One ISU graduate enjoyed his adventure in Ames, but has since moved on to even bigger adventures on the eastern seaboard.
Alex Tinguely, an alumnus with an undergraduate degree in physics, created a prestigious academic career for himself with internships at Princeton University and as a current doctoral candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“Alex is very positive, infectious and very humble,” said Jordan Baumgardner, residence hall director at Martin Hall.
Tinguely said he was a very self-motivated student, who started his career in physics as a high school student. Tinguely’s high school did not offer physics classes, so Tinguely took it upon himself to take an independent study in physics and teach himself.
Tinguely was vice president of the ISU Physics and Astronomy Club for two years at Iowa State, as well as a community adviser at Linden Hall with Baumgardner, who was his hall director at the time.
Baumgardner said he didn't know how Tinguely managed all of his responsibilities.
“If I knew, there would be a lot more successful people in the world," he said.
Tinguely said he decided during his undergraduate degree he wanted to take on an independent study thesis.
For his thesis, Tinguely did research about plasmas in order to learn more about them and better understand them.
“Not plasma as in blood, but plasma as in hot gases like those of the sun," he said.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter, according to NASA's website. Solid is considered the first, liquid is the second and gas is the third.
"As we heat up the gas, atoms break apart into charged particles, turning the gas into plasma," NASA's website states. "This is not the same type of plasma that is found in your blood: same name, different stuff."
Essentially, the sun is a giant ball of plasma, and plasma can only form with a lot of heat, according to NASA.
"Therefore, it is an incredibly hot environment working with plasmas that change from liquid to gas form," Tinguely said.
Tinguely spent many summers and some semesters taking on extra research opportunities, he said.
His most recent summer was spent at Princeton, studying dusty plasmas and seeing how the contamination of the particles affect the process of creating energy of plasma. Although it has yet to happen, Tinguely and other researchers hope to soon create energy from plasmas.
Tinguely is currently working on obtaining his doctorate at MIT. There, he studies disruptions in the plasmas by using a device shaped like a doughnut and observes changes, errors and failures.
His goal is to find out what is causing the errors and to prevent them from occurring. He said if he can’t prevent these errors, he hopes to make a change in the process that makes them obsolete.
Tinguely worked with many professors while doing his research at Iowa State. Adam Kaminski, professor of physics and astronomy, had Tinguely in class and assisted him in his thesis.
“Mr. Kaminski was always there when I needed him,” Tinguely said.
Kaminski said he remembered Tinguely as a star student.
“Alex was very motivated, very smart and was always on time," Kaminski said.
Tinguely has had many opportunities to work not only in the lab but with people in the community in PAC.
Tinguely said the club would host events at Iowa State, as well as in local elementary schools, and would teach kids about physics in hopes of peaking their interest. PAC also participated in campus activities such as Veishea in the past.
Tinguely said that even though he is enjoying his time at MIT, he still misses Iowa State.
“I miss the feel of Iowa State, the hominess it had with the lawns, the campanile and the friendships I made there," Tinguely said.
Tinguely plans on returning to Iowa State this spring for his sister’s graduation, and he said he is looking forward to his visit.