June 13, 2014
Matthew-Mahaffey

From Community College to Mines and MIT

You might think Front Range Community College is an unlikely starting point to reach Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Just don’t say that to Matthew Mahaffey. This former Front Range student is an undergraduate researcher this summer at MIT.

College at The Right Time

Matthew grew up in Georgia and had an offer of a basketball scholarship to a college there. But it wasn’t the right time. In fact, he spent seven years away from college.

When the time was right, he moved to Colorado to study renewable energy. A web search for best schools in his interest area had turned up Colorado School of Mines.

His first educational stop, however, was Front Range, which has a transfer agreement with Mines. After one semester at Front Range’s Boulder County Campus in Longmont, Matthew came to Front Range’s campus in Westminster.

FRCC Courses Transfer to Colorado School of Mines

He took as many courses as Mines would accept from Front Range.

His Front Range classes prepared him well to be an engineering physics major at Mines. In particular, Matthew expressed his appreciation to his Front Range math professors.

Math at Front Range

In an email to Nadine Bluett, one of his math professors, Matthew wrote, “I wanted to share some things with you which I hope you will share as I believe it’s always nice to know that the students you taught are able to succeed after leaving FRCC.

“At Mines, I’ve been able to make the dean’s list every semester. I’ve also been able to secure both an engineering internship and an undergraduate research fellowship.

“I am headed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to participate in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. This summer position, as well as the internship and fellowship, deal with the physics associated with solar cells. The mathematical base I was able to develop at FRCC has allowed me to succeed in the math and physics courses at Mines.

“I just wanted to thank you for teaching as well as you did. I hope you continue to be successful as a professor.”

Matthew also praised Marcus Szwankowski, another math professor, and Clara Wente, a physics professor.

Building on a Solid Foundation

So the foundation was set at Front Range, but Matthew has built from there. He has completed his junior year at Mines. He has a paid internship with Sinton Instruments in Boulder, which develops and applies new tools and analysis to research and development and manufacturing in silicon solar cells and integrated circuits.

And he made a connection to MIT while attending a solar conference in Breckenridge, meeting the principal investigator in the lab where he is working this summer. He will be working with an MIT graduate student to develop a device that will show the properties of a semiconductor in 3D.

Matthew will return to Mines for his senior year.

After graduation? “Graduate school is priority No. 1,” he says. “I’m hoping to make a good impression at MIT. I’ll also apply to other graduate schools.”

About the author:

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College. He’s a retired soccer referee and newspaper editor whose subscription ran out.

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