The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina


Successful Graduates

The Physics Department saw eleven students graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees in May 2016. This graduating class is one of the largest for the department in years. Six of these graduates also earned minors in Aerospace Science. Of these 11 graduates, six received commissions in the armed services; one Army, two Navy, one Marine, one Air Force, and one Taiwanese Army. One graduate has been accepted into the Ph.D. physics program at Clemson University. Another is planning on earning an MBA degree to add to his technical background and two will be working in high-tech companies. Finally taking time off to raise two young children will be one graduate’s job for a few years. The graduates: Dylan Green (accepted into Ph.D. program at Clemson), Walker Mook (US Marine Corps), Dominique Haydon (time off to raise two young children), Chen-Cheng Wu (Taiwanese Army), John Wilson (US Army), Taylor Scott (US Navy), Joseph Pinto (US Navy), Leo Grucella (US Air Force), Craig MacMillan (Industry), David Kelly (Industry), Beija Canova (accepted into MBA program).

-May 2016


After graduation Matt served as the Laboratory Manager for The Citadel Physics Department for a brief period prior to becoming a Staff Scientist for Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology and defense consulting firm. He works in the Engineering Services Division for the Navy/Marine Engineering Team. This division specializes in Aviation Command and Control (C2) systems providing real-time support to Navy/Marine units in the Middle East Area of Operations. Matt’s job is to provide engineering level support to all of the systems that the Booz Allen Hamilton team produces and fields. He contributes by developing new engineering solutions to support evolving mission needs. Matt’s physics degree has proven itself useful more times than he can count. It helped him in performing RF interference analyses, troubleshooting radar malfunctions in a theater thousands of miles away from his office, calculating things like center of gravity, forces on mobile systems, air flow in shelters, and waste heat loss on high voltage systems. Matt extends his appreciation to everyone in the Physics Department for their encouragement and support as he completed his degree.

- Matthew Janikula, 12'


Upon graduating Lieutenant Commander Birkelbach was commissioned into the U.S. Navy, where he serves as a Surface Warfare Officer. His most recent sea tours included Materiel Officer at Commander, Destroyer Squadron Two Eight, and Chief Engineer on USS Mahan, a guided missile destroyer. Ashore, he served as a personnel exchange officer with the German Navy, in Kiel, Germany. He is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, earning a Masters of Science Degree in Systems Engineering Analysis, a hybrid program combining elements of systems engineering and operations research.

The Physics Department at The Citadel prepared Lt. Cdr. Birkelbach to understand, maintain, and employ complex naval engineering and combat systems. Additionally, the critical thinking and analytical problem solving skills developed in the program allow him to meet and surpass challenges, both technical and leadership in nature. Lt. Cdr. Birkelbach is currently a campaign analyst at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Arlington, Virginia.

-Ryan L. Birkelbach 05'


After graduation, Brennin received his commission into the US NAVY and entered Naval Pilot Training. He completed ground school at Pensacola FL and Primary Flight Training in the T-34C Turbo-Mentor at Corpus Christi, TX. Following Primary, he was assigned to VT-21 in Kingsville, TX to fly the T-45C Goshawk. There he completed Advanced Flight training and initial carrier qualifications. Then he transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet and completed a combat tour with the Mighty Shrikes of VFA-94 out of NAS Lemoore, CA. LT Colegrove now flies as an instructor pilot in the E/A-18G Growler. His degree in physics has postured him well for understanding the physics of flight and mastering the skills necessary for operating state-of-the-art high-performance jet fighter aircraft. He plans to continue his career in the Navy.

-Brennin Colegrove, 09'


Mr. Rigney had a distinguished career in writing as an American author of epic fantasy. Graduating from The Citadel in 1974 with a degree in Physics, Mr. Rigney worked initially for the US Navy in Charleston as a Nuclear Engineer. Prior to attending The Citadel, he served two tours in Vietnam (1968 to 1970) with the United States Army as a helicopter gunner. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with “V” and oak leaf cluster, and two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm. Following his time as a nuclear engineer, he began writing in 1977 and became a prolific author writing under the pseudonym Robert Jordan. He wrote the “Wheel of Time” series comprised of 11 volumes and also a prequel, “New Spring.” The “Wheel of Time” books have often been compared to the work of J. R. R. Tolkien in terms of their ability to exert a magnetic hold on readers. Translated into more than 20 languages, the books have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, according to Mr. Rigney’s publisher. Mr. Rigney was also known for helping to keep the “Conan the Barbarian” series alive. He wrote and had published three books in this series. His other books include three historical novels written under the pseudonym Reagan O’Neal and published by Forge, these include: “The Fallon Blood,” “The Fallon Pride,” and “The Fallon Legacy.” Mr. Rigney died at 58 in 2007.

-James Oliver Rigney, Jr. 74'


Dr. Palms had a distinguished career in academia, national security, business and volunteerism. Graduating from The Citadel in 1958 with a degree in Physics and as a distinguished Air Force ROTC cadet, he enjoyed a tremendously successful career in the United States Air Force and later in Academia. He was a Professor of Physics at Emory University where he also served as Physics Department Chairman and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Vice President of Academic Affairs. During this period he also served on the boards of major commercial and government affiliated corporations including 20 years on the board of the Institute for Defense Analyses (ten as Chairman). He served as President of Georgia State University and as President of the University of South Carolina. He is currently the Distinguished President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina.

-Dr. John Palms, 58'

Why Major in Physics?
Careers and Opportunities in Physics
Successful Physics Graduates

Featured Video

Back to Top