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Collision Course

Neidig-Garber Science Lab

Dr. James Glasbrenner ’06 recently started work as an assistant professor of computational and data sciences, but he fondly remembers the nonscientific experiences that he had at LVC.

Take, for example, his work with the Wig and Buckle Theater Company. He dedicated a large portion of his time at the College to working on and offstage to bring the theater experience to life. He held roles in many of the productions during his time at LVC, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Crucible, and The Real Inspector Hound. It’s not the kind of hobby one would expect from a physics major, but Dr. Glasbrenner believed that these were the experiences that really taught him to interact with people.

Moreover, with Dr. Glasbrenner starting his job as an assistant professor at George Mason University, what he learned outside the classroom may be just as important as what he learned inside. Though he has had some experience working with undergraduates in the past, Dr. Glasbrenner enjoys getting involved with his students and help them understand complex concepts.

“There’s always a lot of math involved, but I enjoy showing students that it’s not that scary and that it can be fun,” said Dr. Glasbrenner, also emphasizing his desire to help others “think scientifically.”

Dr. Glasbrenner’s primary area of research is material science, specifically the use of magnetic materials in computational work. In layman’s terms, he is trying to leverage the power of magnetism inherent in certain materials to create devices with a better capacity for data storage. With computer processing power growing exponentially, Dr. Glasbrenner is on the cutting edge of discovering new materials and methods to build devices with—a task that keeps his job from ever getting boring.

“One of the most exciting things about doing fundamental research is that you start coming across discoveries and data that nobody has seen before, and that newness is something that you encounter on a regular basis,” said Dr. Glasbrenner of his research, which he currently conducts at the United States Naval Research Laboratory and plans to continue at George Mason.

His wife, Megan Kurta Glasbrenner ’06, works as an English teacher in the same area and is one of the individuals that Dr. Glasbrenner met during his time with Wig and Buckle. In addition to all of the other lifelong friends that he made, Dr. Glasbrenner reflected on meeting his wife during his time directing a show for the organization, with a long friendship gradually growing into a relationship shortly after the pair left LVC.

“We realized we really did care about each other, and from there, it just went forward,” said Dr. Glasbrenner. “We had just always been close. Now we’re in an area where she can do her career and I can pursue mine.”

The couple’s diverse passions have led them along separate paths, but still, their love of theater, of all vocations, is what brought them together. 

How’s that for magnetism?

Even as Dr. Glasbrenner prepares to move on in the next chapter of his life, he recognizes LVC helped fuel his passion for physics and learning, and that his college career was just as much about experiences as it was about academia.