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My Swat Story: Rhys Manley '20

Rhys Manley '20 stands in front of machines in physics lab

Engineering Helped Open a Path to the Stars

"I'm majoring in astrophysics and math, but I initially came for engineering. I've always been interested in how things work and I knew that I wanted to do something STEM at a liberal arts college, which is why engineering drew me here. Over time, I became even more interested in why things worked. I was taking physics classes for my major and then I switched over to that. And space is really cool, so I went to astrophysics. Visiting as an admitted student, I wound up talking to David Cohen, an astronomy professor, and he showed me the telescope at the Science Center. We talked for so long that I almost missed my train. After I switched to astrophysics, I was taking math classes since it is fundamental to why things work. That's how I wound up doing this."

He's Fascinated by Fusion

"Last spring I took the semester off for an internship with a fusion energy company. The Sun does fusion to produce energy, but it has things going for it that we don’t. In labs on Earth, we're aiming for 3 things: high temperature, high density, and long confinement times. The Sun has all of them in abundance. Our reactors operate at very low density and struggle with confinement time, so we try to make up for it with a temperature 10 times hotter than the Sun's center.

Graduating during a pandemic, I’m thinking a lot about how I can make a difference. Perhaps I’ll work in fusion, but I’m also thinking about climate change, weather and wildfire modeling, or even epidemiology.”

A Test of Endurance

"The number 1 thing I want to do this summer is go on a bike ride. It's called the Great Divide mountain bike route and it goes from Canada to the Mexican border. There's a 2700-mile race, which I'm not going to do, and the record is about 14 days. It's going to take me maybe 2 or 3 months. I’m not sure if I’ll still go with the pandemic, though I would encounter very few people along the way.

I first got into riding about two years ago, when I was working at Colgate over the summer. There was a local riding group and community-organized shop where people would donate broken bikes that would be fixed and given away."