More than a decade ago, Daniel Mayes began his venture into higher education like many first-year college students, unsure about what career to pursue. But his academic direction became clear at Western Nevada College through an introductory astronomy class taught by Dr. Carol Lucey, a physicist who was then WNCâ€™s president, and with encouragement by Professor Robert Collier to enroll in physics courses.
Today, Mayesâ€™ thirst for science continues as the spectroscopy researcher works toward a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has also been recognized by the Nevada System of Higher Education as a 2014 NSHE Regents Scholar.
â€œIt feels pretty nice. I see it as people thinking I am doing well,â€ Mayes said.
According to Collier, Mayes is becoming an expert in the field of high-energy laser-induced plasma spectroscopy.
â€œI am so proud to say Dan obtained his foundational education at WNC, and he began his spectroscopic work on one of our telescopes at (Jack C. Davis Observatory),â€ said Collier, the director of WNCâ€™s observatory. â€œI have known Dan Mayes for 14 years and have watched him grow from a young student at Western Nevada College to a mature and dedicated researcher.
â€œDan is as humble and unpretentious as a person could possibly be, as well as a person that has the capacity to seize upon an idea and explore it with great analysis and finesse,â€ Collier said.
A 2002 graduate of Douglas High School, Mayes enrolled at WNC and found that Luceyâ€™s astronomy class made an immediate impression on him.
â€œThat class in particular was where it became clear that I was interested in continuing in astronomy,â€ Mayes said.
Mayes enrolled early on in a special topics course taught by Collier entitled, â€˜What is an Observatory?â€™
â€œIt was in that course that I began to understand he was a young man with great potential,â€ Collier said. â€œWhile in my engineering physics class, he was enthusiastic and interested. I later hired him as my laboratory assistant in WNCâ€™s physics department.â€ Following his 2008 graduation from WNC, Mayes transferred to UNR to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. He graduated in 2011 and recently earned his masterâ€™s degree in physics. He began studying for his Ph.D. in physics at UNR earlier this year.
â€œAt the Davis Observatory, I have learned a lot about astronomy and astronomical instrumentation, which later became useful once I came to the university,â€ Mayes said.
Collier said that Mayesâ€™ skills and knowledge have enhanced the observatory and signal a promising professional career.
â€œI have no idea of the boundaries of his potential, both from an academic and scientific point of view,â€ Collier said. â€œHis computer skills and software development applied in the physics laboratory and in the observatory have brought recognition and respect from his peers and professors all through his academic career thus far.â€
Mayes said he would â€œlike to stay in research, and definitely want to teach at some point.â€
As a Regents Scholar, Mayes received a $5,000 stipend from the Nevada System of Higher Education, and was honored by UNR.