Physics

Physics AND 3-2 Engineering DSA Kate Roberts

Kate Roberts

k18kr03@kzoo.edu
Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan
Majors: Physics and Studio Art
Minor: Mathematics
Best Adjective to Describe You: Eccentric


In 20 words or less, what is the best thing about being part of this department?
Finding new solutions to problems is always satisfying and the collaborative environment makes physics majors a very tight knit group!

What is your advice to first years and sophomores about getting connected to this department?
The professors can seem a little intimidating at first, but they all just really love physics and want to make sure students have every opportunity to love it too. Talk to them anytime you get a chance, especially times outside of class like Tea Time (hosted on the 2nd Floor of Olds-Upton every Wednesday at 4) or if you see them around campus. Non-professor-wise, there are multiple clubs in physics-based topics such as Sukuma OU and Society of Physics Students that are always welcoming to new students!

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
I’ve learned the importance of being vulnerable and admitting to not knowing something. Doing the opposite tends to put yourself in a hard place and odds are, if you have a question, a whole bunch of other people are wondering the same thing.

What has been your favorite class at K? Why?
I really enjoyed the third course in the introductory sequence, Introduction to Quantum and Relativity. During the course, you cover an extremely wide span of topics in physics. It really gives students an opportunity to branch out a bit more from 150 and 152 as well as provide a better idea of how “typical” physics courses are run in the department.

How have you taken advantage of the open curriculum or experienced breadth in your education?
As a double major in very different fields, the answer to this question may seem obvious. More than anything, I’ve been able to apply my physics-based problem-solving skills across multiple fields, including, but not limited to: ceramics, computer science, and my first-year seminar, Bad Religion. Taking courses outside of physics is a great way to find some relief from the constant barrage of STEM and exercise your brain to work in many disciplines.

What experiential education opportunities have you participated in?
In the summer of 2020, I participated in a remote REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for Michigan State in computational nuclear physics. This summer, I completed research at Caltech through a program called SURF to analyze the near-infrared spectra of M and L-type asteroids, determining their general chemical composition. I am president of K’s Society of Physics Students (SPS) and have worked in both the Math and Physics Center (MPC) and as a TA for multiple physics courses.

What is your SIP?
My SIP is an in-depth review of my summer research which clarifies the chemical composition of a few M and L-type asteroids existing between Mars and Jupiter. Detection of iron compounds points to M-type asteroids as the remnants of planetesimal cores, whereas high concentrations of calcium-aluminum inclusions (likely the first formed material in our solar system) in L-types would mark them as exceedingly old.

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
After K, I plan to attend graduate school for a PhD in astrophysics or planetary science. After that, possibly work in a national or nonprofit lab focused in space science.