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The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Physics. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Berkeley Connect is a mentoring program within the physics department that is accepting undergraduate students at all levels. The goals of the program are to help students develop understanding, community, and career preparedness that goes beyond what traditional courses provide. Interactions with graduate students and faculty will play a large role throughout the semester. You will participate in small-group meetings, facilitated by a physics graduate student, that will include:

  • Visits to research labs on campus and at the national labs to talk to faculty, scientists, and grad students
  • Preparing students for a broad range of career trajectories including ones outside of academia
  • Discussions of science in the news and science and society
  • Resources for finding research opportunities on campus, REUs, internships
  • Developing skills that will make you an attractive candidate for undergraduate research
  • Exploration of the idea of scientific models
  • Building a community of physics student scientists

Berkeley Connect is offered as a 1-credit course that is designed to be very low workload but have large benefits for undergraduates.

Professor Matt Pyle

Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in Physics

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in Physics. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students one-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the Physics major as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Physics is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be a major in order to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students.  They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • one-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in Physics, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and one-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in Physics. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussion sessions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within Physics as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will also meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, once to get acquainted, and a second time just before Tele-Bears, to discuss your plans for completing your major. Your mentor also has office hours every other week, during which you are free to show up and ask questions, talk over your day or your week, discuss what you are learning in class, or just have an informal conversation.


Matt Pyle received a  B.S. in Physics (2001) and B.E. in Aerospace Engineering (2002) from the University of Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University (2012). Subsequently, he crossed the bay and was a post-doctoral researcher at Berkeley. He joined the Berkeley Physics faculty as the Garland Assistant Professor in 2015. He describes his research interests this way:

“Many of the questions that we would like to ask about the nature of the universe today, for example ‘could dark matter be composed of particles with mass less than that of a proton?,’ are simply impossible to answer with present technology. My goal is to develop these new detector technologies and then employ it to find answers to these questions. Currently, my group is focused on optimizing the design of massive low temperature calorimeters for the SuperCDMS low mass experiment as well as for other nuclear physics applications (primarily neutrinoless double beta decay).”

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Jonny CookmeyerJonny Cookmeyer is a PhD candidate in Physics.

Where did you grow up?

Apex, North Carolina.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I went to Haverford College as an undergraduate. I was a physics and math double major.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I study materials whose measurable properties can only be described by quantum mechanics. Because we cannot understand these materials exactly, we make models which we hope to capture the relevant physics. By studying these models and comparing with experiment, we hope that it will lead us to new ways to engineer materials to exhibit new phenomena or to be useful for applications.

Emma Dowd is a PhD candidate in Physics.

Where did you grow up?

San Francisco.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Harvard, chemistry & physics.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

I am building an atomic physics experiment that allows me to control complex quantum systems at the single atom level.

Elizabeth (Liz) WildenhainElizabeth (Liz) Wildenhain is a PhD candidate in Physics.

Where did you grow up?

In the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I attended the University of Notre Dame for undergraduate and majored in physics and philosophy.

In a sentence or two, how would you describe your research?

Our group studies how gravity is connected to quantum information, which is the study of the ‘information’ contained in a system described by quantum mechanics. This involves theorizing about black holes on the quantum mechanical level, the relationship between energy and information, and other related topics.

Semester Activities

Week Dates Section Topic General Events Reminders
1 Aug 28- Aug 30  No section No General Events
2 Sep 3- Sep 6 No section Orientation Wed and Thursday
3 Sep 9- Sep13 1) Introductions, Theme
4 Sep 16- Sep 20 Required General Event this week. Let us know if you have a conflict here (Links to an external site.). Required Scientist panel and social Sep 19. 4-5:30pm in 375 LeConte
4 Sep 23-Sep 27 2) How to get into research and become a physicist Global Warming Lecture (Sat 9/21 11-12:30) One-on-one meetings this week!
5 Sep 30 – Oct 4 No Section One-on-one meetings this week!
6 Oct 7 – Oct 11 3) What makes an activity science?
7 Oct 14- Oct 18 No Section! Discussion: Bias Towards Discovery in BICEP2  (W 10/16)
8 Oct 21 – Oct 25 4) Fellows share their research
9 Oct 28 – Nov 1 No Section Dark Matter Day Lecture (11/1)
10 Nov 4 – Nov  8 5)Identity as a Scientist
11 Nov 12- Nov 15 No Section
12 Nov 18-Nov 22 6) Science and Society
13 Nov 25-Nov 26 No Section One-on-ones this week!
14 Dec 2- Dec 6 Conclusions and Feedback Exploratorium

Sat 12/7

One-on-ones this week!


To find sections in the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for Physics 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors).To help you meet other students who share your experiences and perspectives, Berkeley Connect sections are designated as lower division (first-year students and sophomores), new junior transfers, and upper division (juniors and seniors), but you can enroll in any section that fits your schedule and credit requirements.

How to Sign Up

To participate in Berkeley Connect in Physics, you enroll in a designated section of Physics 98BC or 198BC (one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis). Many students chose to enroll for more than one semester. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  Please see the Berkeley Connect sections listed above under “Schedule.”

**Read the schedule notes carefully—different sections are designated as primarily for lower-division (freshmen and sophomores), upper-division (juniors and seniors), or junior transfer students.

If you are interested in participating in Berkeley Connect, but course registration is not currently open, you can join the Berkeley Connect Mailing List, and you will be sent more details when the next semester’s information becomes available.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs. If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Physics, please contact: Bernard Sadoulet, Faculty Director, sadoulet@berkeley.edu

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office  at berkeleyconnect@berkeley.edu or (510)664-4182.

Links & Resources