Lucas Liuzzo, Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

This New Yorker’s most vivid memory of Tech is the beauty of its campus in the changing seasons

Lucas R. Liuzzo is the first in his immediate family to receive a college education.

He grew up in Jamestown, New York, which has about 30,000 residents. For his undergraduate degree, he attended the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

The transition to living in a city with four times the population of his home town was difficult. “I wasn’t sure I could even survive in such a new environment. But I loved it,” Lucas says.

Ann Arbor’s big-city-yet-small-town gave Lucas the freedom to develop into a thriving young adult. He graduated with a B.S. in Engineering in 2014. He could have stayed in Michigan to pursue graduate studies in solar space physics.

Instead, Lucas chose to try something different and make new connections. His next move was to Atlanta, an even bigger city than Ann Arbor. At Georgia Tech, he studied magnetospheric space physics. He graduates with a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

Performing research at Georgia Tech is at the cutting edge of science, where spending days, weeks, or even months on a problem isn’t unheard of. Sometimes your method can simply send you down the wrong path, which can be extraordinarily frustrating. Graduate school has shown me that hard work and diligence do not often mean you’re on the right path, but that’s exactly the point of academic research.

When finally you reach the solution to an especially difficult problem, it is extremely gratifying, even if you may be the only person in the world who knows the answer.

What is your proudest achievement at Georgia Tech?

Defending my dissertation.

It has taken me five years to obtain my Ph.D. I’m not sure I’ve ever put so much time and dedication into anything over such a long stretch of time. I’m very proud of my efforts culminating in my degree from Georgia Tech.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

My advisor, Sven Simon, afforded me every opportunity to become the best I could be scientifically. He supported me throughout my time here.

The most impactful classes were the engineering courses with Morris Cohen and Waymond Scott, in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. These courses helped me to appreciate other academic disciplines that share many complementary theoretical approaches with my own, but can be drastically different in application.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

The changing seasons, which I looked forward to year after year of studying at Tech.

Georgia Tech has a beautiful campus, but the four seasons bring out its true beauty. I arrived in August during the dog days of summer. I’ve never been so consistently hot and sticky for so many consecutive days.

Surviving the Atlanta summer is rewarded with a gorgeous fall. Brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds of the foliage dot the trees on campus. It’s a sight to behold.

This beauty is topped on the rare occasion of an Atlanta winter snowfall. Staring across Tech Green at the Campanile dusted in a slight layer of clean, white, crisp snow is magical.

The cold days of winter are as short-lived as the daylight during this time of year. The spring that follows colors the campus in tree blossoms that rival a Bob Ross painting. On campus during spring, even the pollen is Tech Gold.

In what ways did your time at Georgia Tech transform your life?

Academically and professionally I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my Georgia Tech degree. Personally, I’ve made everlasting friendships with amazing individuals who have had a huge impact on who I have become.

What unique learning activities did you undertake?

I attended conferences abroad and worked with colleagues in Germany. During those few weeks working and living in a country that was entirely new and foreign to me, I formed bonds – professional and personal – that will last a lifetime.

What advice would you give to incoming graduate students at Georgia Tech?

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. In graduate school, it’s easy to fall into the doldrums of research and follow the same routine, day after day.

Break out of the campus bubble, explore the city, and find your niche. Between classes, research, and conferences, your days fill up quickly. Be sure to take breaks.

While Tech offers lots of opportunities to relax, Atlanta is a huge, diverse city. It’s important – and often liberating – to explore your surroundings and talk with individuals who aren’t students themselves.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I’ll be at Tech for a few months working as a postdoctoral researcher. I’ll be working in the same group as my graduate studies, so I’m already 100% up to speed with my research topic and can start making meaningful progress right from the start.