Student Spotlight: Alyssa Bowes
Alyssa Bowes never took physics in high school.
As a first semester math major at a four-year college, she enrolled in a physics class and discovered she wanted to learn more. Unfortunately, the school didn’t offer physics as a major and her options were limited. So she transferred to College of DuPage.
The school was already familiar to Bowes, who lives nearby and took classes at COD for high school.
“Once I came here, my biggest influence was Physics Professor Tom Carter,” she said. “He really helped me move forward.”
Carter encouraged her to attend the Conference on Undergraduate Women in Physics held at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign in 2013. Bowes was one of only two community college students among the more than 170 attendees at the event, which included a career panel, a graduate student panel and an undergraduate research panel. Bowes was impressed by the stories she heard at the conference.
“It never occurred to me that it’s different being a woman in this field,” she said. “Listening to the women on the various panels made me feel more confident. The other thing I took away from the conference is that it doesn’t matter if you didn’t take physics in high school or if you are studying at a community college. The conference really helped me erase any self-doubt.”
Bowes also served as vice president of COD’s Engineering Club. She spent the summer of 2013 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign working on a project that would help scientists search for dark matter two kilometers under the ice of the South Pole. You can read more about it here.
She is now at the Illinois Institute of Technology pursuing astrophysics. In 2014, she completed an internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studying the characteristics of germanium semiconductor diode detectors for a neutrino-less double-beta decay project called the MAJORANA Experiment. In October, she will attend the American Physical Society (APS) conference in Hawaii to present on this work.
Fall of 2014, Bowes was selected to work as a research assistant at IIT in the Physics department as part of the PROSPECT Experiment. She designed and constructed a custom-built system used for reflectance studies. This system is now capable of making both specular and diffuse reflectance measurements of a sample in air deployed in a variety of liquids. The procedures and systems used for these studies can be used to make reflectance measurements for producing improved optical models for existing and future scintillator detector experiments.
“Astrophysics is amazing! I’m not sure I know enough to decide what to do for a career, but the idea of finding out what’s in the universe is something I could pursue forever and never get tired of it,” she said.
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