Written by Logan Patton
PASADENA, Calif. (Apr. 23, 2015) - While most five-year olds were still learning how to read, Matthew Lappin was already swimming and has continued to do so ever since. The only difference now is that he has learned to incorporate aggressive and physical aspects into swimming, which earned him a spot on the men's water polo team as well as the swim team at Caltech. This was one of the major reasons Lappin decided to choose Caltech over schools such as Brown, the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Maryland.
"I wanted to study physics, and Caltech is arguably the best school for that," Lappin said. "Caltech was also unique for me in that I could continue being a student-athlete as an NCAA Division III swimmer and water polo player, an opportunity I would not have had at any of my other choices."
Lappin has been a member of both the water polo and swimming & diving teams since his freshman year at Caltech. In the 2014 season, he played in 26 games, scoring six goals, making seven assists and recording 10 steals. In swimming, his versatility and particular strength in the backstroke events were key to every dual meet lineup.
"I hadn't played water polo until I got to Caltech, and I really enjoyed it because it was like swimming, except you got to do other things too, like score goals and wrestle with people in the pool," Lappin said.
Unlike water polo, however, Lappin swam for all four years at Westminster High School in Westminster, Maryland, which is one of the many things that he attributes to his acceptance at Caltech along with his sterling academic record.
"In high school I was a (nearly) straight-A student, and the co-founder of my high school's STEM club," Lappin said. "In the absence of an AP Computer Science course at my school, I opted for an independent study course in computer science. I like to think that I went out of my way to make the most of my high school education and that I showed it in my admissions essays."
Lappin has also contributed to the Beaver community through the student government. For the first three years, he was on the executive committee for Fleming House in Caltech's housing system. He currently serves as the house's vice president.
In the classroom, Lappin is a physics major who has picked up internships through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. Among several opportunities, he has worked with Professor J.L. Beauchamp, the Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry at Caltech.
"My project was designing and building a novel mass spectrometer for the purpose of developing a light-weight and low-power method of performing chemical analysis on other planets in our solar system," Lappin said.
He has also been a teaching assistant for the electronics lab course in the physics department and a course in the construction of biodevices in the bioengineering and electrical engineering departments.
After graduation, Lappin plans on working for the electronics company Iris Technology in Irvine, California. His favorite memory at Caltech was the SCIAC Swimming & Diving Championships that took place in Whittier, where the team broke a combined nine records and Lappin was a key member of the 'B' 400 Free Relay.
"It was the best athletic performance I have ever had, and was the best end to my season and career that I could have hoped for," Lappin said.