Physics sophomore Chris Burgio in Dr. Arjun's physics lab wearoing a white lab coat, safety goggles, and blue protective gloves, and surrounded by high-tech equipment

Buffalo State Physics Major Lands Impressive DOE Internship


Chris Burgio, a sophomore physics major at Buffalo State University, has known since high school that he eventually wants to study astrophysics at the graduate level.

Now he’s one big step closer to his goal; Burgio was recently selected to participate in a competitive internship with the Department of Energy (DOE) this summer.

Headshot of Arjun Pathak
Arjun Pathak, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics

Burgio will spend 10 weeks at the DOE’s Ames National Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, beginning May 30, working on “novel rare-earth-based magnetic materials that potentially show exotic physical properties.” In addition to receiving a weekly $650 stipend, Burgio will have his lodging and travel covered.

“I’m excited to do the research and learn about how the physics field really operates,” Burgio said. “At the end, we have to write an abstract, present our ideas and the work we’ve done. That level of work and living away from home for that period of time will also prepare me for graduate school.”

Burgio, who graduated from Depew High School and received Buffalo State’s $4,000 annual Robert A. and Dorothy Stender Sweet Physics Scholarship, credits the influence of Arjun Pathak, assistant professor of physics, for his acceptance into the program. The two met during First-Year Convocation in 2021, when Pathak gave Burgio a piece of advice the young man took to heart.

“He said, ‘You’ll have tough courses, and you’ll be competing for a spot in graduate programs with a lot of students who have a great passion for the subject,’” Burgio said. “‘Along with making good grades, conducting research is so important.’”

Burgio jumped right into the recommended research by enrolling in Pathak’s PHY 295 Independent Research course his first year, studying synthesis of rare-earth-based alloys for cooling applications.

“When I met Chris, I quickly realized he is an enthusiastic student with well-defined academic goals,” said Pathak, who encouraged Burgio to apply for the DOE internship and wrote a letter of support.

Burgio is Pathak’s second Buffalo State student to be admitted into this particular DOE program. Liam Hulsebosch, who also worked in Pathak’s lab, completed his internship in summer 2021, published his research in the journal Chemical Science, and is completing Buffalo State’s cooperative 3-2 physics-engineering program with the University at Buffalo.

Physics sophomore Chris Burgio wearing a white lab coat and smiling in front of a white board filled with equations

“There is no way I would have near the opportunities I’ve had without Dr. Pathak. Working in his lab has opened so many doors. The hands-on experience I received working with Dr. Pathak is something that can’t be found in a book.”

 — Chris Burgio, Undergraduate Researcher and DOE Intern, Physics

Burgio’s work in the lab led to his participation in Buffalo State’s Early Undergraduate Research Opportunity (EURO) program last fall. EURO provides a unique opportunity for first-year and sophomore students to serve as research and creative assistants to faculty mentors. Burgio will present his research at the 2023 SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC), which will be held on April 14 at SUNY Maritime in New York City.

Burgio said the EURO experience and his work with Pathak prepared him well for the upcoming internship.

“There is no way I would have near the opportunities I’ve had without Dr. Pathak,” Burgio said. “Working in his lab has opened so many doors. While knowing the math and some of the subject material that I will be working on is more than useful, the hands-on experience I received working with Dr. Pathak is something that can’t be found in a book.”

Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer.