Senior Profile: Jordan Kemp shoots baskets, researches nanophysics

Graduating senior Jordan Moorehead-Kemp poses for a portrait on April 26. Eddie Samuels / The Tufts Daily

Graduating senior Jordan Kemp is a physics major from Kutztown, Pa. who plans to use his fruitful and multifaceted career at Tufts to fuel his pursuit of graduate study in physics. He said that the varied opportunities that Tufts provided him with have contributed to his accomplishments on campus, even despite coming in without a heavy high school background in math or science and feeling intimidated by physics.

“Tufts has been a pretty cool experience … because we have a pretty collaborative environment here that allows for a lot of learning for people who may not be as comfortable with what they are learning,” he said.

Kemp’s interest in physics is something that has been with him since he was exposed to science fiction and science documentaries, entrenching his desire to pursue an education in the sciences.

“When I was a kid, my mom had shown me these documentaries linking metaphysics to spirituality called ‘What the Bleep!?: Down the Rabbit Hole,’” he said.

Kemp has come a long way since then: He has engaged in groundbreaking research in nanophysics since the summer before his sophomore year, something that he will continue as a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago.

“All the research I have done and that I will continue to do falls under what is called condensed matter, which deals with the science of things in the solid state. We looked at the conductivity of super thin metal crystals, and how that conductivity changes when you make scratches or deposits on the surface,” he said.

Last summer, Kemp also worked for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, a project jointly operated by Caltech and MIT.

“I basically worked on making updates to their detector [for gravitational waves] at Caltech last summer,” Kemp said.

In terms of extracurriculars, Kemp said that his desire to try new things has driven him to join numerous organizations throughout his college career, including the all-male step team BlackOut, Quidditch, Tufts Debate Society and most recently, Tufts Community Union Senate.

“The one thing that has been constant, however, is basketball. I have loved the sport since I was 12 or 13, and I played intramurals for a couple of years. After that, I realized that I wanted to start something more,” he said.

Kemp‘s experience with intramural basketball inspired him to join the nascent club team in his junior year. He noted that there is actually a reasonably large basketball community on campus, and that there are many skilled players who are not at the varsity level.

“It’s really great to have a competitive outlet, without the dedication of the varsity team. I personally tried that for a couple of years, but it was too much of a time commitment,” Kemp said. “We are not officially recognized yet, but we are trying to get that process started. … There is a general trend for people to start sport teams and get together without the support of the school. Basketball is a relatively cheap sport; you only have to pay for transportation, so its easily sustained.”

While the club basketball team is unable to host games at home, Kemp reached out to other schools in the area and was able to put together four games this year. In this way, Kemp brought his long-lasting passion for basketball to the forefront, as he built on previous efforts to get the club officially recognized.

Kemp has also helped revitalize the Tufts chapter of the Society of Physics Students, together with fellow graduating senior and astrophysics major Adina Feinstein. He said that this was part of his goal of fostering a greater interest in physics on campus.

After graduation, Kemp hopes to use his Tufts education and the research he has conducted to fuel his pursuit of a Ph.D. and a future career aimed at the advancement of physics.

“I have two directions I am interested in going in. One is expanding the accessibility of physics and STEM — I plan on being constantly active with outreach and similar activities in the future. I would also like to go into industry working on quantum computing, [which] I will be studying at UChicago,” Kemp said.