Spotlight: Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson, an Applied Physics major who’s also doing the Five-Year Master’s Program in Computer Science spent his summer in Guanajuato, Mexico as a part of the Veranos UG Program. This is a 7 week program where students conduct research and publish a written technical report. There’s a conference at the end of the program where students present their research, Eric’s was titled “Designing a Small Scale Cyclotron Accelerator for Teaching Purposes.”

How did you hear about the program?

“I’ve worked at the Jefferson Lab for almost two years, and I expressed interest in wanting to live in a Spanish speaking country. Turns out that a researcher there is Mexican, and he was able to put me in contact with one of his colleagues from the University of Guanajuato. That colleague was the one who told me about the Veranos UG program. I applied, was accepted, and so I flew down to Leon, Mexico in June!”

Eric with all of his coworkers and mentor (pictured in the middle.)

What was the most interesting part about your time in Mexico?

“I pretty much had no idea what was going on, at all! I never studied Spanish in school, and the only practice I got before going to Mexico was what I was able to do on my phone. I figured I could understand enough to survive, but I found out VERY quickly how wrong I was. When I arrived, my phone no longer worked and I couldn’t understand a single person. I knew nothing about the city of Leon, or Guanajuato, I didn’t know where I was half the time and finding my apartment was close to impossible. My mentor left for two weeks only two days after I arrived, and I was more or less left completely on my own to figure everything out.

Another interesting part of my time in Mexico is that I got the opportunity to visit a friend I met last summer working at the Jefferson lab! I took a 5 hour bus ride to go see him in Mexico City and was able to stay with his family for a few days.”

Eric and friend in Mexico City

What did you take away from the experience?

“I learned a lot about accelerators and how they work during my time abroad. I can say confidently that I now have a very intimate understanding of them! I wrote my technical report and delivered my presentation entirely in Spanish. I found out after the conference that I was the only foreign student who presented in Spanish, everyone else delivered their presentation in English. I was able to learn the language in 7 weeks and even consider myself fluent now! I got so much out of my time in Mexico. I learned the ins and outs of accelerators, learned an entirely new language, created connections and became friends with some amazing people.”

Eric delivering his final presentation

Did you document your time in Mexico?

“Yes, I had so many people ask me about my trip and how I was doing each day that I started keeping a journal of my experiences. I basically wrote an entry each night about all the crazy, new, or exciting things that I came across in Mexico. The final journal ended up being 164 pages single spaced! Another way I documented my time abroad was through pictures. Since I wasn’t really able to shave my beard, I thought it would be a cool idea to make a flip-book of the selfies I took in random places all over Mexico that showed my hair and beard getting continuously longer!”

If anyone has any questions or wants to know more about Eric and his experience in Mexico, feel free to send him an e-mail him at

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