Energizing Discovery

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 22, 2019

Physics graduate among KSU’s youngest

Many of his 18-year-old peers will start college this fall, but Duncan Bohannon has been there, done that.

Bohannon, who is one of Kennesaw State’s youngest graduates, has discovered his own unique equation for college success along the way.

In August, the cum laude physics graduate embarks on Georgia Tech’s medical physics Ph.D. program, a joint program with Emory University. Bohannon aspires to one day work with National Science Foundation-funded research that will enable him to manage research and development within health clinics and facilities.

Duncan Bohannon

Bohannon always had an interest in science and found physics early in his college career, thanks to TV. He credits watching Bill Nye the Science Guy and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s programs with fueling his early interest in the scientific world.

That kept him going when, like most of his fellow students, he discovered that with each passing year his classes and laboratory sessions became more strenuous. 

“It’s hard in STEM and college gets tougher when you start hitting those upper-level courses,” said the spring graduate. “It’s tough, but the faculty are so good. They challenge you and don’t let you just ‘get by.’”

As he dug in academically, he surrounded himself with a circle of friends, leaning on these friendships that “just made college life easier,” he said. For Bohannon, studying became more of a group gathering than a solo gig.

Bohannon said he built a stronger work ethic by pushing himself when and where he could.

He pursued research projects, and presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, held at KSU in April. He sought opportunities to work with world-renowned faculty, such as KSU physics professor Nikolaos Kidonakis, and his research interests spanned from materials science to theoretical particle physics to medical physics.

After taking a health physics course within the nuclear engineering program at KSU, Bohannon found his niche interest. His biggest challenge while working on his undergraduate degree was the transition from general education courses to upper-level coursework.

“It wasn’t until I came to college that I realized that I had to start working harder,” he said, explaining that natural intellect had made the academic work easy before coming to KSU. “I hit that wall pretty hard. We don’t always try until we have to.”

Finding balance in college took some getting used to, he explained. As a young student who first arrived at the then-Southern Polytechnic State University in 2014, he slowly adjusted to the college atmosphere.

Bohannon found comfort on campus when he joined a co-ed club sport team in fencing.

“Fencing got me involved on campus,” said Bohannon, who had been fencing competitively since the age of 12. He served as the KSU Fencing Club’s vice president for two years.

He also was a part of the Society of Physics, helping to plan events like KSU Physics Day and conduct physics demonstrations at local elementary and middle schools. For the past two years, Bohannon served as a tutor in the Science and Math Academic Resource and Tutoring (SMART) Center, and last fall, he served on the Student Advisory Council for the College of Science and Mathematics.

Through these organizations, he discovered new friendships and similar interests with fellow classmates, but it was interacting with some of the older students that helped him to be successful, he explained.

“I watched some of the upper-level students model leadership and inspiration, and then I got involved and wanted to provide that same type of mentorship as I grew in my program,” he said, reflecting on his KSU experience. “There was always some goofing off with friends, but there was also learning from them, and when you can talk through things, you definitely learn.”

Bohannon’s own self-discovery through his Kennesaw State experience has given him a solid foundation in his academic journey and new outlook on his future, he said. It’s an equation for success that he hopes to replicate in his doctoral studies.

“I’ve had some really inspirational physics professors, like Dr. Michael Thackston, and even the friendships I’ve made improved the way I learned and I’m better for not going it alone,” he said. “KSU gave me the opportunity to learn that firsthand.” 

– Tiffany Capuano

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.