What do you do?
I have the fantastic job of teaching college-level physics at a small liberal arts college and conducting physics research with undergraduates designing a more affordable and accessible MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) system.
Why did you choose this field?
As a kid, I always enjoyed exploring the world around me, creating things with my hands, and attempting to impress people with my mathematical knowledge (with mixed results). My love of science and math was nurtured early on by a father who always loved learning about recent scientific discoveries and a grandmother who loved doing math (and checking all her receipts by hand). I wanted to be some sort of scientist from an early age, but did not discover the wonders of physics until 9th grade when I read the popular science book “The Whole Shebang” by Timothy Ferris when my English teacher had mentioned it. This book introduced me to our modern understanding of physics at both the cosmological and quantum scale, and I loved that our universe contained so many mysteries and quantum weirdness.
As an undergraduate at Wellesley College, I had the great opportunities of doing undergraduate research for three summers in astronomy, particle physics, and biophysics. I learned through each of those experiences that I wanted to focus my physics career on exploring the quantum realm with small, easily-controllable benchtop experiments. My graduate work at Yale University in nuclear magnetic resonance became the perfect venue for me to apply my physics knowledge to a wide-variety of interdisciplinary applications, which has been so much fun as I continue my lifetime exploration of science.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
The achievement that I wish younger me would have known was possible was getting to be a graduate student participant in the 62nd Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in 2012. I got to meet and talk with so many physics Nobel laureates in the beautiful lakeside town of Lindau, Germany. It was an unforgettable experience of geeking out on physics and I met so many inspiring and amazing physics colleagues who are still good friends today. I had never heard of this annual meeting (which cycles through the different Nobel prize categories), but luckily had some mentors at Yale who recommended I apply, and I highly suggest it to all science undergraduates, PhD students, and post-docs!
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love coming up with course ideas in my teaching and designing experiments to answer questions and debug problems in my research. I love that a big part of my job is constantly learning, whether it is about new discoveries in my field, new teaching strategies, or new skills to use in my research. My STEM education has given me the confidence that I have the problem-solving skills to tackle the inevitable problems that come my way, and I enjoy the opportunity each challenge offers to learn even more.
Best advice for next generation?
Find a family member, friend, or mentor who will happily be your cheerleader and confidant, and try to become the cheerleader for somebody else. Build a support network with your colleagues. Science is all about collaboration, not competition, and together we can change the system to be inclusive to everyone who wants to be a part.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I am a fangirl of Diana Cowern (@thephysicsgirl) and Simone Giertz (@SimoneGiertz).