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Physics, criminal law, Judaism: Freshman ready to spread wings at ASU

September 06, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

Jonathan Wasserman is an Arizona State University freshman majoring in physics. He plays drums in his spare time, studied Jewish religious texts this past summer and would like to become a criminal defense attorney one day.

And he craves more.

“These are the fields that I’ve had the opportunity to pursue, but I wish to explore more topics,” he says. “Digging deep into any given subject matter appeals to me. Thinking makes me tick.”

Wasserman, a Scottsdale native, is the youngest member of his family to call himself a proud Sun Devil. His older sister Hannah, a 2012 graduate, pursued a double major in economics and mathematics, and a minor in philosophy. She is now serving in the Israeli army. Gabriel Wasserman is currently a senior majoring in mathematics and a triathlete. All three are Barrett Honors College students.

His siblings are also the reason why – despite getting accepted into George Washington University, Brandeis University, Tufts University, College of William and Mary and Occidental College – Wasserman chose to attend Barrett.

“My sister and brother always told me about the great opportunities available here at a lower cost, so attending ASU was an easy decision,” he notes with a smile. “But hearing them talk about being a Barrett honors student and now being here in the same shoes is interesting and, at the same time, exciting.”

However, Wasserman need not worry about following in the footsteps of his talented siblings. He is building his own path to success. The first step is studying physics.

“Physics is everywhere around us,” he says. “It helps you understand the world and the way things work. Take, for example, projectile motion. With the help of an equation, you can calculate the exact landing position of a projectile after being thrown. To me, that helps explain an important process we barely notice.”

According to Wasserman, two of the most influential people in his life are his parents, who are both rabbis by profession. Growing up, during sermons his father would dissect Jewish traditional text and examine it from a modern perspective. The process inspired his youngest child to approach concepts and ideas in a similar manner.

“Judaism is an integral part of my upbringing and I felt it was time to gain my own knowledge, develop my own understanding and learn more about motivation for my beliefs,” he says.

This yearning for understanding fundamentals and fresh takes on deeply entrenched ideas and beliefs is why he spent this past summer studying traditional Jewish texts at Yeshivat Hadar, an educational institution that focuses on Jewish learning in New York City.

Keeping in line with his proclivity toward finding new meanings in established ideas and texts, Wasserman hopes to become a criminal defense attorney.

“People usually think of dramatic movies and television shows when the term criminal defense attorney is mentioned but that is not really accurate,” Wasserman chuckles. “When I was in high school, I spent a year interning at a firm that specialized in criminal cases and realized that there’s a lot of work that goes into a hearing or a trial, which is not so evident on TV.”

For now, though, college is the best place for him to be.

“A level of thinking comes with being in college, being committed to coursework and being in close proximity to people who have the same motivations and wish to have intellectual conversations,” Wasserman says. “I look forward to my time here at Barrett and ASU.”