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Great Starts: Will Bethard ’22
Portrait of student Will Bethard

Great Starts: Will Bethard ’22

From time to time, we like to showcase a new SNC grad who’s entered the workplace or grad school. Success stories like these are pretty common. In fact, 96 percent of our graduates are in jobs or grad school within a year of graduation – and most of them much sooner than that!

Graduation year: 2022
Degree: Physics
Plans after graduation: Will be attending medical school after graduation.

Why did you choose St. Norbert to study physics?
I wanted to go to a smaller school with an intimate campus because I wanted to be appreciated for who I was, more than just a number. I was also recruited to swim at St. Norbert, so I got to know a lot of people during the recruitment process. It felt like they were people that I knew already, very friendly and accepting. Based on the interactions with students before choosing SNC, I felt like I belonged there. I originally wanted to be an engineer, and I knew I was going to major in physics. Through the admissions team, I found out that SNC physics students do a wide variety of things and there are a lot of doors open for them. Some of them go into business, or engineering, or go on to get a Ph.D. Knowing there were good outcomes for past students was a strong consideration.

How did you decide to pursue medical physics for your career?
Early on, my advisor told me to look into medical physics, but at the time, I didn’t really want to attend grad school; I wanted to be an engineer. Dr. Brekke brought it up again later, and I really came to like it. My neighbor is a medical physicist who works in the industry, as well. He was able to show me around and led me in a few different directions. I wanted to be a biomedical engineer originally. I’m going to be doing some of that work still, but I wanted to combine some creativity with science and that led to my interest in the medical field. I chose medical physics because it parallels a lot of the things I loved about my classes.

How did St. Norbert prepare you for your graduate program?
In my last two semesters, I worked with Dr. Olson and under the direction of Dr. Leiterman. We recreated an apparatus Dr. Leiterman uses in her research on the biological effects of cilia, specifically how lungs move particles through them. I found that interesting because it had tie-ins to biology, medicine, cystic fibrosis and a few other diseases that affect how cilia move. That helped kick-start thinking about doing medicine and tie-ins of physics and biology from a unique perspective. That work also helped with my application to get into the school of my choice. I feel I’m a step ahead of some of my peers from other schools that maybe didn’t have access to the same opportunities I had. Being in a clinical setting, you must possess strong social and personal skills to talk to doctors and treatment teams, making sure that everyone is unified in providing the patient with the best care. Going to a liberal arts college allowed me to develop the communication skills I’ll need.

What will be your lasting memory of St. Norbert College?
I got to be an athlete, do interesting research and make a lot of friends. I was pushed to be better academically and socially. I got exactly what I was looking for.