Where some people see nothing more than letters, number and indiscernible squiggles, Jordan Melendez sees elegant order and the answers to both the science he loves and the faith that sustains him.
Researching particle physics, the 21-year-old college student said, sounds complicated, but in its most basic form is wonderfully simple.
“Physics is fundamental to everything we observe,” he said. “It’s the basic building blocks of everything we see. I find it fascinating to observe it and try and figure it out.”
A student at Taylor University in Indiana, he will be among the brightest physics minds in the world this summer when he begins an internship at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
CERN (Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research) houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and also discovered the Higgs boson, also known as the God particle.
Melendez said he believes his research in particle physics, a field normally reserved for graduate students, was the key to his selection for the internship.
“It is a credit to great professors I have worked with here,” he said. “Most professors would not take the time to teach theoretical particle physics to an undergraduate. They feel like it’s a waste of time because it’s such a big learning curve. But (physics professor and departmental chairman) Dr. (Ken) Kiers obviously finds it beneficial. I’m very glad he took the time to do that because having a theoretical understanding of the material is one of the things that helped me, because not that many undergraduates have that experience.”
Melendez believes in science, but also in faith, something some may see as contradictory, but he thinks is perfectly normal.
“I feel like faith definitely complements everything that I do. Faith and science definitely complement each other,” he said. “Faith gives you a better understanding of science and a way to interpret it in a Christian context. And, I feel that science gives you a way to better understand God’s character and who God is on a deeper level than without knowing all the intricate details of how physics works and its beauty and all of its symmetries and underlying nature.”
Melendez, a double major in physics and mathematics, is a 2011 graduate of Elyria High School, where he was on the varsity tennis team as well as a member of the Spanish Club, Key Club and National Honor Society.
He is the son of Ernest and Sue Melendez of Elyria.
He credits his time at Elyria High with his college success. He said his Elyria teachers sparked the love that will now take him to a place he called the “physics capital of the world.”
Only 10 college students from America will intern at CERN this summer.
“My interest in physics started with Mr. (Jeremy) Secaur — it’s basically due to him and what a great teacher he was and how interesting he made it to me,” he said.
Melendez doesn’t yet know what project at CERN he will work on. He will be there from early June to early August, he said.
But he does know having CERN on his resume will do a lot for him.
“I am still speechless that I will be able to see what real physicists do,” he said. “I applied thinking getting the internship will be a long shot. But now I know the greatest thing about this will be where it will lead me the future — graduate school opportunities and my future career.”