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Physics major Ronald Alexander tops the fall 2012 class

12/12/2012

Ronald Alexander has spent time studying at The Johns Hopkins University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While that is impressive, those were part-time gigs.

His fulltime job for the past four years has been as a physics major at Southern University and A&M College.

On Dec. 14, Alexander led the University’s 508 graduates into the F.G. Clark Activity Center as the Chief Student Marshal, the student with the highest grade point average. The 20-year-old Baton Rouge native has a 3.97 GPA.

Commencement began at 10:30 a.m. The guest speaker was National Urban League President and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.

Alexander left SU’s Laboratory school shortly before his 16th birthday and entered Southern to major in physics. He had considered other subjects, but was convinced that physics, with its mathematic equations fit his love of math.

Since coming to Southern, Alexander has been a Physic Department phenom. He tutors other students, sometimes he helps conduct classes, conducts scientific projects in labs on campus and across the country.

For example, he has studied prostate brachytherapy at The Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. He participated in an effort to develop computer algorithms used to study how tumors react when they are implanted with tiny radioactive particles.

He has also worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass., on building the elusive quantum computer, a theoretical device scientists believe will be faster and more efficient than today’s digital computers.

His time at MIT was a great experience, he said, because he got to spend eight weeks with some of smartest young people in the country. “No one was intimidated by anyone” and they all thrived in the environment, he said. “We didn’t want to leave when it was over. Some people were crying.”

When he’s not studying, Alexander says he likes to play chess, boxes and fiddles with computer programming.

Alexander said Southern’s nurturing has been beneficial to success. “There is no way that I would have known about all the conferences, projects and programs that are available across the country if I had gone to a larger school,” he said.  “I know students at other schools who will graduate with no research experience.

Further, he said, “I can go to my professors at anytime when I have a problem or I need anything,” he said.

His mother, Pamela Jones Alexander, agreed. “He has been nurtured at Southern,” she said. “The professors have done everything possible for him.” The single parent added, “The men in the department have been great role models for him.”

She is so pleased with Southern, that she will have another son on the Baton Rouge campus in the fall.

Alexander said he is looking at a number of possibilities after graduating, including attending the University of California at Berkeley, MIT and others. He has a job offer already to work in a lab at MIT.

He is considering studying electrical engineering and applied physics.