Aps Careers | Physicist Profile

Anthony Day

Detector Development Scientist

Why physics?

Physics tied it all together

Anthony was always curious about how things work, but it was a high school physics teacher who sparked his interest in physics. “In high school I was interested in applied science, computers, and electronics,” Anthony says. “[My physics instructor] expanded my interest even further. Then he showed me how physics could put order to and relate those interests.”

Using physics

A variety of tools

After high school, Anthony went to the local community college for his associate’s degree. The community college had apprenticeship programs with General Electric and NASA. “This was a great way of gaining real world experience,” Anthony says. After graduation, Anthony held several electronics technician jobs. He was able to apply the skills he learned in college and expand his skill set.

Anthony went on to attend Norfolk State University, majoring in physics. He was part of a work-study program that afforded him the opportunity to work with a professor doing research at Jefferson Laboratory. Anthony traveled to Los Alamos National Laboratory to perform a beam test on a polarimeter prototype. (A polarimeter is a device that is used to measure the rotation of plane-polarized light produced by optically active materials. This rotation is characteristic for some materials and can be used to determine sample composition.)

A Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the College of William & Mary gave Anthony the chance to take a machine shop class from a master machinist, which Anthony says has been “most valuable to me in my research and development career.”

Today, Anthony works in the Radiation Detection & Nuclear Sciences Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He “design[s], develop[s], and fabricate[s] radiation detection devices used in the fields of ultra-low background particle detection, environmental sampling, and nuclear treaty monitoring.”

“My formal education opened the door to additional training opportunities,” Anthony says. “Then, having a wide and varied toolbox of skills helped me to support many amazing collaborations, further increasing my knowledge base and fostering new and exciting career opportunities.”

Advice for students

Be a tinkerer

Find a project to tinker and putter around with. “An old car is the perfect opportunity,” Anthony says. By taking things apart and fixing them, Anthony says “you can gain invaluable hands on experience, [and] learn a myriad of physics related systems and how they interact.”

Collaborate across disciplines

Working with scientists in other disciplines and being open to opportunities in a variety of areas is becoming more and more useful. “Cross-pollination between fields is increasing,” Anthony says. “You [can] be the needed subject expert in an area outside of a busy principal investigator’s realm of interest.”

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