Recently, the Physics & Astronomy Department spoke with undergraduate Anna Christopherson about a number of things, including why she's a physics major, internships, and the secret to success in college. Both Anna and Tessa McNamee participated in a recruiting video for the Physics Department. Watch it here.
Why did you choose physics as your major?
I chose to major in physics because of the number 43, more specifically the 43rd element—technetium. I wanted to know why the element was unstable, while every element around it wasn't. This led me down the rabbit hole, where I was introduced to quantum states and learned that I love trying to understand things in their most fundamental state.
What do you like about the Physics & Astronomy Department at the U? What makes it special?
The people. I have met some of the most amazing people in this department. Everyone is so welcoming and happy to help. I've never once felt excluded or scared to ask for something, and I find myself genuinely excited to go to class every day because of the amazing excitement my peers bring to class.
How did you integrate yourself into the department? What helped with your success?
Overall, I never felt like I needed to integrate myself into the department. From the moment I stepped foot into my first physics class, I felt like I belonged and was welcomed. It did help that I got involved as much as possible through attending seminars, joining clubs, and being a part of a research group, but I feel those opportunities came because I was already part of the department rather than trying to integrate myself into it.
Have you benefited from a mentor? If so, how did you find them?
Yes, several mentors. I was given the amazing opportunity to participate in ACCESS at the beginning of my freshman year. This introduced me to people, students, and professors in the Physics Department, who helped me figure out the direction I wanted to go.
What kind of research or internship opportunities have you had? How did you find them?
I am a part of the Telescope Array research group, and I found them through ACCESS.
How has the research helped prepare you for a career?
It’s helped me develop a lot of necessary skills I wouldn’t have learned in my classes. It’s also helped me figure out the things I enjoy doing—as well as the things I don’t—things I wouldn’t have known without participating in research. This has led me to explore different options to pursue in physics.
What do you plan to do with your physics degree?
At the moment, I’m still searching. The more I get involved, the more I learn what I can do with my degree. I’m still exploring my interests. Right now, I’m interested in pursuing a career in research involving subatomic particles.
What do you wish you had known about the department when you applied to the U in high school?
I wish I had known just how versatile a physics degree can be! Even now, I’m still learning about all the different pathways the degree opens for me.
Looking back over your college career, is there anything you would have done differently?
Taking advantage of the opportunities the department has for students sooner and using office hours more.