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Student Spotlight: CSULB Graduate David Ronquillo

David Ronquillo has always been drawn to science. His innate desire to understand the inner workings of our complex world has been consistently encouraged by his hard-working parents whose strong support has made his pursuit of science possible. In addition, David was inspired by a quartet of high school teachers at Paramount High School in Paramount, CA. After high school, David attended the University of California, Santa Barbara as a first generation college student where he decided to major in physics. He fell in love with theoretical physics where he did research in fluid dynamics, turbulent flows, and disorganized complexity at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography with Dr. Terrill and also found a home in the mathematics department where he did research in analytic number theory, studying the elliptic dilogarithm and Goncharov’s conjecture with Dr. Stopple. Beyond pure science, however, he had an interest in the complex behavior of financial markets and, after graduating in 2007, he found work as a bond analyst for Bank of America and later with Wachovia. During the economic downturn he became disillusioned with finance and gravitated back to his first love: science and physics!

He enrolled in the Science Education credential program at CSULB in 2011 with the intention of becoming a high school science teacher, hoping to inspire students the same way his high school teachers had inspired him. During this time, he decided to take a graduate level physics course, for fun, and fell back in love with physics. He quickly felt at home and switched to the Physics & Astronomy Master’s program, jumping into research with Dr. Michael Peterson.

With Dr. Peterson, he focused on theoretical studies of condensed matter systems (think, semiconductors, metals, insulators, magnets, etc.) where the individual constituents, like electrons or atoms, are so strongly interacting that, due to quantum mechanics, exotic collective behavior emerges—a good example outside of physics proper are the beautiful patterns flocks of starlings make at dusk. Some of the exotic phases of physical matter that emerge are so-called topologically ordered phases. These phases are at the forefront of fundamental physics research and are not yet fully understood—even still, they have applications for the development of quantum computers!

For his beautiful Master’s thesis, David used analytical and computational techniques to show, in a particular model related to some real magnetic materials, the existence of an exotic topologically ordered phase—this prediction is awaiting experimental confirmation. This work substantially contributed to a long-standing question from the 1990s and was published in the leading condensed matter journal, Physical Review B, with David as first author. In addition, he presented this work in talks, including one at the national meeting for the American Physical Society held in San Antonio, TX in 2015.

As a testimony to his abilities, David was awarded the 2014 CSULB Student Summer Research Award from the ORSP, the Department of Physics & Astronomy Scholarship in 2013-2014, and is a member of the Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society, the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and the American Physical Society. Unsurprisingly, David is continuing his education and research at The Ohio State University where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in physics.

For fun David enjoys playing piano (he could be found playing the grand piano during finals week in CSULB’s student union), guitar, listening to classical music and jazz, reading, hiking, and doing landscape photography.

Research @ the Beach | Student Research