APS Bridge Program

Graduate Profiles

Tommy Boykin II
University of Central Florida

Tommy graduated from University of Central Florida in 2019 with a PhD in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics. He published a paper in Nature Communications in 2019, and a paper in the Proceedings of SPIE in 2022. Tommy is currently employed at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“The Bridge Program provided a space for students to share their experiences with each other. As a senior graduate student, I found it helpful to hear from newer students as well as to share my graduate school experiences with them.”

Tommy Boykin

Daniel Diaz
California State University-Long Beach

Daniel’s journey started through the Bridge program at California State University- Long Beach where he got a masters, then went on to the PhD program at Florida State University. Daniel graduated from Florida State University in 2020 with a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics. He is currently employed at University of California San Diego as a postdoctoral scholar. You can learn more about Daniel at his LinkedIn!

Daniel Diaz

Yamil Nieves Gonzalez
University of South Florida

Yamil graduated from University of South Florida in 2021 with a PhD in Quantum Optics. He is now employed at The Boeing Company - you can learn more about Yamil through his LinkedIn!

Yamil Nieves

Jesus Perello Izaguirre
Florida State University

Jesus and his family immigrated to the United States from Honduras when he was 9 years old. He first completed an associate degree in science at Miami Dade College, followed by a bachelor’s in physics at Florida International University, where he was also a McNair Scholar. Jesus undertook his graduate studies at Florida State University, where he specialized in the development of nuclear radiation detectors. After graduating in 2021, Jesus accepted a postdoctoral researcher appointment in the Intelligence and Space Research Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. His team won the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award in 2022 for their work with the SENSER CLYC experimental payload. You can learn more about Jesus’s story in this APS News article.

“[FSU] was a fantastic school … I had great professors,” and “if it weren’t for the Bridge Program, I definitely would not have my PhD.”

Jesus Perello Izaguirre

Michelle Lollie
Louisiana State University

Michelle started her career in finance before deciding to return to school as a non-traditional student. She then completed her second bachelor’s, this time in Physics at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Michelle continued to graduate school at Indiana University, before later transferring to Louisiana State University. In March of 2022, Michelle became the first Black woman to receive a PhD from LSU’s physics and astronomy department. Later in the same year, she began her new career with a position at Quantinuum, a Honeywell company with a focus on quantum computing. You can learn more about Michelle’s story in this APS News article.

“The Bridge Program provided that foundation to help me get my footing, whether it was additional academic help or research.”

Michelle Lollie photo

Fernand Torres-Davila
University of Central Florida

Fernand completed his bachelor’s in Physics Applied to Electronics at Universidad de Puerto Rico-Humacao in 2015. He then moved to Orlando to enroll at the University of Central Florida (UCF) as a Bridge Program Fellow in the physics department. As a master’s student, Fernand first completed several of the program’s undergraduate courses to ensure that he had a strong footing for advancing to his graduate-level coursework. Although he still had to formally apply for admission to the department’s doctoral program, Fernand was extremely prepared from taking this additional coursework and sailed through his candidacy exam. His extended family in Orlando was very supportive throughout his graduate studies. Having been awarded his doctorate in 2021, Fernand is now an Advanced Hardware Engineer at Honeywell. You can learn more about Fernand’s story in this APS News article.

“I wouldn’t have my degree without the Bridge Program,” says Fernand. “I was also very fortunate to have a supportive advisor.”

Fernand Torres-Davila 300px wide

Laura D. Vega
Vanderbilt University

Laura completed her bachelor’s in Physics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI). She then enrolled in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program. While completing her Physics master’s at Fisk University, a historically Black university in Nashville, Tennessee, Laura concurrently took all of the astrophysics courses needed for her degree sequence at Vanderbilt University, also in Nashville. She earned her PhD in Astrophysics from Vanderbilt in 2021. Laura is now a postdoc in the Stellar Flares group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she researches the effects of ultraviolet flares from red dwarf stars on planetary atmospheres. You can learn more about Laura’s story in this APS News article.

“A significant aspect of the Bridge Program that I appreciate the most is the mentorship at every level, from peer mentors to postdoc mentors to your advisor; you are never alone in your PhD journey.”

Laura Vega photo

NSFThis material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1834540. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.