James Bernzen

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Physics

College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity, College of Arts, Sciences & Education

James Bernzen is a Texan, aspiring Marine Corps fighter pilot, lover of history, a dual-degree major and an FIU Panther. His journey is a mix of well-planned decisions, unbelievable challenges and unexpected opportunities.

As a young child, he suffered from medical problems related to his kidneys and endured grueling surgeries at the age of 9. He eventually recovered and lived a normal life until his senior year of high school when he was attacked by an unknown assailant, leaving him with two concussions. His schoolwork became a blur, but he persevered. He applied to his first-choice college in Texas, but after receiving a flyer in the mail from FIU, he decided to apply as a back-up. That back-up quickly became his first choice after a full tuition scholarship offer, campus visit and a meeting with the FIU Honors College. He enrolled as a finance major but couldn’t shake his passion for physics. When an English assignment sent him to interview the campus Astronomy Club, he decided to switch majors. He was later selected for the S-STEM Scholarship Program from the National Science Foundation with support from his professor and mentor Robert Laird.

James continued to pursue his other passions through the FIU Honors College, including study abroad programs in Italy and France where he explored history and art with professor John Bailly. As he fueled his interests, he unexpectedly completed enough requirements for a second major in interdisciplinary studies.

James hopes to someday become an astronaut. His next stop is the United States Marine Corps and he plans to attend the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School next summer.

By JoAnn Adkins
Director, Marketing & Communications, College of Arts, Sciences & Education