Alumnus Profile – Josh Goldman, B.A. 2002
“I arrived at Cornell from my home in South Lake Tahoe, CA and dived straight into physics research through the Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program. As a freshman I worked in Prof. Ritchie Patterson’s group at the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory, then detoured to geophysics, where I worked with Prof. Larry Brown using ground-penetrating radar to explore the subsurface of archaeological sites in Mexico, Italy, and Honduras. I returned to the physics department and worked with Prof. Rob Thorne on charge-density-wave conductors, which led me to my graduate work, also in low-temperature tabletop experimental physics.
I wanted to explore more broadly before beginning my Ph.D., and I was fortunate to win a Marshall Scholarship with great support from numerous people in the Cornell community. I did Part III of the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge University, where I studied theoretical high-energy physics and cosmology. Then, inspired by Trevor Pinch’s Science & Technology Studies class at Cornell, I did a master’s in history of science jointly offered by Imperial College and University College London, where I wrote my master’s thesis on the genesis of the Dirac equation and the prediction of the positron.
I returned to the U.S. in 2004 and began a Ph.D. at Harvard in experimental atomic physics with Prof. Gerald Gabrielse. My thesis research was on developing methods to use a single electron trapped in vacuum as a building block for scalable quantum computation. During my time at Harvard, I pursued my interests in sustainable energy through the Harvard Energy Journal Club, an interdisciplinary group of science and engineering grad students and postdocs.
I decided to pursue a career in the energy sector, and ultimately to move toward a strategic and managerial rather than a technical role. I considered this as a possibility even before going to graduate school, but was well advised by my academic advisor at Cornell, then-department-chair Prof. Doug Fitchen, that a physics Ph.D. was actually “a good degree for a generalist”. The great range of options I had coming out of grad school showed how true this really was. I landed in consulting, at McKinsey & Company in Houston, where I work primarily with companies in the electric power and natural gas sector on topics ranging from growth strategy to power plant operations.”