Many seniors grow close to their thesis advisors over the course of their final year at Haverford, but not many have the same bond that chemistry major Lincoln Satterthwaite ’18 and Dave Patterson, an assistant professor of physics for the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), do.
First introduced when a 15-year-old Satterthwaite enrolled in a summer camp where Patterson worked as a counselor, they bonded over a shared love of science and kept in contact over the years until Satterthwaite arrived at Haverford. Once here, Satterthwaite says, he reached out to Patterson and asked if he could come work for him.
“The first summer wasn’t much by way of chemistry,” he explains, “but it was a lot of thinking about and executing…experimental designs to build a new apparatus.”
From there, Satterthwaite was drawn back again and again with the promise of more machining and metalwork—and now, it is where he’ll launch his professional career. This summer, he started work as a junior scientist in Patterson’s personal lab at UCSB, alongside friend and fellow cross-country team member James Stadler ’18.
“I took this [job] because I know exactly what I’m getting into as far as the kind of work, how well I get along with my boss—excellently!—what it’s like day-to-day,” says Satterthwaite. And, of course, the scenic Central Coast location doesn’t hurt either.
Though Satterthwaite’s worked in Patterson’s lab for over three years now, he still sees room for improvement when it comes to his knowledge of the physics behind the experiments he conducts.
“At its core,” he says, “this job is all about detecting and identifying chemicals in a new way. [While] I’ve done loads of work on building and designing the experiment… that only requires a fairly cursory knowledge of the math behind what makes it work. I’d love to make the leap from understanding past work on this experiment to having my own ideas about what would be interesting to study next, and I think a longer stint in the lab as opposed to just a summer will really help that along.”
Partially to gain a deeper understanding of the physical principles that govern his experiments, Satterthwaite plans to go to graduate school before he commits himself to an multi-year position in the lab. His first choice? UCSB.
“It seems kind of silly to work as a junior scientist in the same lab that I’ll be in for grad school,” he admits, “but I want to see if living that life is really what I want before I sign on for five or more years.”
For now, though, he’s enjoying his job immensely—especially with a principal investigator who complements him as well as Patterson does.
“As a physicist, Dave is bad at making chemicals, but good at manipulating them and figuring out what they are and lots of physical properties about them,” Satterthwaite says. “As a chemist, I’m really good at making things that I have absolutely no clue about. It makes for a good team.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.
Photo: Lincoln Satterthwaite poses with one of the instruments he’ll use in his upcoming job as a UCSB junior scientist. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Satterthwaite ’18.