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Before Brett ever heard of physics, he was captivated by the night sky.
“I have always been interested in the night sky. My parents gave me a Newtonian reflector when I was a freshman in high school, and I loved taking it out and observing planets and stars.”
This passion for stargazing, along with a love for science fiction, fueled Brett’s natural curiosity and questions about the workings of our universe.
Science Made Alive
Brett enjoyed his math and science classes all throughout school, but it wasn’t until his senior year of high school he stumbled upon physics.
“My physics teacher was the only teacher at my school with a PhD in her field- she left a tremendously positive impression on me. She made every investigation and experiment come alive and be relevant…I looked forward to her class. Afterwards, it seemed completely natural to me to look for college physics/astronomy programs.”
Brett’s search led him to the Physics department at the University of Toledo in Ohio, where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Physics. Continuing with his love for the stars, Brett went on to attend an Astronomy PhD program at Boston University.
A year into the program however, Brett began to have second thoughts.
“I realized that I might be better suited for another field of study- philosophy. Perhaps this was due to my interest in cosmology, which led me to ask questions science wasn’t prepared to answer or even investigate.”
This led Brett to return to the University of Toledo and earn a Master of Arts in Philosophy.
Law of the Land
Not long after, Brett received an opportunity to teach through a joint Philosophy PhD/JD (law) degree program at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Figuring law was applied philosophy, Brett took the LSAT and joined the program.
“As it turned out, I loved law school, but was not very impressed with the Philosophy Department, where professors had their individual cliques of graduate students bound to particular philosophical views. They weren’t interested in the process of philosophy and the open-ended exploration of ideas, something which my physics background instilled in me. Science is a process, not a result.”
So Brett left the philosophy program to focus in on criminal litigation, working through criminal cases in court. A few years after graduating, he joined a firm in New York City, serving as a criminal defense attorney.
“I was drawn to litigation, where evidence usually has the upper hand, and establishing a body of evidence to prove (at least to the satisfaction of a jury or judge) a case is key,” Brett says.
“My physics education established in me a love of logical thought, evidence-based investigations, the process of intellectual enlightenment…physics certainly helped prepare me to study philosophy, and particularly law school, [where] clear and concise thought and argument is most appreciated.”
Back To School
After 12 years in law, Brett decided to return to academia once more- this time, to help other students discover their career paths.
“I decided to move over to the law school side, where I could focus on law students and help them in an educational process I enjoyed so much,” Brett says. “I became a career counselor at Brooklyn Law School and, after a number of years, was offered the Assistant Dean position at Touro Law Center.”
Science is Great Preparation for Law
“A strong science background is appreciated in many different careers. One area of the law I did not pursue, although I passed the national exam as part of my job training at Brooklyn Law School, is patent law,” Brett says.
“Only those who have degrees in science or engineering are eligible to sit for the patent law exam, administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and to thereafter represent inventors before the USPTO as they seek to patent their inventions. It is a fascinating area of the law and one which really utilizes a science background.”
Physics is a Solid Foundation
“If you don’t know whether or not you want to eventually become a PhD physicist, remain in the field and obtain your bachelor or master degree, and consider branching out to other evidence-based careers thereafter, like law, private investigation, law enforcement, philosophy, etc.,” Brett says.
“Your physics education will never fail you, and will be looked upon by most as a rigorous course of study which required that you be smart, open-minded, and hard working.”