Former EHS student graduates from ETSU with double major in physics, mathematics
Published 12:04 am Saturday, May 9, 2015
While Saturday marked graduation day for one local college student, it is certainly not the end of his educational career.
Joseph McNeil, of Elizabethton, graduated from East Tennessee State University Saturday afternoon with a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics.
“Then I’m going into physics for my Ph.D.,” McNeil said.
When you talk to McNeil about physics, his love for the subject becomes apparent as he passionately discusses what he loves about the science.
“Physics is basically everything,” he said. “It is kind of the root of all science.”
With such a broad field of study, there are many things to focus on. “Primarily what I’m interested in is particle physics, which is basically the atom,” McNeil said.
McNeil’s enthusiasm for physics began when he attended Elizabethton High School
”I had a really good teacher,” he said of Jeff Pierce, who taught physics and calculus.
After graduating from Elizabethton in 2011, McNeil went on to ETSU.
“Starting my freshman year in college, I was actually a biology minor with mathematics major,” he said. “I took a class in physics because I was already familiar with the subject.”
Once again, McNeil said he was inspired by a good teacher and eventually switched to a double major in mathematics and physics.
Now McNeil finds himself once again looking at a graduation and a new school — this time, the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“I spent last summer doing an internship there,” he said. “They have a really good physics program, it’s one of the top 30 in the country.”
McNeil has mapped out the rest of his education, including earning his doctorate, the future beyond that point is “a little uncertain,” he said.
The field of physics has many specialities and he is not sure what career path he will end up taking.
“Mostly what I want to do is research, kind of furthering the field of science in my own way,” McNeil said.
The program at the University of Florida has a good research division, McNeil said.
“Getting to do research that I find pleasurable is something I’m really looking forward to,” he said.
But even with all the excitement, McNeil’s graduation day will be one of mixed emotions. During his time at ETSU he has made a lot of friends in the physics department.
“It’s really going to be strange leaving them,” he said. “It’s a little overwhelming right now but I’m really excited to be going to Flordia and joining the program.”
McNeil is the son of Angela Montford and Thomas McNeil.