Peter Harnish (Class of 2010)

photo of Peter Harnish

  • junior double major in Chemistry and Physics
  • from Athens, OH
  • 2009 Undergraduate Summer Scholar

In May 2009, Peter answered questions about his time at Miami University.

Why did you choose Miami?

"I wanted to attend a big university in a small town. I only applied to two places, and Miami and Oxford were the best fit for me."

How did you decide on a major?

"I started out as a chemistry/pre-med major but when I took my physics requirements for the chemistry degree, I remembered how much I liked physics in high school. The basic requirements became a thematic sequence, which became my minor and eventually my second major.

"I've worked for three years as an undergraduate assistant in the physics lab and have been doing quantum optics research under Dr. Samir Bali. Next year I'll graduate with a BA in chemistry and a BS in physics, with the goal of going to graduate school in physics."

"I didn't want to take what I call 're-assembled' high school courses. I wanted to take 'far out' courses to learn new stuff that wasn't just one step away from what I already knew."

What courses did you take to complete your degree requirements?

"I didn't want to take what I call 're-assembled' high school courses. I wanted to take 'far out' courses to learn new stuff that wasn't just one step away from what I already knew. For the Miami Plan, I took Russian folklore, an anthropology course about subcultures in the United States, and introduction to Asian art in context where we learned about religions like Buddhism. I took Spanish because the US is becoming more globalized and we should be able to talk to our neighbors. Next year I hope to take some more fun courses, like rock climbing or fly-fishing."

Are you involved in extracurricular activities?

"As an Eagle Scout, I participated in pre-Civil War reenactments: Simon Kenton and flintlocks stuff. As a member of Miami's Society for Creative Anachronism, I got involved in medieval reenactments. I'm especially good at English country dancing and thrown weapons.

"My favorite club is the Miami Swing Syndicate. I got into dancing after taking a social dance class at Miami. Through a couple friends I learned about the Swing Syndicate and within a year I ended up being president. Some people think that swing dancing is old fashioned. We may be old fashioned in what we do, but we're not old fashioned in what we think. Some of our members wear vintage clothing while others dance in jeans and Doc Martens.

"Swing dancers are the most open and accepting people I've ever met. We dance to all the classics, like Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, but I especially like to dance to Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, and Earth Wind and Fire. With weekly dances and trips to cities like Columbus and Pittsburgh, swing dancing is a fun alternative to the normal college fare."

What advice would you share with a prospective student?

"As well as finding what you want to do, college allows you to discover what you don't want to do with the rest of your life. During my sophomore year, I realized that I didn't want to spend my life doing research in chemistry. Physics piqued my interest and became my passion. If I were to give advice to anyone, I'd say that you don't need to come to college knowing what you'll be doing when you leave."

[May 2009]