Student Profiles

Adrien Thormann
Senior, physics major, math minor
Paris, France

Considering the potential impediments Adrien Thormann faced in his transition to life at Goucher, his accomplishments at the college become even more striking.

Thormann was finishing up his senior year of high school in Paris, France, when his father's work transferred the family to Nashville, Tennessee.

He attended a school in Nashville for a semester, took English classes to overcome language hurdles, and came to Goucher in the spring semester.

Thormann says it was strange to come from a large high school to a small, private college in "a country I didn't know, really." Owing to the college's small community, he jokes that when he first arrived at Goucher he was known simply as "the French kid."

Looking back now, Thormann thinks standing out in this way was beneficial because it forced him to talk to new people and to make new friends. He blends in now, he says, but Goucher students still very often ask him questions about his life in France because "there is a lot of respect for other cultures around campus."

When he started at Goucher, Thormann wanted to major in engineering - another possible hindrance to his education because the college does not offer that field of study as a major. The closest academic discipline is physics, which also interested him. "I'm actually really, really glad that I ended up doing physics and math," Thormann says.

He says his coursework has been academically rigorous, which is why he thinks he recently got accepted into prestigious graduate programs at Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins universities, among others. "I had a lot of work to do, trying to do a lot at once, lots of nights with no sleep. But it was worth it in the end," he says.

Thormann also believes that the opportunities Goucher makes available to students - as well as his own hard work, or course - helped him land really impressive internships during his college career.

He did a summer research project with Ben Sugerman, an assistant professor of physics and his adviser. Their research project was in astronomy and focused on the study of light echoes, which Thormann describes as "one of the most effective means to study the structure and makeup of circumstellar and interstellar dust and gas."

He explained that when a star explodes, it lights up a lot of dust that was around the star that could not be seen before, and all the light bounces off the dust and comes to Earth. From that, scientists can determine the structure of the dust, its composition, and chemical composition, and they can learn a bit about stars.

Thormann also applied for and was accepted into a summer internship with the Committee on Science and Technology in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is in charge of non-defense federal scientific research and development. He worked specifically on the subcommittee on space and aeronautics.
"It was great to be on Capitol Hill for a summer and to see how politics and science are related," he says.

His internship at the House happened to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Thormann had the opportunity to meet John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins, and the rest of the Apollo-era astronauts who, he says, "have been inspiring me to pursue scientific studies since I was a kid."

Now, Thormann is interning at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) located on The Johns Hopkins University's campus, which is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope. He is doing research in astronomy, looking for planets orbiting around other stars.

Thormann's post-Goucher plan is to study mechanical engineering, specifically fluid mechanics. He has decided to do a two-year master's program at Hopkins. After that, he is undecided - he might pursue a doctorate, or he might work or go back to France.

He is flexible as well when it comes to landing his dream job: He is fine with being either a rocket scientist or an astronaut.

Adrien Thormann

  • Physics major / Mathematics minor
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