Quantum Physics and Itzhak Perlman: Just Another Day for Pine View Student in Sarasota County, FL

Pine View has been celebrating an impressive 50 successful years as one of Sarasota County’s premiere schools. With a tradition of academic excellence spanning the decades, graduates have gone on to become Academy Award winners, famous filmmakers and novelists, reality tv stars and regular everyday heroes including doctors, attorneys, and college professors who have chosen to remain in the area. Not riding on the coattails of the school, students and graduates have proven to be trailblazers in their own rights outside of the classroom.

At Pine View, a campus teeming of notable up-and-comers poised to set the bar higher for those who will follow later, standing tall among esteemed peers is not an easy task. For PV Junior, Jack Gallahan, helping students and physicists learn the art of problem-solving and performing with Itzhak Perlman is all in a day’s work. Although the mere thought of public speaking can send even the most seasoned speaker into panic mode, Jack views the same opportunity as fun. Add in differential age gaps, intimidating surroundings and profound topics like quantum computation and the number of individuals qualified to present in such a venue significantly narrows. So, when we heard that local student Jack Gallahan was lecturing on quantum matters at the Sarasota Yacht Club, we knew we had to find out more about this young man. As it turns out he is not only brilliant, but humbly connected to his community in beautiful ways.

SP: Jack, tell us a little about yourself and the presentation that you recently gave at the Sarasota Yacht Club.

Jack: I moved to Florida about 6 years ago from New England. I love music, mathematics, physics, running, and pretty much everything else! The presentation that I gave was for the Sarasota Physics Club. I am so grateful to have been invited to speak at their meeting by my wonderful mentor Dr. James McGuire, who is a Professor Emeritus of Physics at Tulane University. I talked about some research I recently did with Dr. McGuire on two-state quantum systems interacting with light. We essentially worked on predicting what happens when you direct a laser at a hydrogen atom under certain experimental conditions and determined what implications this may have for fields such as quantum information and quantum computation. I entered this project into the Sarasota Regional Science Fair, where I won First Place in my category, and the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair, where I got a Third Place Prize. I also presented this research at the Florida Regional Junior Science Engineering and Humanities Symposium held at the University of Florida.

SP: What is it like presenting to a room full of adults on a topic like this? How much preparation is involved?

Jack: It’s a lot of fun! I really enjoy learning from groups like the Sarasota Physics Club who have so much collective knowledge and experience. I don’t like to over prepare for presentations. There is nothing worse than speaking like you have memorized from a script (which I have certainly been guilty of in the past). I want to try to engage the audience in a conversation rather than recite a prepared speech. Having said that, I want to make sure I present ideas in the way that is most interesting to my audience, and that takes some careful planning.

SP: Is Physics your science of choice, then? What else do you enjoy studying?

Jack: I am fascinated by all the sciences, but I have an interest in Physics. I was lucky enough to meet Dr. McGuire a few years ago, and he was the one who piqued my interest in the field. I enjoy physics because of its direct link to mathematics, and, as a result, the abstract thinking it requires. I have enjoyed participating in mathematics and physics at Pine View, where I belong to the Mu Alpha Theta Math club and am President of the Physics club. With Pine View being a grade 2 through 12 school, one of the things I’m focused on in both of those clubs is finding ways to engage younger kids in problem-solving, which is the most important (perhaps the only important) skill for tackling advanced subjects down the road.

SP: What’s a typical day look like for a Pine View Junior? What are your hobbies outside of school?

Jack Gallahan is the founder and director of the Music for Medicine Program at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, FL.Jack: On weekdays, I get up around 6:30 for school, which lasts until 1:00. I usually spend about an hour on homework, and then I practice cello for about 3 hours. Before dinner, I go for a run. After dinner, I have time to work on research, compose, read, or listen to some physics lectures online. I usually spend a lot of time on the weekends learning math/physics or doing research. I am very interested in music and in the cello. I perform with two string quartets, my school orchestra, and the Sarasota Youth Orchestra. This past year, I performed with Itzhak Perlman as part of the Superstrings program, played in the Florida All-State Orchestra, and performed with Michael Tilson Thomas and the fellows of the New World Symphony in Miami as part of their side-by-side/concerto competition. I am also the founder and director of the Music for Medicine Program at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital. It’s an Arts in HealthCare program that brings community volunteer musicians to the hospital to help create a healing, positive and soothing environment for patients, families, and staff. The program includes concerts at the new Rehabilitation Pavilion, direct patient therapy sessions, and live streamed courtyard concerts so that patients who can’t leave their rooms can still enjoy the music. It’s been really rewarding to be a part of it. I am so grateful to all the hospital staff that I work with on the program and who make it possible. Click here for our Facebook page. I am not sure what I am going to study after graduation, but it will probably be physics and music.

We’re happy to share stories of outstanding young people in the area. It truly solidifies our faith that their skillful hands and thoughtful minds will be the caretakers of our planet. We hope Jack and all the students at Pine View and the surrounding schools have an exciting year of academia and quantum amounts of fun.

Photos courtesy of Music for Medicine FB page and depositphotos.

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2018-09-05