Physics major becomes cancer researcher

Grove City College Physics major Dan Seiter ’18 turned a competitive summer research fellowship into a semester-long research job at the largest cancer center on the East Coast.

Seiter, of Boonton Township, N.J., credits the College’s Physics Club for his current position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Research Center in New York City, where he’s doing potentially life-saving research and burnishing his credentials for graduate school acceptance.

Last fall, as he began his junior year, Seiter was understandably concerned about his future after graduation. “I loved physics, and had enjoyed the biology courses taken in my sophomore year, but was afraid I wouldn’t be able to break into the competitive field of medical physics which combined my interests,” he said. 

He joined a group of 20 Grove City College students who attended PhysCon 2016, the quadrennial meeting for physics students hosted by the honor society Sigma Pi Sigma, in San Francisco. He found the presentations and poster sessions interesting, but said the most valuable part of the experience were the networking possibilities.

At PhysCon, Seiter learned about a summer undergraduate fellowship offered by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), the professional society for physicists in medicine.

“One of the main coordinators explained the details; AAPM matches mentors with exceptional students. At the end of our conversation, the program was my top choice for summer employment and I had made a valuable connection with the coordinator,” Seiter said. 

He was chosen for the program and was matched with Dr. Assen Kirov at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and spent the next 10 weeks working full time at the center.

“The medical physics department at the center numbers around 200 professionals. The networking, research, and shadowing opportunities were staggering,” Seiter said. “The weeks flew by; my mentor allowed me to shadow treatment planners, clinical procedures, and QA on diagnostic scanners. After an incredible summer, I wanted more.”

Thanks to college credits he earned in high school, Seiter was able to take a semester off from his studies at Grove City College. Within a week, Dr. Kirov was able to find funding to keep Seiter on the job through the fall. 

“As a result of my experience, I have excellent material to use in Ph. D. applications and invaluable career connections to scientists from a wide variety of fields and specialties. I am incredibly thankful for Grove City College, Physics Club and the opportunity SPS gave me to attend PhysCon and initiate this adventure," Seiter said.

Dr. DJ Wagner, professor of Physics at Grove City College and former president of the Society of Physics Students, said Seiter’s story demonstrates the value that out-of-the-classroom experiences like attending PhysCon present for students, as well as the College’s support of the “all-around development of students.” 

“Grove City College’s Physics Department and Physics club are dedicated to supporting the professional development of our students outside of the classroom,” Wagner said. “We encourage students to attend conferences whenever possible, and the College, the department and the club all financially support that attendance as well. Dan’s experience exemplifies how exposure to cutting-edge topics and the networking opportunities available at conferences can have profound impacts on a student’s career decision and success.”

Physics major becomes cancer researcher

Return to Archive