Isaac Sarbacker portrait

Isaac Sarbacker honored by Michigan Engineering

The Engineering Physics student was given a Leaders & Honors Award for his outstanding achievements and academic excellence.

Isaac Sarbacker, a senior in the Engineering Physics program, has been honored with a Michigan Engineering Leaders & Honors Award. He received an Academic Achievement Undergraduate Award, which is presented annually to the outstanding undergraduate in each degree program. Criteria considered by the department awards committee include academic achievement, exemplary character, leadership in class and activities, and potential for success in future endeavors.

Isaac, originally a Physics major in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at the University of Michigan, embarked on a transformative academic journey that saw him transition to Engineering Physics between his freshman and sophomore years. 

“My freshmen year was prime COVID, of course,” said Isaac, “which created a desire for me to conduct research that had a tangible impact on people. I felt that there were so many ways to help make the world a better place, and I wanted to be a part of that. Engineering Physics offered the balance I needed to prepare for research that had a strong application to the real world.

Reflecting on his academic journey, Isaac shares the challenges he faced during his sophomore year, particularly in Physics 391. “The most challenging class I’ve taken (so far) was Physics 391,” said Isaac. “It pushed me like no other class, and it taught me a lot about being mentally tough in the face of adversity. I believe persistence is my most powerful trait, and throughout the semester I had to push through when I struggled with the class. My ability to deal with failures in that class and find a way to overcome them and eventually end with the result I wanted is an achievement I’m extremely proud of.”

Isaac’s academic journey has been filled with a diverse range of classes and projects, but one that stands out is his experience in NERS 472 with NERS Prof. Karl Krushelnick. The course delves into the technological aspects pertinent to the engineering feasibility of fusion reactors as potential power sources. The class is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of fundamental concepts and challenges associated with both magnetic fusion and inertial fusion reactor designs.

“The ability to take the plasma physics I had been learning and apply that to actual design was invigorating,” said Isaac. “I felt like the class was a great balance of theory and practicality, which is exactly why I originally became interested in the field in the first place. It was a bit of a full-circle moment in that regard.”

“I feel incredibly honored to receive this award, especially knowing how many other talented students are in my program,” said Isaac. “I also feel thankful for everyone who’s helped me get to this point. My success wouldn’t be possible without the amazing team of professors, GSIs, other students, and more who’ve helped me along the way.”

After graduation, Isaac plans to begin the SUGS program for nuclear engineering and radiological sciences here at NERS.

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