Alumni Spotlight

Corey Nichols ’08
Software Engineer at SonoSim
Los Angeles, California

Major: 3-2 Engineering Program, with a focus in Physics

Activities: I joined the Physics Club right away and later joined Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics honor society. The Physics Club hosts a Star Party out in the desert twice a year. There, we got a chance to look through telescopes and learn a little about astronomy outside of the classroom. I also participated in several other activities through the years that were put on by other organizations. This included Sportsfest, where all the dorms compete in sporting events, going to parties, and other special events held at the Campus Center.

What first attracted you to Whittier College? I was first attracted to Whittier College for its small class sizes and the 3-2 Engineering Program. The small class size gave me the confidence that the professors would know who I was and be able to spend the time it takes to make sure I didn't fall behind.

Why did you choose to obtain your degree in physics through the 3-2 Engineering Program? The program gave me the chance to have a well-rounded liberal arts education in a more intimate classroom environment while also allowing me to finish off my engineering degree at a large university.

What is the greatest advantage to the 3-2 Engineering Program? Academically, the 3-2 Engineering Program provides a solid foundation in math, physics, or chemistry at Whittier College, and then allows students to focus on engineering when they transfer to a larger university. Plus, two bachelor degrees within five years is always nice. It gives you a little bit of an edge when looking for that first job out of school.

You were a research assistant while at Whittier College. What was that experience like? As professor Glenn Piner's research assistant, I helped him with his research on quasars (an intensely bright, compacted region surrounding a galaxy’s supermassive black hole). I helped to generate images for the Radio Reference Frame Image Database and also helped develop a simulation for his research. For generating histograms and plots, we used the Interactive Data Language (IDL), this is a programming language that is particularly useful for data analysis. I was first exposed to this programming language when studying oscillators and waves in one of my physics classes, which helped give me the knowledge I needed to understand how the language worked and how it can be used to implement equations and work with data sets. All of the physics classes I took also helped me understand the equations I had to use in performing my research tasks.

What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally?  For the past four years, I had been working for Northrop Grumman on the UCAS-D and F-35 programs. Recently, I joined a small startup in Santa Monica called SonoSim. At SonoSim, I will help develop ultrasound training software. My study of physics at Whittier College has given me a strong foundation to analyze and solve difficult problems on a daily basis.

Do you have any advice to offer students who are interested in joining the 3-2 Engineering Program? The most important advice I could give is that you don't have to know exactly what field of engineering you want to go into right out of the gate. I went in thinking I wanted to do mechanical or possibly civil engineering. Then I wanted to go into aerospace engineering. Finally, I took a computer science class at Whittier College in my third year and it hit me. I wanted to work with computers and ended up studying computer engineering at USC. If you are interested in engineering in any form, then stick with it. With the 3-2 Engineering Program, you have three years to experiment with various classes to help you decide what is right for you.

What advice would you give to future 3-2 Engineering students when they graduate? Make sure to start the job hunt early and don't be afraid to go into an interview. Confidence goes a long way and having completed the 3-2 Engineering Program, you know you can take on a tough challenge.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… Whittier is where I got the foundation for the rest of my life. That is where I discovered my love for computers and my wife who’s also a Whittier College graduate. 

-Are you a graduate of the 3-2 Engineering program and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at