Connor, Reggie and Ian Bain

3 brothers, 3 Goldwater Scholarships, 1 passion

Bain brothers share love for science and mathematics and teaching



Reggie, Connor and Ian Bain probably have more in common than most brothers.

They all double majored in mathematics and a field of science, they’re all alumni of the University of South Carolina’s Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences (Ian graduates in May) and Carolina Scholars, and, growing up, they all fought over video games — wait, all brothers do that.

OK, here’s one more thing about these Bain brothers that perhaps no other threesome set of siblings can claim: each was named a Goldwater Scholar, which is considered the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate award for STEM majors.

The Goldwater national scholarship was created by Congress in 1986, and 58 University of South Carolina students have been named Goldwater Scholars since then. The Bain brothers alone account for 5 percent of that total.

Even with a lot of overlap in our interests — sports, music, etc. — we do each have our areas of expertise. For instance, I have the most extensive knowledge of Harry Potter in the family.

Connor Bain

“I’ve always been deeply interested in science, so I got them deeply interested in science,” says Reg Bain Sr., a professor in the university’s School of Music, who, with his wife, Erin, is a very proud parent. “I think it’s simply because that’s the way we spent our time. If we weren’t doing baseball or soccer, we were doing science of some kind.”

The Bains provided a quick take on each of the three as follows: Reggie, the oldest, is energized and passionate. Connor is dependable and helpful. Ian is peaceful and philosophical. Like their father, all of them are interested in teaching, Erin Bain says.

“Frankly, we’re all pretty similar,” offers Connor. “Even with a lot of overlap in our interests — sports, music, etc. — we do each have our areas of expertise. For instance, I have the most extensive knowledge of Harry Potter in the family. Unfortunately, this has a very limited use case.”

I had known that I wanted to study physics since I was a kid. I first got hooked when learning about crazy phenomena like black holes, string theory and extra dimensions of space.

Reggie Bain

Reggie graduated from the university in 2012 with a double major in math and physics. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics from Duke University and was an assistant professor of physics at the University of Houston for several years before returning to South Carolina to become an instructor at the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics in Hartsville.

“I had known that I wanted to study physics since I was a kid,” says Reggie, who is an avid South Carolina sports fan. “I first got hooked when learning about crazy phenomena like black holes, string theory and extra dimensions of space through books and from famous scientists like Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman.

“Since then, I have always wanted to study how matter and energy work at the most fundamental level and to master the fascinating mathematical tools needed to study those ideas.”

Connor graduated in 2015 with dual degrees in computer science and mathematics. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in computer science and learning sciences at Northwestern University.

“I can’t really remember a time where I wasn’t interested in computers, but with two musicians as parents, music had always been a huge part of my life, and at USC I was able to continue that as a music minor,” he says. “This idea of exercising both parts of my brain was always super important to me and being involved at the School of Music, particularly in the Percussion Ensemble, was a highlight of my undergrad experience.”

I love discovery and learning how the world works at its very core and that led me straight into chemistry.

Ian Bain

Ian exercised his musical interests as a member of the Marching Band and his intellectual interests with majors in math and chemistry.

“I love discovery and learning how the world works at its very core and that led me straight into chemistry where I could learn about the way things operate at a molecular level,” says Ian, who will begin a graduate program in chemistry in the fall.

There’s actually one thing more that Reggie, Connor and Ian have in common — and it’s something the Department of Mathematics is quite proud of, too. Their brother Quentin graduated magna cum laude from the university in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a slew of undergraduate mathematics awards. He's now a graduate student in the department. That makes a grand total of four Bain brothers to have earned degrees in that major.


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