Zach Hafen is an undergraduate student majoring in Physics with a Mathematics emphasis.  Hafen, who is originally from Boulder, Colorado, chose to come to UNC because, “Of all the colleges I visited, UNC had the most pleasant atmosphere. It felt like a place I could work at.” 

When Zach first started at UNC it took him some time to get himself together academically, but has turned himself around and excelled in his studies.  He shared that UNC has been fantastic in providing him an environment conducive to academic growth.  The Physics faculty and staff have been instrumental in fostering Zach’s education.  “Every single class I’ve taken in the Physics Department has been both useful and extremely interesting.” 

Zach’s research experience has included working with Dr. Matt Semak on studying nonlinear dynamics and chaos.  Last summer Zach worked with faculty at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.  He had the opportunity to work alongside faculty from other institutions as well, including the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics and the Institute of Astronomy of Cambridge, on a project researching the gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space and time) produced by two black holes orbiting around one another and eventually colliding.  This research opportunity was part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program that was organized by the University of Florida and funded by the National Science Foundation.  Zach tributes Dr. Semak for helping him understand the research materials.       

In addition to his academic studies, Zach is a teaching assistant and grader for the Physics Department and serves as a physics and mathematics tutor for the Office of Academic Support and Advising.  Upon graduation in May 2014, Zach plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.