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The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

Kurtis Bauman (‘24) pursues a future in nuclear engineering

Kurtis+Bauman+%2824%29+pursues+a+future+in+nuclear+engineering.
Leo He
Kurtis Bauman (’24) pursues a future in nuclear engineering.

Nuclear engineering sits at the forefront of both scientific innovation and theoretical physics. Its domain ranges from practical applications such as nuclear reactors here on Earth, to unraveling the very secrets of deep space. As Kurtis Bauman (‘24) prepares to continue his journey in this field, he reflects on the pivotal steps that have led him to this moment.

The Start of the Journey

Bauman’s interest in nuclear engineering stems from an early interest in nuclear fusion. In fusion, two light atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing a significant amount of energy. 

“Nuclear fusion, specifically, is very, very interesting to me. Because if we are able to get a net positive result from nuclear fusion, we’d be able to solve the energy crisis,” said Bauman.

However, despite recent breakthroughs, science has not yet found a safe and reliable way to harness fusion.

“The lasers we’re using to perform the experiments still take more energy than what’s being produced by the actual reaction. So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Bauman.

Bauman hopes to pursue research in nuclear fusion at UC Berkeley, one of the few places in the world where nuclear fusion has actually been achieved.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Quarknet Workshop

In the summer of 2023, Bauman attended a prestigious program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. At the Quarknet Workshop, aspiring scientists explore the cutting edge of particle physics, mentored by established experts in the field.

“We analyze the latest research or knowledge in subjects like subatomic particle physics and dark matter. So they brought in a lot of dark matter scientists to speak to us,” said Bauman.

Attendees were sorted into groups, each led by a prestigious scientist in subatomic physics. There, participants attended lectures and activities about the latest developments in nuclear science.

“We studied with this one dark matter researcher, from Europe. He was here in Berkeley, at the lab, studying dark matter and machine learning,” said Bauman.

At the end of the program, groups worked together to summarize what they’d learned in a lecture, which they presented to the other participants.

“Discrepancies on what we were to present and in what way definitely proved a challenge. Obviously, the information itself is pretty complicated, and even so, we’re just scratching the surface for the program,” said Bauman.

The Future

Bauman considers the workshop a pivotal moment in his journey in physics. 

“It’s really what sparked my interest in this field. I was kind of interested beforehand, just taking physics and talking with the teacher. But once I actually participated in the program, it confirmed my interest,” said Bauman.

As he looks to the future, Bauman hopes to continue working with scientists he met at the Quarknet workshop as he will attend Berkeley next year. 

“It wasn’t just the information you learn, but also the connections you made with the actual scientists. It’s getting your foot in the door for research. In college, you’re going through the motions to get your degree; but another thing is actually researching and going in depth into whatever you’re interested in. For me, that’s nuclear engineering,” said Bauman.

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