Conner Carnahan ’20 graduated this spring as a quadruple major in Physics, Mathematics, Philosophy, and Business with a minor Economics. This wasn’t necessarily Conner’s plan from the start, but through his time at Chapman, he followed his passions which led him to explore a variety of academics.
How One Major Snowballed into Four
Carnahan entered Chapman as a Business Administration major planning to minor in Economics. While taking a philosophy class to fulfill an extracurricular requirement, he realized he could add it as a minor if he took a few more courses. “That snowballed into a major when I realized I only needed to complete a capstone to get the full major,” Carnahan shared.
While taking the “Philosophy of Science,” one of his last courses to fulfill his philosophy major, Carnahan was exposed to the world of science in a way that piqued his interest and left him wanting more. “We talked some about Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and it intrigued me quite a bit. I already was planning on taking some math classes so that I could go to graduate school for economics, so I decided to take Physics 101 at the same time to see if I would like it.”
He more than liked it, Carnahan continued his exploration of science by taking more physics and mathematics courses. “When I was in the physics and math classes, I realized how much I loved both of the subjects, and that’s why I ended up getting a bachelor’s in both of them.”
When asked if it was difficult to pursue four majors, Carnahan said it sometimes was a challenge with scheduling, but that faculty were very accomodating. “I had a few independent studies with professors in place of classes since there were a few times when I needed to take classes that were either not offered that year or because they were only being offered at the same time as another class I needed.”
Exposed to the World of Research
Carnahan says his proudest achievement during his time at Chapman has been the opportunity to work on research with faculty. “I am proud that I am able to contribute to the scientific community since it means that I both am able to do the work and that I am able to help progress our understanding of the world,” Carnahan remarked.
In the spring, he was working with Dr. Jerry LaRue in physical chemistry, analyzing data that was taken from probing carbon monoxide oxidation at very fast speeds. He also worked with Dr. Matthew Leifer on quantum information and foundations.
Director of the Physics Program, Dr. Justin Dressel, awarded Carnahan the Oustanding Senior Award for Physics on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at Schmid College’s Senior Award Celebration. At the virtual ceremony, Dressel shared, “When thinking about who we should give this outstanding senior award to, it became clear we had to go a little bit beyond physics proper. And since physics is really the backbone of all the sciences, we figured we’d pick the most versatile student who has really shown the ability to go above and beyond in what is normally considered a single major.”
Carnahan plans to continue the research he has worked on, publish the results, and potentially begin some new research projects. He would like to pursue graduate school to get his Ph.D. in physics so that he can continue his research career.
Looking back on his time at Chapman, Carnahan would like to pass on these words of wisdom to students, “The best advice I can give anyone is that you should always find something that you love to work at. People always say to do what you love, but I learned there is a little bit of a caveat with this advice. There is a big difference between something that you like doing and something that you like working at. Ideally, you should find something where you enjoy the feeling that comes with making progress in it, whether you are learning through failure or success.”
Cover Photo: Conner Carnahan (bottom row on the right) with the LaRue Catalysis Research Lab