Just 16 years old, Cal State LA student to graduate
and enroll in Ph.D. physics program
By Margie Low
Cal State LA News Service
At a time when many teens are looking forward to a summer break from high school, 16-year-old Ethan Villarama will graduate from California State University, Los Angeles and prepare to enter a rigorous Ph.D. program in the fall.
Villarama is the youngest member of the University’s Class of 2017.
On May 20, he will receive a Bachelor of Science in Physics with magna cum laude honors. He is planning to attend the University of California, San Diego in the fall to earn a doctorate in physics.
“I am excited to begin my doctoral education at UC San Diego, so I can become a full-fledged scientist doing work in the top of my field,” said Villarama. “I’m grateful for the many opportunities for independent, self-learning, as well as the supportive faculty in the physics department and at Cal State LA.”
Villarama enrolled at Cal State LA when he was 11 years old through the Early Entrance Program. The program, which accepts highly gifted students as young as 11, is administered by the University’s Honors College.
Villarama is part of Cal State LA’s Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) programs, which prepare talented students of color for careers in science, mathematics and engineering. The programs are funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the American Chemical Society.
A Pasadena resident, Villarama conducted research in the laboratories of Cal State LA Professor William Taylor and Professor Susan Terebey.
In summer 2016, Villarama participated in a highly competitive internship at the prestigious European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. The research experience was coordinated by the CSU-wide Nuclear and Particle Physics Consortium with support from the National Science Foundation.
For nine intensive weeks, he joined scientists and researchers on the ATLAS experiment. ATLAS is a particle physics experiment at CERN that is searching for new discoveries in the head-on collisions of protons of extraordinarily high energy. Researchers are using the world’s largest, most powerful particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider.
CERN is one of the world’s largest and most respected laboratories for scientific research.
Villarama says the opportunity allowed him to meet leading scientists in the field and visit Europe for the first time.
“This was the best opportunity to learn about the latest research in high energy physics,” he says. “This experience definitely prepared me for graduate school and a future career as a research professor.”