An Interview with our March DURA Winner, Jamal Khayat

We met with this month’s Distinguished Undergraduate Researcher, Jamal Khayat, who researches theoretical physics with Dr.  Costas Efthimiou in the Department of Physics, to talk about his research experience at UCF.

Jamal first got involved with research after taking two physics courses with Dr. Costas. Jamal said he was recognized for his hard work in class and even volunteered to take a harder final to test his knowledge of the advanced physics course material. Jamal was able to couple his passion with hard work in class which led to Dr. Costas recommending that they work together on research through the Burnett Research Scholars Grant (BRS) program.

Jamal is passionate about research because it allowed him to gain insight into what theoretical physics is actually like. He states, “It was the first time he had an open ended problem with no available solution.” Jamal thrives best in this environment as he allows his research curiosity to drive him to the point of working on the problem endlessly until he comes to a solution, three years to be exact.

You may be thinking, it couldn’t have been that smooth of an experience. You’re right. In fact, Jamal sums up his tough times by saying “It was fun, but there was suffering involved. When I set my mind to solve a problem, I won’t stop until I either have the solution or prove that a solution doesn’t exist.” This relentless motivation to get answers to questions that do not yet exist is the reason why Jamal is prepared for the next chapter in his life. He plans on spending the next few years in graduate school studying mathematical physics. Without conducting research as an undergraduate this goal of his may have never come to fruition. That is because

“Before (research) I was not interested in coming up with my own ideas because I thought that was hard, but after doing this research I’m more interested in coming up with my own ideas and work on new things.”

With all of this experience and success in undergraduate research, Jamal advises: “If you’re doing something you actually like to do, and not something you feel like it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, then the whole time management and relationship with your mentor will fall into place.”