What Physicists Do

Physics 123, Spring 2021

(First 5 weeks) Wednesdays, 7 pm on zoom

1 Credit; S/CR/NC

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is pleased to announce this year’s Physics 123 Line-up.  “What Physicists Do” is our annual series of five lectures by invited speakers, many of whom are Carleton Physics alumni.  It is intended to introduce students to a broad range of real-world physics and to give some perspective on the kinds of work done by people with a physics background.  The course is open to all interested students who have taken PHYS 151; those considering a major in physics are particularly encouraged to enroll. 

The presentations are on zoom on Wednesdays at 7 pm. The only requirement, beyond attending five talks, is to read an assigned article beforehand and then to submit a short (one page) typed essay afterwards commenting on both the talk and the reading. Speakers will be available for informal discussions over refreshments afterward.  Questions: Jay Tasson, Olin 227, x5251, jtasson@carleton.edu

March 3: Sara Karbeling ’02 “Working with the Next Generation of Scientists to Develop Curiosity and Inspire Innovation”

Having enjoyed her experiences tutoring in the physics department during her undergraduate career at Carleton but unsure what to do upon graduation, Sara decided to try high school teaching full-time at a private school in her home state of Iowa. She found a career that was a perfect fit for her – doing physics, working with young people and constantly exploring new ideas about physics and learning. After two years teaching, she went on to earn her MS in Secondary Science Education from Northwestern University. Sara is currently in her 15th year as a public school physics teacher and now teaches for the Iowa City Community School District. This year, due to the pandemic, she has a fully remote teaching assignment and enjoys exploring new ways to engage physics students within a virtual learning environment. In addition to her engaging with her students, Sara is also involved in pre-service teacher training, student assessment and teacher training with the College Board, science content development for ACT and has participated in summer internships at Fermilab and CERN.

April 7: Ghidewon Arife ’03 “A journey in nanotechnology: 2D materials, nanofabrication, and science policy”

Two-dimensional (2D) materials have unique properties that make them exciting candidates for various optical and electronic applications. Materials such as graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) have been intensively studied recently with researchers racing to show advances in 2D device performance while developing novel fabrication techniques and a better understanding of the material properties. Despite recent advances, there are still significant roadblocks facing the use of 2D materials for real-world applications. While there is great promise for applications of nanotechnology, it is critical for scientists to educate policy makers and the general public on this field.

April 14: Jami Valentine “Resilience: Succeeding in Physics During Difficult Times”

The 2020-21 academic year has been a particularly challenging year for many. Resilience is a skill that each of us has, and that we can all stand to improve to benefit our wellbeing.. This talk will discuss techniques for building resilience and defining personal success, with examples from my life and career path in Physics. I l will also discuss intellectual property as a career field and provide an introduction to patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

April 21: Ashwin Vasavada “Eight+ Years on Mars with NASA’s Curiosity Rover”

Now in its ninth year on Mars, the Curiosity rover continues to reveal Mars as a once-habitable planet. Early in Mars’ history, water persisted in rivers and lakes for millions of years, and even longer in the subsurface. A diversity of organic molecules remains detectable, although degraded, after billions of years. Curiosity has observed the Martian atmosphere over an unprecedented four annual cycles, witnessed a planetary-scale dust storm, and revealed the present activity of atmospheric methane. This talk will summarize the findings from the mission, the challenges of exploration, and what lies ahead.

April 28: Natasha Flowers ’16 “From Physics to Data Science: Applying the Physics Skill Set to Other Domains”

After completing my physics degree at Carleton in 2016, I was looking for ways to apply my problem-solving skills from my degree to a field with a shorter feedback loop than the typical PhD and research route. I began working as a data analyst at a company that does data-driven healthcare policy advising for a variety of government agencies. After four years of working as both a programmer and project manager, I decided to return to school to get my master’s degree in data science. In this talk, I will cover my path from a physics degree to the field of data science, some examples of the kind of work that I do now (including data pipelines, regression models, and project management), and how I use the skills from my physics degree in my current job. I will also share some thoughts on the transition from an academic environment into the workplace.