Deepening His Physics Expertise
Design Engineer, Williamson & Associates
Max Schlereth completed the Master of Science in Physics program at the University of Washington in 2014. He works as a design engineer at Williamson & Associates, a geophysical consulting firm. In this interview, Max shares how the advanced skills and knowledge he gained during the program have helped him grow professionally.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational and professional background?
I have a bachelor's in physics, and I have years of software development experience. I went back to the university for the physics master’s program.
What is your current career?
My job title is design engineer. I do primarily software, communications, electronics and embedded design for oceanographic equipment.
What prompted you to earn your master’s in physics?
I wanted to get more into embedded design, specifically working with oceanographic equipment.
Did the evening classes help you complete the degree?
Yes, the evening aspect of the program is very nice. I finished in three years, and it allowed me to work while I completed my degree.
Do you think having your master’s helped you get your current job?
It was pretty much a direct consequence of my going to school at the UW.
Are you using skills you learned in the master's program in your day-to-day work?
Definitely. For example, right now we’re working on a project that involves interpreting geophysical data using fast Fourier transforms to take data to and from the time domain and the frequency domain. I learned about how to do that directly in the UW program.
Were there any classes that stood out to you as particularly interesting or valuable?
Numerical Analysis was probably my favorite. You learn a lot of very useful math tools, and it's a really a good way to exercise your software development skills.
This program offers students the option to take a specialized course of study. Did you take a specialized track?
Yes. I focused my thesis on development of off-shore technology. That was for the capstone of the program, and I did that work while working here at my current job in partnership with the university. It was great.
I developed a telemetry system for a submersible vehicle, and I installed it and operated it in the North Sea for several months. I'm still doing that now, actually.
Was it important to you that your professors had knowledge in this area?
Absolutely. That and connection to industry. That was something I was specifically interested in from the get-go.
The instructors brought years and years of knowledge to the program, as well as expertise, good advice and perspective.
Did you have guest speakers? Did you make useful professional connections during the program?
The guest speakers were great – they put the meat and bones on the class content. I made professional connections through my instructors. Those were critical in landing my job.
What did you value most about the program?
I valued the applied approach – taking the approach to physics as it applies to our world, to engineering and to industry.
Is there any advice you’d give to people considering this master’s program?
When I first started the program, I was a little unsure how helpful it would be for career advancement. I would just assure someone thinking that way that it can certainly work like that very well. There are lots of internships and opportunities, such as partnering with the Department of Energy and organizations like that. It’s a great opportunity for someone looking for practical applications.