In his first year at MIT, Peter focused primarily on learning mechanical engineering. Over the summer, he was graced with the opportunity to broaden his horizons and study physics at the Wits University Structured Light Lab in Johannesburg, South Africa. There, he was able to not only learn how to code in MATLAB and Mathematica, but also to carry out an experiment in optical trapping with Vector vortex beams. He was even given the rare opportunity to have his name featured on the write-up of this experiment, now in the final stages of review before being submitted for publishing.
With help from his supervisor and peers, Peter was able to quickly learn the equation for Hermite-Gaussian and Laguerre Gaussian beams and apply this knowledge by coding the equations into Mathematica, a language he had no real experience with. He was then able to generate plots of the phase and intensity profiles of these beams and learn the intricacies and meanings behind the different terms of the beam equations through the debugging process. Peter went on to making a similar code in MATLAB, using this coding language in the lab, and ultimately running his own experiment for plotting polarization. From there, Peter joined his new mentor, Nkosi, in running the optical trapping experiment.
Peter eagerly and excitedly explored South Africa with the new, unforgettable friends he made. On weekends, they socialized, went to markets, and were even able to attend a physics conference in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The people of South Africa welcomed him, and he had many unforgettable interactions with WITS students and residents of Johannesburg.
Peter was absolutely ecstatic with how well the trip went. “This was my first time leaving the United States, and the academic improvement, friends, and experiences really did exceed all expectations.” This summer he learned about and explored African culture, quantum physics, optics, coding – and his own identity. Back at MIT, he now intends to add physics to his academic interests, and potentially take up a physics minor to further explore his new found passions.