THE THEORY OF ALMOST EVERYTHING

For Michael H. Wood, PhD, experimental nuclear physics isn’t a job. It’s a vocation, and he’s recruiting. Wood scouts students who are fascinated by physics, who ask a lot of questions, students who are very good at math.

His dream is to solve the problem of nuclear waste disposal. Right now, he studies matter. And he’s distilled his exploration and its many facets into one, neat question: Why do particles act the way they do? The answers fuel endless discoveries. Discoveries like nuclear medicine. Innovations like the CT scan.

He conducts his research at a Department of Energy-run facility with an electron beam accelerator the size of a football field. He sometimes brings his students. The opportunity to break apart an atom by shooting electrons into its nucleus is rare. And it can be life-changing.

Wood was 14 when he learned about radioactive decay, and in that moment he knew he wanted to be a physicist. Not everyone has that moment. Wood knows that doing undergraduate research increases students’ likelihood of pursuing graduate school. It also increases their likelihood of acceptance. So when he takes you on as a researcher and introduces you to his collaborators at the lab, know that he has an ulterior motive. He wants you to meet scientists from all over the country. Discuss their research. See the various jobs a physicist can have. He wants you to stick with science and mine it for all its infinite possibilities. 

Although he studies the infinitesimal, he’s looking for big answers. Is there a single thing from which all of existence is derived? If found, the answer would provide the theory of almost everything.