What have you done since graduating from Bryn Mawr College?
After graduating in 2002, I started graduate school at the University of Michigan in the Applied Physics Program. I received my PhD in 2009 and started a Research Faculty position in the Department of Climate and Space Science and Engineering. I am currently the Project Director of the Center for Laser Experimental Astrophysical Research where we create and model high-energy-density plasmas that have astrophysical relevance.
How does physics connect with your current occupation?
I am an experimental plasma physicist so there is a lot of connection! My department and much of my PhD coursework was in the University of Michigan's College of Engineering, however, my firm grounding from my undergraduate physics education provided with an excellent foundation for my graduate education and current research.
What particular experiences in physics during your time at Bryn Mawr helped prepare you for your current position and help shape your life after Bryn Mawr?
My Bryn Mawr education has greatly shaped how I mentor graduate students, which is a large part of my current position. During my time at Bryn Mawr, the physics faculty was very thoughtful and showed genuine interest in the students and their success. Now working at a large University, I have observed some students feeling overlooked. I find that connecting with students and investing in their success is very rewarding for both of us.
What aspects of the physics major did you really enjoy or found useful? Any particularly fond memories?
Doing problem sets in the PSB and making liquid nitrogen ice cream!
Has your physics education been useful beyond just knowing physics? If so, in what ways?
Bryn Mawr faculty, in physics and other departments, gave me a complete education, not just in physics or math. Good physicists need to be more than good at physics. They need to be able to communicate, write, ask hard questions, interact with other scientists and the public. Bryn Mawr fostered my education in all of these areas.
What would you say to someone who is intersted in physics, but unsure whether or not it is the right path for them?
I would ask them a lot of questions! I meet with a lot of young students that are undecided about their college majors. I try to connect with their interests and I would encourage them to have different experiences in physics through tutoring, research or internships. I would encourage them to think about what they liked and didn't like about those experiences to give them an idea of what a rewarding career path would look like for them.
What advice do you have for a current physics major thinking about possible career paths after Bryn Mawr? Any other comments?
I would tell them to explore a lot of different options, even ones they don't think they are interested in or qualified for, because they will learn a lot about themselves in the process.