“Get your hands dirty.” That’s the advice Dr. Stephanie Wissel, Assistant Professor of Physics at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo and a University of Dallas alumna, gave to students during her visit to UD on September 3, 2015. Wissel and her husband, Dr. Nathan Keim, were here as part of the Clare Boothe Luce Speaker Series, sponsored by the Physics Department.
“You have to try out what interests you,” Wissel continued. “If you don’t like it, try something else. Find someone who does research in an area you’re interested in and try to work with them. It’s a lot better than doing a Google search.” Wissel’s remarks came during a breakfast in which she and Keim answered students’ questions about everything from working for NASA to getting into graduate school.
Keim, Assistant Professor of Physics at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, agreed with Wissel’s remarks and added, “Your work has to be something that excites you, especially if you are going for a Ph.D. It’s a long journey so you have to be doing something you love.”
Keim’s talk, titled “Memory in Cyclically Driven Systems,” focused on behavior of particles in soft condensed matter and their ability to retain memory of previous states. Although his experiments were successful, he faced many challenges at the outset of his research. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no background in chemistry and I made a big mess. I also had to make a perfect apparatus with which to test my materials,” Keim said.
Keim’s research has far reaching implications for materials science. It can help engineers understand the causes of metal fatigue and predict how specific materials will behave under the pressures of temperature fluctuations. It could potentially help scientists understand how memories are formed in our own neural networks.
Wissel’s talk, titled “Searching for the Highest Energy Cosmic Particles at the Ends of the Earth,” focused on her research on detecting the highest energy particles in the universe using detectors in Polar Regions such as Antarctica and Greenland.
While at the University of Dallas, Wissel was awarded the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship as well as the Cardinal Spellman Award and Montosorri Award for Outstanding Physics Student. The Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship program, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, provides scholarships for female students at the University of Dallas majoring in Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, or Engineering. In addition to the scholarships, the University sponsors the Clare Boothe Luce Speaker Series, one of several initiatives designed to attract women into physical science, engineering, and mathematical areas and to support them once there. For more information on events sponsored by the University of Dallas’ Office of Personal Career Development, click here.