Twelve for ’12 (continued)

Ninja warrior Neal Reynolds ran a nuclear reactor and taught a Paideia class on Tesla coils.
Photo by Matt D'Annunzio

Neal Reynolds physics/chemistry

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Advisers: John Essick [physics 1993–] and Maggie Geselbracht [chemistry 1993–]

Thesis: The Spectroelectrochemistry Study of Copper Doped Zinc Selenide Quantum Dots

What it’s about: Quantum dots are tiny crystals with the property that the color they glow can be tuned by changing their size. I’m looking at doped quantums, where you put in a small amount of another atom that isn’t the semiconductor. Dopens like manganese and copper change the color of the quantum dots, and I’m looking at copper because it’s less toxic and manganese dopens have been studied to death.

What it’s really about: Making rainbows with less poison.

Who I was when I got to Reed: In high school I lamented that so many people would do ill for the sake of destroying things or to fight the system. I was in love with Reed’s Honor Principle, that there were enough people of high moral quality that you could have this principle and a functioning society. 

Influential book: Spin Dynamics: Basics of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance by Malcolm Levitt

Favorite spot: Sitting at the picnic table in the canyon just west of the blue bridge reminded me that the beauty of nature, which science tries to describe, can sometimes get lost in symbols.

Cool stuff I did: I stalked through Hum, physics, and chemistry lectures dressed like a ninja. It’s something I did every couple of months and the response was largely positive—a few second glances but no looks of disdain. I also taught a Paideia class on Tesla coils, learned to operate a nuclear reactor, and participated in full-contact human chess.

How Reed changed me: Reed forced me to question the ideals to which I aspired and not just follow them blindly based on the assertions of others. 

Scholarships, awards, financial aid: National Science Foundation STEM scholarship; Betty Gray Memorial Scholarship; commendation for excellence in scholarship 2009, 2010, 2011.

What’s next: Work on a PhD at Cornell in experimental condensed matter physics.

VIDEO: Neal Reynolds

Neal Reynolds ’12 shakes his fist at nature and proclaims that even in science good things come in small packages.