Welcome New Students

The graduate students of the Physics Department at Washington University began a peer mentoring program in the Spring of 1999. Currently, there are twelve student mentors whose purpose is to help our new students transition into graduate school and to provide support throughout your first few years. We run both the Physics Department orientation in the fall and the Prospective Student weekend in the spring. Additionally, we host lunches and events for you several times throughout the year to discuss helpful topics like preparing for midterms and finals, choosing a research group, getting to know St. Louis, or just to have fun. And, most importantly, we're always available to answer questions, give advice, and provide any sort of help you may need. Never hesitate to ask or come to us; that's what we're here for!

This page contains useful resources for prospective graduate students, first-year graduate students, and anyone else interested in the program. If you would like to talk to someone, please contact the entire group at or select an individual from the list below.


Weekly Events

Physics Department Colloquia

Departmental Colloquia are good ways to see what's happening in our physics community as a whole. (Remember, even professors sometimes don't understand everything that's going on!)

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Graduate Student Seminars

The Graduate Student Seminar Series, held every Friday at 4:00 pm in Crow 206, is a great opportunity to get to know fellow grad students and learn about their research. All are welcome; first- and second-year students are particularly invited to attend. (Note that there are also free snacks and beer!)

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Meet the Mentors

Kainen Utt | 5th Year, Astrophysics (Prof. Ogliore)

I grew up just across the state in Kansas City, Missouri. On my way to St. Louis, I stopped off at the University of Arkansas to study physics and mathematics. Currently, I work with Professor Ryan Ogliore studying extraterrestrial material in the laboratory. Outside of the lab, my hobbies include cooking, listening to podcasts, hiking, watching sports, and hanging out with my two cats. I'm always happy to help out, so don't be shy to shoot me an email if you have any questions or just want to chat!



Furqan Dar | 5th Year, Protein Biophysics (Prof. Pappu)

Hello! I'm from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, a city that's hotter and almost as humid as St Louis, but I've spent my life all over the northern parts of Pakistan. I hopped across the pond to attend Kenyon College -- a small liberal arts college surrounded by Ohio corn fields, so moving to St. Louis has been rather fun. Since Kenyon was a tiny school, these days, I find myself getting into the diverse swing dancing scene of St. Louis (which you should totally, totally get into), and sampling the many, many different food options around St. Louis -- occasionally, I'll sing karaoke as well. If you want to go on curry adventures, or just chat about life or academics, do not hesitate to shoot me an email as I'd more than happy to chat!


Lindsey Lisalda | 4th Year, Astrophysics (Prof. Krawczynski )

I’m a non-traditional student and a St. Louis native who now lives about 30 minutes west of campus. A lot of my free time is spent stargazing, playing too many video games, and watching the Blues at the best (worst?) dive bars around. If I had to poorly define myself, I would say that I love doing research, I’m a member of the Physics DEI Committee, and I name my pet rats after scientists! My research with Prof. Krawczynski involves both theoretical and experimental projects like QED birefringence in black hole and neutron star accretion disks, testing and design of the XL-Calibur truss, and simulations for the IXPE and XL-Calibur collaborations. Stop by my office in Compton 269 and you’ll find a great place to get advice, vent, or just shoot the breeze!


Andrew West | 4th Year, Astrophysics (Prof. Krawczynski)

I am a prototypical Saint Louisan, I've lived here almost all of my life and know the city inside and out. I began my collegiate career at CU Boulder where I studied astrophysics and physics. For reasons that are not all that interesting, I decided to take a break from school to do some manual labor (zero stars, do NOT recommend) and explore the country before finishing up my bachelors here at Wash U in Mathematics. In my spare time I like to write incredibly depressing music, drink beers on patios, hang out with my dog, and go on adventures in the great outdoors. I also like feeding people, so expect to see me at our weekly BBQs and Nerdsgiving in the fall! If you have any questions about the trials that await you in your first year, the best spots to eat and drink in the city, or you just want to chat about life, the universe, and whatever, don't hesitate to holler at me!


Wolfgang Zober | 4th Year, Cosmic Ray Astrophysics (Prof. Rauch)

Hello there, I'm from California, Pennsylvania, a small college town, an hour south of Pittsburgh. I did my undergrad at Wheeling Jesuit University, a tiny college in northern West Virginia. While I was there I majored in physics and math and minored in theology. Currently, I'm a member of the cosmic ray astrophysics group working under the guidance of Prof. Rauch. As a member of the group, I'm involved with data analysis for CALET, and part of the SuperTIGER, HNX, and APT collaborations. I'm also the current department rep for the graduate student senate, so I tend to be involved with many things outside the department. In my spare time, I like to listen to and play music, do photography, and play intramural sports. I'm glad you're joining us. I hope you enjoy your time here and if you need anything feel free to reach out.


Ali Arra | 3rd Year, Biophysics (Prof. Mukherji)

Hello! I’m from Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I went to University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for my undergraduate degree. Here at WashU I’m working in the Mukherji lab. I’ve been slowly exploring all the restaurants and dive bars of St Louis. (Slow because I’m also a dedicated member of the book of the month club). So if you want to get a Budlight, talk about the latest murder mystery, or have any questions at all, feel free to reach out.



Matheus Schossler | 4th Year, Condensed Matter (Prof. Seidel)

I grew up in a small countryside city in Brazil, near the region of the Amazon rainforest (not the company). At the age of sixteen, I went to the state of Sao Paulo for my undergrad and masters. Moving to a large city like St. Louis brought me new experiences, and soon I learned this is a very enjoyable place. Forest Park, known as the Heart of St. Louis, is one of my favorite locations and I like to explore it with my bike or jogging. Perhaps this brings me the perception of living in another small city. I currently work with Professor Seidel with theoretical condensed matter, more specifically with fractional quantum Hall effect. When in the department, I'm usually in Compton 375. Knock on my door or send me an email about anything and I'll be happy to chat.


Valeria Villegas | 2nd Year







Shixing (Simon) Wang | 4th Year, Biophysics (Prof. Mukherji)

I'm from Linyi, a small city in eastern China. I got my bachelor's degree in Wuhan University. Currently I work in the Mukherji lab with great colleagues and small yeasts. I still remember and appreciate the help I received from those friendly mentors when I first came to this city and was unsure and anxious about the challenges in front of me. I want to be as helpful and pass their kindness along. 




Nic Dronchi | 2nd Year, Nuclear Physics (Prof. Sobotka)

Welcome to St. Louis! While I’m not originally from here, it still has that midwestern vibe that I grew up with in Michigan. Some of the things I love about St. Louis is finding all the great beer and all the beautiful parks that I can take my dog Curie to. Before WashU, I got my undergraduate degree in chemical physics from Michigan state. I had a great undergraduate research experience working on positron emission tomography which lead me to find the Sobotka research group here. I am now interested in the excited/resonance states found in light nuclei which can only be found using nuclear accelerators such as Texas A&M’s or MSU’s cyclotron facilities. If we have a class together make sure to say hi, otherwise, I can also be found in the radiochemistry building somewhere.


Jonah Hoffman | 2nd Year, Astrophysics (Prof. Buckley)

I'm from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I did my undergrad in physics at Louisiana State University. I'm now in my second year at WashU, and I'm currently working with Jim Buckley on the microwave electronics for a dark matter search. I like to cook, read, watch movies, play games, and go to art museums (when there isn't a global pandemic).




Garrett King | 2nd Year, Nuclear Physics (Profs. Pastore/Piarulli)

I am originally from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, not too far from Pittsburgh. Before coming to Wash U, I did my undergrad at Michigan State. Now, I work with Professors Pastore and Piarulli studying nucleonic interactions and electroweak interactions of nuclei. Outside of school, I enjoy cooking, checking out new places to eat around the city, playing guitar, and going for the occasional run. When I am on campus, I can usually be found on the fourth floor of Crow. I look forward to having you here and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.


Natália Calleya | Mentor Emeritus, 5th Year, Nuclear Physics (Prof. Dickhoff)

Hello! I was born and raised in Brasil (yes, with an “s”) and that’s where I got my B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Physics before I joined WashU in 2016 to start my PhD. I come from the Brazilian state called “Big Southern River” that you may know from Brazilian BBQ places or where Tom Brady’s wife was born, too. I’m working with Professor Dickhoff trying to figure out how nuclei do stuff when they’re not in their comfort zones (#relatable) and other nuclear physics things. I very much like to spread knowledge whenever possible, as the head of the outreach committee; and share resources I find useful during this journey, as a mentor. Find me at the Power Plant building, where I do most of my work or around Crow 404 where I certainly don’t do it – I’d love to have a chat and find out more about you and which part of physics caught your eye first!

Helpful Graduate Student Resources


To add some helpful tips and tricks in your next social media break, check out these profiles! This is an easy way to learn something while scrolling through Instagram or Twitter – both mental health accounts have a disclaimer that all content is for educational purposes only and should not substitute professional help:

  • @mindfulcounseling – mental health studio with experience in eating disorders and faith transitions
  • @nedratawwab – therapist with lots of bite-size tips for mental health 
  • @beyondtheprof – focus on career plans after the PhD, in and outside of academia
  • @thefinancialdiet – get your finances in order with a fresh approach to all things money
  • @legogradstudent – for some relatable laughs


The academic community on Twitter is huge and you can interact with a lot of different areas, scholars and students. Look for the hashtags #PhDchat, #AcademicTwitter and lists such as Science Writers and Science Journals. It can be a wonderful tool to be up to date with all things science, no matter your expertise and also connect with peers across the globe. Science outreach and communication also has a big community with #SciComm

WashU resources

There are a ton of resources here at WashU, take your time to explore all websites full of useful information and enjoy your time as a graduate student here. Some highlights:

  • Liberman Center – For all things graduate student related, the Liberman Center is your spot on campus to interact with peers and participate in grad focused events. Sign up for their newsletter to be updated on all upcoming activities. 
  • GradCareers – don’t wait until the PhD is over to plan your next move! WashU offers regular workshops and networking events to explore careers and develop relevant skills on campus. 
  • Office of Recreation – the athletic complex has everything you need to take care of you physical health. Besides the gym and fitness classes, there are also cooking lessons, field trips and massage chairs for relaxation, and much more. All included in the grad student package!
  • Writing Center – all resources to improve your writing and presentation skills, with focus groups and one on one coaching available. 
  • Teaching Center – the Teaching Center offers workshops and certifications to perfect your teaching skills, very handy for that AI position and future prospects!
  • Campus Maps - directions to the campus.
  • Danforth Campus Map - labeled map to help you find your way around campus.
  • WashU Parking and Transportation - especially look for info on the U-Pass (lets you ride all St. Louis public transportation for free!) and shuttle routes
  • WebSTAC - provides access to online course registration, campus card management, student billing account, etc.
  • Student Technology Services - provides information about connecting to the WUSTL network, along with other technologies available to students
  • Student Health Services - health care services offered for students

Library books

ThinkWell collection – available in the Physics library, this PhD focused book collection has everything you need to set yourself to success during your academic years. These books are short and effective and very much worth reading! We currently have the titles:

  • Turbocharge your writing
  • The Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Research Students
  • Time for Research: Time Management for academics, researchers and PhD Students
  • Defeating Self-Sabotage: Getting your PhD finished

NYT - We have a free subscription to the New York Times through WashU: go to  and use your WUSTLKey to login and select undergrad student, it works just fine (there’s no option for grads at the moment.)

LinkedIn Learning - Unlimited access to more than 7,500 video tutorials covering business, creative and technology topics, including all content. 

Getting Started in St. Louis:

Professional (and other) Societies:

Support and Advice for Graduate Students: