William and Mary

Colton O'Connor


Murray 1693 Scholar


Chantilly, VA (Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology)

Why W&M?

Call me a sucker or think me a liar, but William and Mary won me with its charm.  I felt safe at W&M.  Students can swipe themselves into any of the dorms until midnight and many academic buildings keep their doors open.  No two points on campus are more than a 15-minute walk apart, so I often took the time to walk past the Crim Dell or through the Wildflower Refuge.

At application time, the College's claim to focus on undergraduate research didn't mean much to me amidst similar boasts from other institutions, but now I understand.  I was able to engage in experimental physics research directly under a full professor before I even declared my major.  Rarely did my friends at other universities across the nation have such luck.


Physics, Linguistics

Favorite W&M Classes

Meaning and Understanding in Western Cultural Thought and Study of Language

Extracurriculars at W&M

The Wham Bam Big Band, William and Mary Trombone Quartet, Catholic Campus Ministry, Massage Club

Research at W&M
  • I was engaged in physics research year-round since the beginning of my sophomore year.  This led to my Honors Thesis work in analyzing and improving simulations used for MINERvA, a high-energy study of neutrinos being carried out at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) near Chicago.
  • I spent my three summers between academic years carrying out further physics research through the National Science Foundation at W&M, the University of Pittsburgh, and FNAL.
  • For my Murray Project, I used the program's funding to support a 3-week trip to Louisiana to carry out linguistic field work.  While there, I participated in a workshop run by and for members of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana aimed at promoting their language and culture and producing educational materials for children to secure the future of their language, which is in danger of disappearing. Read more.
  • I received the Alumni Award in Physics
Where am I now?

I am pursuing a PH.D. in particle and nuclear physics at MIT.  I travel to Germany often to work at the DESY facility using the DORIS storage ring and the BLAST detector.  I am part of one of those huge physics research consortia that builds complicated machines, gives them acronymns and then shoots stuff at them. This one is called the OLYMPUS experiment.

I got my first pair of published papers. I'm ABD at this point, and as a bonus, I recently learned that ABD means "All But Dissertation."  So that puts me an estimated 15 months from defending.

I also got married this summer to Amanda Andrei, W&M Anthropology '10.

Colton with his wife Amanda at Homecoming