GVSU Physicists Profile
Stephen Gardner (2009)
Stephen received his B.S. degree in Physics from GVSU in 2009. During his time at Grand Valley, Stephen was a recipient of the GVSU Presidential Scholarship and Arend D. Lubbers Honors College Scholarship. He was a member of the Honors College and maintained standing on the Dean’s List throughout his undergraduate career. In addition, he was a member of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, the national SPS honors society. After graduation from Grand Valley, Stephen attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, earning a M.S. degree in Therapeutic Medical Physics in 2011. After his time in Nashville, he accepted a position in the Medical Physics Residency Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. Stephen completed the residency program in the summer of 2013, and is now employed as a Senior Associate Medical Physicist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI. Though his appointment at HFHS is primarily clinical, Stephen also performs research; currently, his main interests are related to the integration and evaluation of advanced imaging techniques in radiotherapy. In addition, Stephen has taken on a mentorship role in the Medical Physics Residency Program at Henry Ford Health System.
Read Stephen's story:
"When I arrived on campus at Grand Valley in 2005, my plan was to pursue a major in math with a minor in physics. I wasn’t entirely sure on my career path, but the tentative plan was to use my education in those subject areas to teach secondary education. My initial decision to attend Grand Valley had hinged on several strengths of the university – the Honors College structure (both the curriculum and the dorm life), the campus location and environment, and the overall comfort with the university during my on-campus visits. As I began my studies, those same aspects of the Grand Valley college life were present in the physics department, albeit on a smaller scale. I had a great experience in my initial coursework with the students and faculty in general, but there was one specific turning point in my education track. During the winter of my junior year (after I had completed all of the physics coursework required for the physics minor), I happened to attend the department holiday party at Main St. Pub. After a nice discussion with some of the faculty, I was encouraged to continue on and pursue a major in physics. To put it simply, I wasn’t ready to stop taking physics courses just yet – so I kept going. The decision to pursue a major in physics had a huge positive impact on my education and career trajectory.
In the following year, the faculty organized several lectures highlighting career opportunities for physics majors. During the series, I was exposed to the application of physics to medicine – specifically the field of radiation oncology, where radiation therapy is used to treat cancer. During the lecture, I learned about the use of technology in radiation oncology as well as the overall trajectory of the field. After the lecture, the students were able to eat dinner with the speaker and learn more about the field. In addition, I was even able to shadow the medical physicist for a few days to assess the day-to-day workflow and career fit. Once again, this whole process represented a confluence of my interests with several strengths of the GVSU physics department – thoughtful faculty using physics as a platform to bring people together to learn and grow both individually and as a community.
During my time at Grand Valley, I met my future wife – who has challenged me, supported me, and overall has been such a blessing for me in my growth and maturation as a man, husband, and father. We have made several stops in the eastern US during my career path – in Nashville for graduate school at Vanderbilt University, in Philadelphia for residency training at Thomas Jefferson University, and now in Detroit as a medical physicist at Henry Ford Health System. During that time, we have been blessed with four children - all girls. I will be forever thankful for the formational years of my life spent at Grand Valley. Though I am in an applied physics field and may not directly interact with the fundamental subject material such as Newtonian or quantum mechanics on a daily basis, the foundation I received from Grand Valley – rooted in critical thinking and a systematic approach with an emphasis on teamwork – has been invaluable. My experience on campus and in the physics department truly prepared me for all aspects of my life – personally, socially, educationally, and professionally."