2017 Incoming Grad Series: James O'Hara

by Nicole Poletto, Professional Development Peer
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 10:07 AM

The 2017 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts on 8 students who are part of our largest and most diverse incoming class in recent memory.

James O'Hara is ready ​for some nicer weather. He is coming to UCSB to pursue a Ph.D. in ​Physics ​​after completing his undergraduate degree from Penn State in Physics and Mathematics. He is looking forward to spending time at UCSB due to its incredible reputation as a research institution. Southern California's reputation for amazing weather was also tempting after living in the Northeast his whole life.

Read on to learn more about ​James' ​background, research interests, and his very own podcast!


James grew up in Springfield, Pennsylvania, a suburban town on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The friends he made in his first kindergarten class and T-ball team have been his main group of friends for his whole life; they even ​lived together at Penn State. Between his mother and his father's family, he has well over 100 aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins, making every family gathering a large, boisterous ordeal. He attributes his career as a scientist to his parents for instilling him with creativity and a desire to learn.


During his time at Penn State, he worked in the Physics lab. His professor had a personal connection to UCSB, which inspired him to look into the university. He was interested ​in ​UCSB's lab groups and incredible reputation as a research institution. Southern California will be a big change from the Northeast, but he is looking forward to shifting his focus from classwork to research and discovering a new campus community at UCSB.



James is interested in Physics research with immediate to near-future engineering applications. At Penn State, he worked in an experimental condensed matter lab researching two-dimensional materials, specifically Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDC's). These materials posses unique quantum behaviors at the two-dimensional limit, and many physicists and material scientists hope to include these materials in future electronic and computing systems. He hopes to continue ​his work with condensed matter systems and possibly TMDCs.



James loves to read and listen to podcasts. In fact, he even co-hosts his own Podcast called Three O'Four's Podcast. It features weekly installments that focus on the cross-section of public life and science, which means that reading up on current events in science and politics takes up a good portion of his time. He and his Penn State roommate plan to continue the podcast despite the distance that will separate them. However, the guitar that he has been learning to play recently won't be as lucky to be making the trip from Pennsylvania to California.

Welcome, ​James!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series. Up next is Teodora Losic, an incoming ​M.A. student in Mollecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from San Jose, CA.