About Will Jay
I majored in Physics and German and minored in Math at Ball State. I served a term president of the Student Honors Council. This was in the days before DeHority and the Honors House, so everything was done on a much smaller scale. Nevertheless, we has did have a couple of nice trips to the annual meetings of the Mid-East Honors Association and the National Collegiate Honors Council in Kalamazoo and San Antonio. I was also involved with the masters swimming club and the climbing club at Ball State.
Why did you get involved in the Honors College?
I liked the focus on the liberal arts. As someone who ended up going into the exact sciences, I really benefited from the strong grounding in writing and literature that the core honors classes gave. Plus, I had really great personal experiences with all the Honors professors. Dr. Ruebel, Dr. Tony Edmonds, Dr. Joanne Edmonds, and Dr. Stedman really stand out in my memory as people who had a big impact on where I am today and how I see the world.
What were your most memorable Honors experiences/classes?
I have strong memories of the humanities sequence. In my field of physics, there’s Newton’s famous quote about seeing further by “standing on the shoulders of giants.” In research papers, citations make this connection to previous work impossible to miss. In the humanities sequence, reading so much great literature in such a short span of time opened my eyes to the Great Conversation that winds its way through Western Literature and beyond. But the Great Conversation is more subtle and timeless, and how you perceive it depends strongly on your own life experiences and what you’ve read. Just this week, to get ready for the impending doom of the coronavirus, I’ve dusted off my old copy of Camus’ The Plague, which I’m now reading with an entirely different perspective in the face of a global outbreak.
During my senior year, I took Dr. Joanne Edmond’s colloquium on Jane Austen. I was the token man in a room of about a dozen women. Sometimes this had funny consequences. We would be discussing the happenings of the novel and some question surrounding a male character would come up (“What could Darcy possibly thinking? What has come over Colonel Brandon?”). Suddenly all eyes would be on me, “Tell us, Will, what can the man have been thinking then?” Of course, it was all in good fun, particularly when I was called to explain the actions of one of the novel’s merry rakes.
What was your job right after graduating? What is your job now?
After Ball State, I headed off for graduate school at the University of Cambridge (master’s) and the University of Colorado Boulder (PhD). Now I’m a research associate (a “postdoc”) in the Theory Group at Fermilab. So I work as a theoretical physicist. I’m interested in questions like, “Why does matter have mass? What are the fundamental constants in the laws of physics?”
How did being in the Honors College impact you personally/professionally after graduation?
The Honors College had its biggest impact on my writing skills, and it’s difficult to overstate how important they are. It’s the first thing people see about you whether you’re applying for grants, fellowships, or admission to graduate school. With so much professional communication happening via email, it’s so important to be able to express yourself clearly in writing. The Honors College prepared me well in this regard and helped lay the foundation for many of my future successes.