insight into how decisions and opportunities at SUNY Oneonta prepared her for the future.  Melissa will also discuss the field of ocean engineering in a general sense and her current research project investigating sediment transport processes through field experiments and ‘homemade’ instruments.  She hopes to provide current students with a greater understanding of options to apply their coursework in areas that are meaningful to them.

Melissa received her B.S. degrees in Physics and Mathematics in 2019 from SUNY Oneonta.  She then enrolled in a graduate program in Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, where she is currently working towards a PhD.  Her research interests include sediment transport, nearshore processes, and coastal resiliency. In her free time, Melissa likes trying new recipes, traveling, running, and being outside.

Past Seminars

Areas Interested: Physics, Engineering, Chemistry, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Mathematics, Computer Science, Environmental Science. 

Mike Sander received his B.S. degree in Physics from SUNY Oneonta (2002-2005), and BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Binghamton University (2005-2008) through the 3-2 engineering program offered through SUNY Oneonta in cooperation with other NY State Universities. Mike has spent his career focused on sound physics and mechanical engineering principals and applying them through hands on engineering, prototyping, and design thinking. Mike began his career at Atlas Copco in 2008 as an Air and Gas compressor Designer, Lead Engineer, and Project engineer before following his interests in renewable energy to a position at General Electric. In 2011 Mike began his career at GE as a Lead Battery Design/Packaging engineer, working on sodium metal battery technology in the telecom, UPS, locomotive and mining applications. In 2015 Mike moved to the Onshore Wind Energy group at GE in the services segment as a Fleet Support Engineer and quickly moving on to a new role as the Senior Leader at the Onshore Wind Repair Development Center – an engineering center of excellence where solutions to the wind industries most challenging repair and installation solutions are developed. Mike will be discussing how his unique (and maybe non-traditional) skill sets and background have impacted his ability to thrive in challenging engineering environments, especially in new technologies and rapidly growing industries, focusing on the wind industry.

Areas Interested: Physics, Engineering, Electronics, Theater

After graduating in 2014, Russell started on a path that eventually led him to becoming an engineer at IBM. His path getting there was not straight, nor clear – working as a stagehand building Broadway theatre sets before going to grad school. His work experience and education fortified his skillset to succeeding in his current role developing assembly processes for future high end server processors. He will reflect on how his career path took shape and how the skills he developed along the way made him into the engineer he is today.

Russell graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 2014 with a BS in Physics and worked in the Theatre and Live Events industry. He went back to school at City College of New York and went on to earn a MS in Mechanical Engineering in 2018. Following an internship, he was hired full time at IBM as an engineer where he continues to work today. His current role focuses on assembly process development for future high end server processors. Russell lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Caroline, and dog, Harry. He enjoys all the hiking and mountain biking the area has to offer.

 Watch Russell's Seminar

Christian Trapani (SUNY Oneonta 2015) will be visiting us in person. Christian has been a Systems Test Technician at CVD Equipment Corp, Research and Development Engineer at Collins Aerospace and a Senior Electrical Engineer at General Dynamics Mission Systems. Starting next month he will begin working as an Advanced Electrical Engineer at the Naval Nuclear Laboratory Kesselring Site. He will discuss some of the more interesting projects on which he has worked and the most important aspects of his academic and professional preparation.

 Watch Christian's Seminar

Additive manufacturing enables geometries optimized for performance while avoiding restrictions imposed by traditional (subtractive) machining of metal. At small scales, however, there is no established fabrication technique that meets all desired specifications for shape flexibility, feature resolution, placement fidelity, and material properties. Among the candidate techniques, electron beam induced deposition (EBID) has unparalleled size resolution, both for placement and feature dimensions, and the ability to generate arbitrary shapes that are difficult or even impossible by many other additive techniques. EBID has been used to develop nanoscale structures for plasmonics, nanoscale templating, field emitters and contacts to nanoscale objects. However, the primary disadvantages of EBID are poor growth rates, low target purity and little ability to tailor deposit structure. Using a custom-built cryogenic stage, we have demonstrated growth rates 4-5 orders of magnitude higher than conventional EBID, with morphological and placement control. The resultant materials are relatively compliant, composed to metallic nanoparticles in a carbonaceous matrix whose bonding can be manipulated through subsequent electron irradiation. The exposure process was modeled by Monte Carlo simulations of electron-condensate interactions, which were used to develop two approaches for the fabrication of three-dimensional self-supporting structures with incorporated gaps. This design flexibility, combined with the reasonable deposition speeds, offers utility in fields beyond those accessible by traditional EBID, including applications in catalysis, biosystems, and in-situ device fabrication.


Dr. Kathleen Dunn is an Associate Professor of Nanoscience in the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. She received her B.S. in Applied and Engineering Physics from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Wisconsin with a specialization in electron microscopy. Her current research focuses on structural and chemical inhomogeneities in advanced materials: how they can be induced, suppressed, and manipulated to generate desirable properties. She has received the CNSE Hermes Award for excellence in graduate teaching seven times, a SUNY Poly Women Who Inspire Award, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

  Watch Kathleen's Seminar

Kimberly Cushman '17 Graduate Student Yale

After graduating in 2017, Kimmy went on to pursue a PhD at Yale University, where she currently works on computational particle physics. She will reflect on how her experience at Oneonta prepared her for research at Yale, and describe her current research topic of Stealth Dark Matter. She will also discuss how she is preparing for her career after graduation, focusing on her interest in applying her skills and experiences from Yale to a broader context of science policy and leadership.

Recording coming soon!

Tim received a B.S. in Physics from SUNY Oneonta in 2012 and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from R.P.I. Following an internship at MIT Haystack Observatory and a stint designing antennas for Electro-Metrics in Johnstown, New York, Tim joined Taoglas USA Inc. in 2015. He is now the primary R&D lead for San Diego office designing, simulating and testing new standard products including antennas, printed circuit boards and microwave devices. He holds numerous patents for new antenna technology and mentors new engineers on antenna development practice and procedures. His work has included antenna designs for the Internet of Things market, enabling 5G/4G cellular, GPS, and WiFi connectivity for various applications.

  Watch Tim's Seminar

Many physics students take a typical career path consisting of getting an undergraduate degree, going to graduate school, then taking a job as a post-doc/professor or entering the tech industry. But have you ever considered a career in education or science communication? As college students, you know that skilled professors who are good at communicating tough science concepts are key to you succeeding in getting your degree. But there are many other education-related career paths you could follow besides becoming a professor. You could be a science writer, planetarium or museum educator, K-12 science teacher, or work for a company that provides educational products to schools. In this talk I’ll share stories about how I learned I wanted to become a science educator, my career journey so far in life, and my current research and outreach projects that students can get involved in. By the end of the talk, you’ll have a better idea of what it’s like to teach science to the general public, and hopefully be inspired to share some of your physics knowledge with the rest of the world.

 Watch Valerie's Seminar

Dr. German provided an overview of current research in Biomedical Engineering and the opportunities in Biomedical Engineering at SUNY Binghamton.

Rich Choppa ’83 is the President of DellaCioppa Inc., an Aerospace and Defense Consulting firm.  In 2020, he retired after 17 years as an executive at Boeing - Program Director for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Sustainment Programs and former senior director of Global Sales and Marketing for the company’s Missile & Weapons Systems division. In those roles he supervised Boeing engineers and sales professionals for all weapons systems: bombs, rockets, missiles, laser weapons, missile defense systems and United States’ strategic deterrence systems. Choppa joined Boeing in 2003 as program manager for Missile Defense International Programs. Before joining Boeing, Choppa served 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He served as a forward observer, fire support officer, and commander in Ranger and Airborne units with multiple worldwide deployments, as a Russian Foreign Area Officer throughout the former Soviet Union, and as a policy director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He holds a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in European History and a master’s degree in Russian Studies from Indiana University at Bloomington. Choppa resides in Huntsville, AL (aka ‘Rocket City’), home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park.

Amanda Madden received her B.S. degrees in Physics and Mathematics in 2010 from amazing SUNY Oneonta. From there, she enrolled in the graduate Physics program at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Her studies at UNH involved the experimental, software, computational, and simulation development of an instrument to detect neutrons and gamma-rays from illicit material at a distance, funded by the Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency . She received her PhD in 2015 for this thesis work titled: “An Imaging Neutron and Gamma-ray Spectrometer.”  From New Hampshire, Amanda moved to New Mexico for a postdoctoral appointment at historic Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Intelligence and Space Research Division. In this role, Amanda worked on many projects including fast neutron radiography, technology demonstrations for space-based x-ray detectors, and computational development for the Space-based Nuclear Detonation Detection program. In 2017 she was converted from postdoc to staff scientist, and in 2021 she migrated to a new division which focuses on aspects of global security related to nuclear weapons. In her free time, Amanda likes to run, hike, and camp in the beautiful Northern New Mexico outdoors, improve her cooking skills, and relax with her tuxedo cat Henry, blue heeler dog Raylan, and partner Glenn.

Hannah will talk about her job experience after graduating with a physics and psychology degree, and her current position as a Data Analyst at Tech Target. At this position she uses tools like SQL and Python to perform data analysis and create reports with user intent data, with the final goal being to better connect tech buyers to tech sellers. She helps to facilitate this connection by writing code to recognize user activity patterns so that user intent can be recognized and responded to as quickly as possible.


Hannah graduated from RPI in 2017 with a dual degree in physics and psychology, and a minor in astronomy. She did astronomy research throughout her time as an undergraduate and enjoyed everything about it, cementing her love for astronomy and her desire to continue to follow that passion into a full time job. Soon after graduation she landed her dream job as a Data Analyst in the data archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. Soon after moving to Baltimore though, she realized that the concept of a dream job is flawed, and that the job wasn’t everything she’d hoped for. This realization combined with other personal reasons led her to a Data Analyst job in Boston at TechTarget, which is where she’s been for the last year and a half. I love it!

Camera Kendall is currently an Instructor at Codesmith, a private coding school specializing in JavaScript software engineering. Previously, Camera worked in the education department at the American Museum of Natural History and was Conference Organizer for Space Apps NYC, part of NASA’s annual Space Apps Challenge. She graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and was awarded the Department of Philosophy’s Academic Achievement Award. In her free time, she loves discovering new music like during her DJ days at WONY.


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